There is so much to say about Richmond, and about my first marathon.
First things first, my training was amazing. Having Allison there every Saturday morning was one of the things that kept me going. And the week of the race, we kept reminding each other “it’s just another training run” to calm the nerves.
Second, the Richmond Marathon truly is America’s Friendliest Marathon. I have done several half marathons- small (~300 people) and large (20,000+ people), and no other race I’ve done had better crowd support. There were people the entire way. There may have been about 500 meters where I didn’t see a spectator cheering us on, handing out pretzels, or high five-ing the runners. It felt like the city opened its arms to runners for a day, and embraced us all and helped push us along. So that was great.
I knew it would be a good race when we got into and out of the expo in about 30 minutes, and the “long” time was mainly because Sarah, Allison and I decided to get shirts and go to the majority of the booths to check things out. Then, we grabbed food (which we ate insanely quickly, proving skinny girls can put away food too. Especially the night before a marathon). After getting food, we saw a Target and pulled over to check out the athletic apparel and Sarah and Allison got cheap “throw away” beanies for the start line. [Weather man said it would be 30 degrees at 7am, and 65 degrees by noon] We, of course grabbed a 12-pack of beer, and wine for each of us.
Just a quick recap- our pre-marathon priorities were: clothes, then alcohol. Yep, that’s why I love these girls.
We designated my room as the “party room”, and I loaded my fridge with the beer and a gallon jug of water.
How the “B Group” prepares…
I woke up at 5am (before my alarm), and decided to get up and get ready. I had already packed everything the night before (including headphones in my capris, socks in my shoes, to remember).
We got on the shuttle, which was really more of a “pre-party bus” set up with empty champagne flutes. Everything about getting there and getting set up was stress-free. It felt eery how smoothly things went. Usually, you are running to the bag check, trying to find your corral, etc etc. Everything was so calm. We sent Sarah off to the half marathon start and cheered her on. Then went back to our marathon corral (the last one), and lined up just in front of the 5:00 pace group (we wanted to start off slow).
Anxiously waiting to start…
Before we knew it, people were throwing sweat shirts in the air, and we were walking to the start, and throwing our hoodies off to the side. We started out beautifully- in the low 11’s, which is where we wanted to “warm up” for the first couple miles. And even though we had gone to the portapotties twice, Allison and I both had to pee after about a mile. And decided to stop at mile 4 (since there was no line). And then, we felt much lighter and started shaving some time, until we were comfortably in the low 10’s (10:10s, 10:20s).
on Monument Ave
We turned down Monument Avenue, which has a lot of Victorian homes, and statues of famous people (though I wasn’t paying attention to who), and looped for turns. We got water at every water station (every 2 miles for the first 20, then every mile the last 6). Around mile 8, we started looping to a road that went along the James River, and we quietly zoned out. Just glancing over at the water occasionally. Then, by mile 10, we came back into some neighborhoods, and saw the next portapotty/ water station, and we stopped for about three minutes. We had been somewhat relying on Allison’s Garmin to keep our pace, but stopping kinda messed with it, and our next mile was like a 9:50 or something, so we slowed down some. And saw the 13.1 (Half) marker. YAY!
Allison and I were preparing to cheese and she said “do you want to hold hands?” ….Um yes! Heck yes I do! So, I hope that picture came out good. And we were at 2:24 according the clock. But I got a text, telling me Allie was at the half marker at 2:18, so we were about 6 minutes behind the clock. At mile 15, there was a Accel Gel station. We walked as I reached for a GU (had been munching on Honey Stinger chews every so often), and some water. After a couple minutes, we started running again.
We got to the Robert E Lee Bridge (mile 16 or 17?), and Allie seemed to be getting in her own head. I made idol conversation with a fellow Raleigh runner (thanks to his Raleigh Running Outfitters shirt), and we saw the beautiful view of downtown Richmond against the riverfront. Then, there was a junk food station with coke and gummy bears. I took the coke, thinking it was water. And realized quickly it was not. But I took a few sips anyway. Soon after Allison wanted to walk again, and I just couldn’t. My body was in so much pain, and walking hurt. That water/GU break to walk had mentally defeated me, and I couldn’t do it again. And I started to say “Okay, I can walk” and she said “go on”, so I did.
