Even though Sally and I had looked at the list of road closures the night before, we still got lost trying to find the start line, and I ended up walking a few blocks through downtown Richmond while Sally headed back home to pick up her husband and meet me at the finish line. I got to the starting area just in time to see the Half Marathon start, and wandered around watching people for a bit. I jumped in line for a portapotty at the last minute, but there were so many, the wait was only a few minutes. Of course, I still got stuck by the National Anthem, and almost lost my place in line by a less-patriotic person trying to cut me.
Finally, however, it started. The gun went off, Gangam Style started blaring, and we were off. I remembered my first half marathon a few years ago, and that gut feeling at the start that said, "what have you gotten yourself into?" Once you take that first step, though, all you can do is move forward.
The Richmond Marathon has one of the most beautiful courses I have ever run. Not only did it include all of the major landmarks in Richmond (Monument Avenue, the James River, the cute little historic homes) but the fall colors were out, the sun was at our back for most of the race, and the weather was amazingly perfect. The course overall was pretty flat. I don't recall any major hills, except for one very tiny incline around the 10k mark, so it seemed pretty easy.I had heard from friends about marathons that get boring after mile 15, but this one just got better. There were no dull spots, no lapses in support, and it seemed to only get better at the end. There is absolutely nothing negative to be said about this marathon.
A word on course support: Richmond calls itself America's Friendliest Marathon, and I am inclined to agree. People were out all over the course, either in the designated "Party Zones" or just out in front of their houses and churches, cheering us on. There were tons of volunteers at every water station, handing out water and powerade and gels. The two junk food stops were great too; I never enjoyed a sip of Coke more in my life than at mile 15. Or was it 14? I don't even remember.
My race went about as well as I expected. The first 15 miles felt great, I thought maybe I would finish it a reasonable time despite the knee problems, but by 16, my inner demons kicked in. I started wondering not only why I had started this, but if I even wanted to finish. Every mile dragged on longer and longer. I hit mile 20 at 4:00 flat, and kicked myself into a happier frame of mind. Of course I was going to finish this!! All I had to do was propel myself forward. People started passing me, but I was in my zone, walking and taking it easy while every step seemed to make my feet hurt more and more. I knew stopping would make me feel every ache in my legs, so I kept going, feeling like my feet were going to start oozing out of my shoes. My the time I reached the downhill into the finish chute, I knew I must have set a new time record for slowest end-10k of a marathon ever. Yep. The last 6.2 miles took me 1:50, almost twice the 0:59 I had completed the first 10k in. But I was done!!!
Sally and her husband had been waiting in the finish area for almost those two hours, waiting and wondering if I was ok. I love my best friends, and I love them even more when they bring me flip flops when I want to die. This is my "I want to die but I think I'm going to make it!" finishing picture:
After water, a bagel, a green banana, and snagging several bags of ice from the med tent, I schelpped everything a good half a mile to where Sally parked. My big post-race meal? Rockefeller Pizza at Bottoms Up!! Thin crust, gruyere cheese, smoked oysters, spinach.....delicious. And, of course, next up some Carytown Cupcakes!! By the time we got back to Sally's, I collapsed into bed without even showering. Gross, I know, and I woke up with enough salt on my face that I smelled it on the pillow that night. Walking to the shower was painful, walking downstairs to dinner was painful, and stretching before bed was also rather painful. You know that frankenstein walk? I didn't even need to wear my medal to dinner that night for people to know that yes, I just ran a marathon. I wore it anyway, though, just in case someone asked. Here's what it looked like!