In November, I ran my second half marathon. It was totally different from my first half marathon experience, back in March. I was ready. I knew I could run 13.1 miles because I had done it before. I was stronger this time, better fueled and faster. Plus, it was here, in Richmond, and I was really excited to run the streets of my own city.
I won’t lie – I was moody about the race in the days leading up to it. I had expected Andrew to be home and hoped to have a few friends running as well, but none of those things happened, so, for the first time ever, I got up alone on race day, got myself ready and headed out the door to run this race for me, and me alone.
The weather was tricky, with no wind, 80% humidity and intermittent rain that dampened me on the way to the start line and then drenched me while I was running miles 3-5. I’d opted for a tank and shorts that day, the exact same outfit I’d worn during the muggy days of July, because humidity kills me and I was determined to not be broken on race day by poor wardrobe choices.
Once I got to the start, I ate my customary pre-race banana with almond butter (a WaWa pretzel and a kashi snack bar had been downed earlier), hit the porta-potties one last time and then found my corral.
At 7:42am, 12 minutes after the gun start of the race, my corral was released and I was off, knowing I would set a personal record no matter what, but hoping I’d run a sub 2 hour half marathon that day, a secret goal I’d only voiced the day before, but that I’d been silently around with me for months.
The Richmond Half was capped at 9,000 runners so it wasn’t the crowded madhouse I’d experience at previous races. I didn’t need to weave through crowds and, as I set off down Broad street, my legs felt a little tired, but good. I wasn’t sure how the race would go, but I was hopeful.
I walked briefly at every water station, positioned every two miles and equipped with both water and Powerade. I carried my own 10 oz water bottle too, so I could sip water whenever I wanted and especially when I started downing Gu. I’ve found that a few seconds of walking and a sip of Powerade or cold water gives me a solid energy surge that more than makes up for the seconds I spend walking and sucking down fluids.
By mile 4 it was raining, but I was in familiar territory, running the same streets I’d trained on. The familiarity of the course gave me a little boost before we headed into Bryan Park, the hilly part of the course. I was nervous about the hills and knew they could make or break my race.
But the hills? They were fine. They were soft and rolling for about two miles and then they were done. I started sucking down some Vanilla Bean Gu right before we left the park, at mile 7.
One one of my favorite things about this race was the spectators. They were everywhere on the course, holding signs and swinging cowbells and it was incredible to see so many people lining the course cheering us all on. There were also coaches from the half marathon training team all along the course and they were great, cheering on their trainees, but also anyone else who needed some encouragement. As I pushed up one of the final hills in the park, I smiled at one of the coaches and he yelled that I had this, that I could do it, and right about then I realized he might be right.
As I approached mile 10, I prepared to check my overall time to see if I could finish the race in under 2 hours. My watch was just a little bit ahead on mileage, so I knew I needed to check my overall time at the actual mile mark to get a solid idea of how I was officially doing. At mile 10, I’d been running for just over an hour and a half, which meant I had a little less than 30 minutes to run a 5k, something I was almost sure I could do. I’d been running pretty consistently at a 9 minute mile pace, so I sucked down some more Gu and pushed for the finish.
I ran the 11th mile in 8:53.
I ran the 12th mile in 8:36, checked my watch for my overall time again, saw that I had just under 12 minutes to finish that last 1.1, and I knew, then, that I was going to make it.
So I cried, for the whole first quarter of the 13th mile, while smiling too.
I ran the last full mile in 8:07, my fastest of the day, helped in large part by the massive downhill finish and, just before crossing the finish line, I heard my name yelled from the sidelines and I turned to see two of my friends, who braved the rain, cheering me on. So I smiled, threw my arms in the air and booked it to the end.
Final time: 1:57:13.
Me, near the finish:
It wasn’t the race day I thought I wanted. I wasn’t running toward my husband like I’d envisioned when I signed up to run and I didn’t get to congratulate any friends on running that day, but it was still perfect.
I’m still, two weeks later, trying to process everything this race meant to me. I know it means I’m starting to understand what it means to be a runner, that I’ve learned how to better fuel and hydrate my body in order to get it to do awesome things, but it’s so much more than that too. It’s everything.