And zoned out to my music. Nikki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, etc. I started cruising. I won’t say I felt great. But my legs knew what they were doing so, I had to let my mind get out of the way of my body. At mile 18, I felt the inner parts of my big toe and second toe blistering up with every step. But I pushed through. I was passing people left and right. And only 1 or 2 people passed me between mile 18 and 22. At mile 20, I saw the clock said 3:34, and I knew I was 6 minutes ahead, and I could taste 4:30. I knew I’d be in the 4:30s, even if I backed off a little.
My head kind of negotiated with my body to slow down, but my body knew better. It’s like my body knew that I could do it. And it just kept going. It hurt to pass people between mile 22 and 24. And I passed by the beer station (dixie cups of beer), and a guy in front of me took 4 shots of the beer back to back. And I was thinking this hurts. What is wrong with my body? Why won’t my body slow down? And instead, I started speeding up again. And I could feel the blisters multiplying on every step on uneven pavement.
And then, suddenly a girl appeared next to me. “You! We started at the same time. I remember your [neon] green sleeves. You’re gonna run me in.” As flattering as this was, I felt she must have mistaken me for the strongest runner in the crowd. Then, I looked around, the two of us were flying past everyone else. So I agreed. She kept telling me she was going to drop off, because I was going too fast, and I kept saying the same to her. And then at mile 25, I saw Sarah, and she laughed (I know she was thinking Of course Chandi found a friend. She’s a social runner. She always finds a friend”). She ran with me for about 100 meters or so, and it felt great, to know she was there. Sarah described the finish, wished me luck, and then went looking for Allie. My new friend, Meg, kept saying “I can do this. I can do anything for a mile. I can do this” and it kind of became our mantra.
I would love to have seen my actual mile splits for the last 10K. It felt like the last two miles were sub-9:00 pace. And I said “I haven’t seen the 4:30 pacer yet, but I know we’ve got to be getting close to it…” And a guy said “yeah, there’s no way- they’re way up there” but I just kept pushing with my new friend Meg. Every hill was like a challenge for me to dig in. And I just kept pushing, and I definitely felt like my last mile was my fastest.
The last .25 miles was a steep downhill. Did I mention my toes had blisters, beginning at mile 18? And any cracked pavement hurt to run on? Well, running downhill hurt. And then I felt the blisters split open. On the last downhill stretch. But, I literally didn’t have it in my quads to slow down, so I tried to turn my grimace into a smile for the photo finish. And looked up- 4:35:31. Sweet! 4:30s! And I bent over and thought I’d cry because I could barely walk on what I imagined were bloody feet. A medical aid ran over to me to try and catch me (she thought I was going to fall). And I said to Meg “my blisters split on the last downhill. I can hardly walk” and contemplated going to a first aid tent to have the professionals take care of them. But I also knew Allison was only a few minutes behind me. So, I thought, I’ll cheer her in first. I remembered to stop my watch and it said 4:31:57, so I thought to myself Did I do it in under 4:30?!?! Hell freaking yeah! (I texted Sarah to let her know I was done and around 4:30, so said “U had 4:30:39! Great job!” In looking back at my 10K splits, I can tell why the last 6 miles sucked. I dropped about a minute-per-mile pace for the last six. But, hey, it’s what my body wanted 🙂
Thank you, Meg, from DC, for choosing me. I’m sure I looked strong at the time, but was mentally and physically drained at that point, and wasn’t sure I could maintain the 10:00 pace I’d been hovering at. And you helped me get into the sub-10:00 to finish strong just as much as I helped you.
10K- 1:05:33 (10:34 pace)
Half Mar- 2:18:25 (10:35 pace) <– Also stopped for 3 minute bathroom break (mile 10?). hehe.
20 mile- 3:29:31 (10:18 pace)
Finish- 4:30:39 (9:33 pace)
*Those “paces” are on my split times, so 9:33 was my average pace from 20 to 26.2, my overall pace was 10:20. But for my first time, I am so proud to finish, and to finish strong.
A little word of advice- if you’re ever struggling in a race, find someone who looks
physically strong upright, and yell out “You! Run me in!” Because it will actually help you both finish strong.
Me and Allison. Beer and medals in hand.
Great experience. And I’ll probably post more at some point. Today (Monday) my plan is to do a 2 mile walk to start shaking things out some. I went to Dan’s last night, and he drove us to a bar that is about 0.5 miles away from his house. And this morning, I was able to go up and down stairs like a normal person (not granny- one step/two feet, holding onto the railing for life- style). It’s slow, but still moving 🙂