Richmond Half-Marathon 2009

I ran my first half-marathon yesterday, and it was amazing. I can’t believe I had it in me. I ran the whole 13.1 miles with only two short breaks to gulp down some water and energy gels, and I ran fast for the last few miles, passing people and coming in under my goal.

I was so nervous and stressed the night before. We rented a car and drove down from DC after work, and sat in horrible rush hour traffic much of the time. We made it to my packet pickup in the nick of time. Before checking into our hotel, we stopped for dinner the Ipanema Cafe, a mostly-vegetarian restaurant and bar that we read about on Yelp. It looked like a cool place, and since I wanted a healthy, balanced meal, and since we always try to check out the independent, local establishments when visiting a new city, it fit the bill. I admit that I was stressed, because we got there a little late (just before 9pm), and we had to wait for a table, and I was stressed from the long, trafficy car trip, and worried about getting enough sleep…but the place seemed really cool and the menu looked great, so we stuck with it. Andy ordered a beer and I had a few sips to take the edge off. Andy ordered the grouper for dinner, and nearly licked the plate, he liked it so much. I ordered the grilled tofu and hummus sandwich, which came with a side salad and some fries. It was all really good, although I mostly left the fries untouched.

We checked into our Holiday Inn and were in bed by 11. Had a hard time falling asleep, but finally did.

Woke up 5:45am, sleepy but full of nerves and energy. Put on my running gear, packed up, and drove downtown. Found a place to park and joined the hordes heading to the start line, just in time to see the 8Kers take off at 7am. Used the portapotty (ugh, but better than having an emergency mid-race), jogged around, warmed up, posed for pictures, gave Andy my warm-up suit, kissed him goodbye, and got in line. Cued up my iPod, packed in like sardines. And we’re off!

The first two miles or so were the hardest. It was misting lightly but not cold or windy. The early part of races are always hard, as you’re jockeying for position as everyone tries to settle into their pace. I kept trying to remind myself to run my own race, at my own pace, and not worry about what anyone else was doing. Looked at all the old storefronts and new construction on Broad Street. It took awhile to find my groove, and concentrate on having fun, and not stressing about how many miles stretched ahead of me. Sometimes running in a new place can be fun, to see the scenery, but sometimes it can be stressful when I can’t gauge where I am or how far there is to go.

Turned off Broad and up a sloping overpass, not too bad. Making it over that boosted my confidence and helped to push me into the relaxed zone I usually find after 2 or 3 miles, after I’m warmed up and in a good pace, comfortable with the idea of a long, steady run. Jogging through the neighborhoods and hearing the residents’ cheers was fun. A few miles of that and then it was time to enter the park, where I knew I would see Andy at the 7 mile mark. That thought kept me going through the rolling hills, and pretty, though slightly dull, park landscape. I jogged up a hill and spotted Andy in his striped sweater, clutching a handmade sign that said “Go Kathy!”. That sight made me cheer, wave my arms, grin, and feel great. He snapped a photo and off I went. Grabbed a water and ate two Luna chews while I walked for about 45 seconds or so. Ran through more residential neighborhoods and eventually made the way back near downtown. I let my mind wander to distract myself from my sore legs and joints, to dispel any temptations to stop. I knew I was keeping a steady pace, and I did the math and knew I would finish under my goal of 2:30, and might have a shot at 2:20. The thought of coming in under my goal chugged me along.

Around mile 10 I really started to feel good and began passing people, with a surge of energy. But I also reminded myself to take it easy, not burn out too soon. I knew that I was going to finish strong, and that I would meet my goal of running the whole race, with no walk breaks except for water drinking. Closer and closer, I began passing more people. At mile 12 I was tired yet so excited, confident that not only was I going to finish strong, but I would do it under 2:20. With about 4 minutes to go to meet my goal, I began sprinting downhill. Finishing the course on a downward slope was great for my speed, but a little tough on my ankles and knees. No matter. I spotted Andy, gave him a big wave, and tore for the finish. At that point, I was at 40 seconds under my goal. I ran as fast as I could for the finish line, and made it at 2 hours, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. My pace was 10 minutes and 12 seconds per mile. I know that is not fast for a lot of people, but for me, it marks a gradual improvement in my speed and stamina. When I began running about 2 years ago, I couldn’t even run a mile. Then I could, but I would run 5Ks in the 11/12 minute per mile range. Finishing so strong felt SO GOOD.

I was so nervous leading up to the race, and this gave me so much confidence. I want to keep it up; running calms me down, focuses my mind, gives me goals, and makes me feel strong. I don’t want all my hard work to go to waste. I’d like to think about doing a marathon in the future, but I’m also a little scared about what that could do to my body; also, 26 miles is REALLY far…but maybe someday. For now, I’ll just be happy with the half.

A few comments about Richmond: the city is sort of interesting, and reminds me of Philly in a lot of ways, mainly due to the architecture, the post-industrial atmosphere, and the incongruous mix of interesting new development/redevelopment projects, and the bizarre stuff. Philly is light years ahead of Richmond though; Richmond has some interesting stuff going on, but it would take a lot for me to actually want to live there. Also, the race management was pretty bad; the City did hardly anything to direct traffic and parking amidst all the street closures. Let’s just say there was a lot of gridlock during and following the race, and Andy was pretty irate about the poor traffic management.

Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I did it!

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