Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Richmond Marathon

Tammy and Stonewall Jackson Monument (on Monument Avenue)

Partaking in a refreshing beverage

Am I sticking my finger in a socket because my hair is all over the place...really it is just really strong wind!

Richmond Marathon is a fun marathon. It is a bit hilly but certainly the hills are manageable. The marathon showcases the best of the city including going by many historic sites. There is a section along the James River, a section that goes by many monuments (oddly enough named Monument Avenue:-), and several sections that go through different neighborhoods.

I may be a bit biased because I lived in Richmond for several years while earning my PhD, but I do think the city hosts one of the friendliest marathons I have run and it is just the right size. When there are lines, they are short (2-3 people) and there are lots of aid stations with water, gatorade and gels. Three times along the course there are "party zones" which have lots of food, bands and lots of spectators.

My Richmond marathon this year started with a chance meeting with my friend Lauri. We caught up about upcoming marathons. We both will be heading to Death Valley/Las Vegas for a double (two marathons in two days) in December. Lauri is really nice and hysterically funny. We started the marathon together (with my Garmin which was a trouble-maker). We ran for about a mile together then our paces diverged. I heard the weather was going to deteriorate over the course race and I was concerned about getting stuck in a thunderstorm. As I moved along, I ran into a friend from last year: Debbie. She has a daughter who is working on her PharmD at VCU. Debbie traveled in from Houston to run the marathon. Since she lived in Houston, I asked about how her household fared during hurricane Ike. She mentioned they had no power for 2+ week. That makes the challenge of running a 100 miler sound pretty easy (at least I knew when the end was and chose to enter the race). We also talked about other races and she mentioned she has done a few half marathons during the past year. I learned I should definitely not sign up for the Houston marathon because it follows a course in which a majority is concrete. Yuk! It was great to catch up with her and hopefully I will be able to see her again next year (which by the way I did sign up when the registration was $50).

After moving forward again, I ran with a variety of runners from different teams and training groups. Many were first timers and some were very overdressed. Sadly the weather forecast suggested that the high would be 65 with torrential rain. My father-in-law suggested that the high was 75 degrees. As I ran through the neighborhoods I caught up with my friend Larry. Larry is closing in on his 100th marathon this year. Last year he ran 74 marathons during the year. Saturday Larry had run a marathon in the mid-west and Monday he was going to run a marathon in Texas. He is a running machine!

We chatted about a variety of races, what we had done since our last marathon together (Vermont City) and upcoming events. Larry is really nice and upbeat and just an amazing athlete. I hope when I am in my 50's or 60's I am as healthy and fit as Larry!

Pretty soon, I was at the first party zone. I had to pay attention because I knew Tristan and his Dad were going to be there. So far there was no bad weather and in fact the sun was peaking out. I gave some stuff to Tristan because it was starting to get warmer. I also took my first pit stop in the Starbucks at the River Road shopping center. I love potties with running water! I then rejoined the race. Crossing the James River was beautiful, but the weather was starting to pick up. I hoped it was not a sign of things to come (Vermont 100 milers storm of the century started with wind). Running along the river in the James River Park system I thought about how Gilligan's first swims were here. We lived about 5 miles from Pony Pasture a park along the river, that has free unsupervised swimming. As I continued on, I caught up with Larry; we continued catching up. Unfortunately during my brief visit with Tristan and his dad, Tristan mentioned that lightening and thunder might arrive at about 2 p.m. I was highly motived to get moving to get off the course and particularly to get across the James River at mile 17.

The next section "the southside" had a bunch of rolling hills. It was moderately tough, but certainly manageable. Pretty soon, I heard my name and there were Tristan and my father in law. I gave a brief hug and kiss, gave my coat (hoping that the weather would hold) and continued on. The next few miles I was moving up slowly. Aid stations were every two miles so that kept the race moving. About mile 15, I saw a familiar gait. It was my friend Belinda (from Umstead--50 miles on occasion behind her I was very familiar with her gait). She was running with a friend. We caught up for a while which was really nice. We had all run Baltimore and met there. Somehow the Baltimore marathon has irritated a bunch of us, but my lack of time due to the issues with my chip antenae apparently takes the cake.

My first half marathon took me about 2:40 or so; however, knowing I needed to be finished and in the car by 2 p.m. thus needed to pick up the pace. At mile 16 I stumbled on the 5 hour pacers. They seemed to be alone and suggested the folks they were pacing had abandoned them to go faster. I joined them and chatted on and off for the next 10 miles. The pacers were brothers from Richmond. One (Matt, perhaps) is planning to run JFK 50 this weekend. I was glad I am not the only person cramming one week before JFK! They were both very nice and good company. As I was getting closer to the finish, I came across my friend Monica from Umstead. She seemed to be struggling a bit because of the heat. We chatted about races, life in general and just jogged along to the finish. Monica is very happy and upbeat was good company. Monica also is running JFK next weekend. She is starting at 7 a.m.; however, she has run JFK numerous times and typically finishes within 10 hours or less. Monica is really lucky because she really likes running in cold weather and at this point, Saturday: JFK 50 miler day is predicted to start in the upper 20's and have a high of the upper 30's. This is going to be a challenge for me but at least based on the current weather it is not supposed to be windy!

Finishing the Richmond Marathon in just under 5 hours, I was very happy with my run. I had accomplished my goal of finishing the race healthy and happy. After finishing, I started walking the course backwards to cheer on my friends. First I saw my friend Belinda and Katmom. I cheered them on and took a side picture of them in the finishing stretch. Then after I run backwards 1 mile, I caught up to my friend Lauri. I jogged with her back to the finish line and caught up with her. She seemed in good spirits and really enjoyed the Richmond Marathon. We got to the finish line and I ran around and was able to join her after the medal area. We chatted a bit more and discussed briefly Death Valley and Las Vegas. She had to get home and I wanted to continue stretching my legs so I again ran backwards. I ran in to Debbie and Larry and cheered both on. Finally, the weather started looking really omimous. It was time to get back to the car and head home.

Before getting home we stopped at my sisters, I grabbed a quick shower and then went to an organizational meeting with the Reston Runners for the JFK 50 miler. It was time to get ready for my big event: JFK 50 miler. At this meeting I caught up with lots of other running friends. It was a great day for me! Running, friends and food...what more can one ask for?

No comments: