Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Richmond Half Marathon

I've already mentioned that I had a great experience at the Richmond Half Marathon and it was my first half so I may be a little biased.  But I'll do my best at a neutral recap :)

The weekend started for us on Friday afternoon.  We left the DC area around 2 and didn't get to Richmond until and 6pm.  This was pretty much double the time it should have taken because of the amount of traffic. There was a back up on the highway for the ramp to get off to go to the expo and I was worried that meant it was really crowded, but we had no problems finding parking.  And while the expo was crowded, it didn't feel too bad. The bib pick ups were separated by bib number and there was no one in line for my section. Score!

I got my bib and then we had to head to the back of the expo to pick up the shirt.  I loved the shirt, it's long sleeved and black, which is cool.  I wore it the day after the race and it was super comfy. I also picked up some bondi bands since I'd heard so much about them.  I wore the one below for the race and loved it.

We drove to the hotel we were staying at, the Richmond Marriott.  It was located right by the start line, which was awesome.  The hotel was great.  They had a special pasta dinner deal, as well as free bananas, bottles of water, and granola bars if you wanted to grab them for breakfast. The restaurant and Starbucks also opened early race morning, even with an outdoor outpost for coffee. The marathon start line was right outside the hotel and the half marathon start line was only 2 blocks down the road.

I slept surprisingly well and woke up at 6am the next morning.  I had brought a peanut butter sandwich from home for breakfast so I ate that and got ready. I made a last minute decision to go with a long sleeved shirt due to the cold.

I left at 7 as the half marathon started at 7:30. My wave wasn't until 7:50 but I was nervous enough to want to get in place early.  The corral was pretty empty when I got there so there was some room to warm up.

You can see the space in the corral in the photo above as well as everyone in their throw away warm clothes.  

Things seemed to start on time and we were shortly off. The corrals seemed to work well for me and I never felt too crowded or like I was weaving too much (unlike Disney). Here's the map of the race.

The first couple miles were straight down a Main Street downtown and there was a decent amount of spectators cheering. After mile 2, we turned right while the full marathoners turned left. This section seemed a bit industrial and there really wasn't much here.  There were some signs taped along the side of the road which were cool.  It was also a bit windy. I'm not sure why but I struggled a bit here.  But I felt better once I passed the 5k mark and we turned into a nice neighborhood.  There were spectators on this stretch again and it was nice.  I also ditched my gloves around this point but later regretted that. We ran through the neighborhood to Bryant Park.  This part seemed to get windy again and it felt a bit lonely.  But it was beautiful with a lake and lots of fall foliage. The park felt hilly.  None of the hills were long but several of the up hills felt steep for the time they lasted.  There was a DJ around mile 7 which was fun and then we ran out of the park where there were spectators again.  Around mile 8, I saw some port-a-potties with only 2 people in line so I decided to stop.  I think I only waited 2-3 minutes.

When I was done, I got out just in time to see the marathon leaders zoom past.  That was kind of cool to see, and also amazing that he had alread run more than 20 miles and I was at mile 8!  I kept on going and it really felt like the crowd support and entertainment really stepped up at is point.  There was some sort of music at every mile it seemed like.  There were also spectators handing out food (I took a star burst from an adorable kid) and beer.  Since we had been near the beer spot while spectating at the Marine Corps Marathon, I thought I'd give it a try here.  I was surprised how delicious that shot of beer was! There was a junk food stop and I took some gummy bears there. There was a drum line at one point, as well as Santa and people dressed up in Christmas outfits.  This part of the race felt like it went really fast for me which was great given that it was toward the end when I was tired. There were also some hills in this section and I do remember there was one that I had to take an extra walk break on (I was doing my usual 4/1 run/walk intervals). The crowd support just kept growing until the end of the race and it was wonderfully loud at the end when I finally crossed over the finish line at my first half marathon!  There was also a steep downhill toward the finish which felt fast but my quads sure were sore the next day. Mike saw my run by here but I missed seeing him because there were so many people.

My goal had been to finish the half marathon under three hours.  I was a little worried that my bathroom break would cause me to miss this time.  But I made it with a net time of 2:57:33!

I crossed over the finish line and was handed a medal.  And a hat.  And a blanket.  And water.  All of which was awesome but my hands were getting full. My blanket was still wrapped in plastic so I tore a hole in it and stuck the water in there and stuck the hat on my head.  There were lots of photographers after the finish line so I also stopped for some photos.

I then wandered over to find some food and took a banana, a granola bar and some trail mix, which I also put in the plastic wrapping with the blanket.  I kept going to the family meet up area where I found Mike who thankfully had some warm clothes for me.  I was rapidly getting cold at this point and I felt so much better once I stretched, ate the banana and put on the extra clothes.  We hung out a bit listening to the music and then walked back to our hotel.  It was probably about a mile away.  There was a shuttle but I thought the walk would be good for my muscle recovery.

I'll wrap this up since it has gotten so long.  I loved this race!  It was really well organized, the spectators and volunteers were amazing.  The cold was a downside but that wasn't in anyone's control. One downside that Mike dealt with is that the runner tracking didn't work well at all.  He just kept getting multiple texts that I had started the race (the 8k for some reason) but no texts about the finish or 10k split. I also heard that they had begun running out of food for the marathoners at the back of the pack :( 

This was a phenomenal half marathon and I would recommend it to anyone, especially for a first half.  They had a really generous pace requirement, plentiful water stops, and it was super friendly!