Sunday, November 11, 2012

Race Report: Richmond Marathon...And Qualifying for BOSTON!

If you read my previous post, Thoughts on Richmond, you know that I went into this race with no expectation of pushing myself for a stellar performance. And I maintained that attitude the rest of the week. After the race, my husband asked me when I knew it was going to be a great race. I honestly did not realize it until around the 18-20 mile mark.

Rewind to race morning: I was relieved to had made it to Richmond and get in a decent nights rest. My dad, sister and I stayed at the Crown Plaza downtown, nice and convenient to the race start and finish! Way back when, I convinced my sister to run the half-marathon and my dad the 8k so as to make this a family event. I'm glad I did!! My dad got us both into running when we were young (10 & 12 years old) and it's always been a special bond between us. 

At the starting line, chill (literally) and relaxed.
Race start:  I tracked down my friend Robbie, who was running this as his first marathon, and lined up. Except, with me being so short, I lost him in the crowd and spend the first two miles of the race trying to track him down! 

The first few miles chugged along. Honestly, they did not feel great. My lingering hip pain was giving me trouble and I was afraid it would only get worst. The pace felt decent, but not great like previous marathons. I was enjoying the crowd though. We reached mile 5 after what seemed like an eternity and I said out loud, "Whelp, only 21 more to go!" People laughed. Everyone around me seemed relaxed! We eventually made it to the first bridge at mile 8 and here I really loosened up. The view was incredible, we were running with a group of people who were having fun and I decided I was too. Though our goal pace was 8:30's through the first half, we were running closer to 8:10's on a consistent basis and feeling good.

Bridge crossing near mile 8. Thanks to Robbie for the phone pics!
Miles 10-13 were along the river and were a treat. The temperature was a little cooler and I just took in the scenery. Around me I could tell people were starting to get more serious. I was a growing anxious as we approached the half-way mark: Excited at the thought of being on pace for a 3:35, yet scared that I had made the mistake of once again going out too fast. We ran through mile 13.1 in 1:48. Mile 14 was exhilarating because of the incredible crowd lining the street and here we picked it up to one of our fastest miles, around 8:00. 

The crowd really pumped me up. My 13.1 time pumped me up. I was starting to feel great and the race was going well. I still did not expect anything amazing though... I've run enough of these now to respect the final miles and know anything could happen. I tried to hold steady and looked forward to mile 17, where I knew I would next see my husband. Robbie told me to go on after the aid station at mile 15, so I did. I was anxious approaching the bridge because people said it was one long hill. Such hills have killed me in previous races, but honestly, I didn't even feel this one! I was starting to pass a good amount of people. At the end of the bridge I passed my husband and gave him my empty fuel belt. He said a friend of ours was just ahead and I should try to catch him.

Mile 17 Bridge Crossing
The next few miles were a blur. I was running well, but fully aware that the hardest miles were still to come. I was also concerned with the warming temperature that I would soon start cramping. Miles 18-20 were run in fear... this is where my previous races have gone downhill (and very quickly). Just when I needed it most a friend of ours, David Horton, road up next to me on his bike and we talked for a minute or so. That was a nice break and very encouraging! 18, 19, 20... it actually felt like the miles were going by more quickly now.

Around mile 20 we turned a corner and so did my race. I looked at my watch a saw I was on pace to do something great. I also had a good cushion to still set a PR if I faded in the final miles. I decided to take my chances and push the pace, but it wasn't until mile 22 that I really turned the engines on. I had 4.2 miles to go and 35 minutes to get there if I wanted to BQ. Instead of focusing on the finish line, I was determined to get to mile 25. I was told the last mile was downhill and figured adrenaline would carry me the rest of the way. I continued to pass a good amount of people and grab water cups whenever possible. Somewhere in there I started to feel sick and cramp, but luckily this passed pretty quickly.

Approaching the finish line and feeling great!
I kept trying to do pace calculations in my head, but was much too tired to think that clearly. Instead, I decided to focus on my turnover and staying relaxed. I conquered one mile at a time: 4, 3, 2... 1 to go. The closer I got to the finish line, the more excited I grew. At mile 25, I had 11 minutes to finish if I wanted to Boston Qualify. At this point, I knew I had it in the bag. I high-fived a friend along the course and was smiling ear to ear. I turned the final corner of the race and sprinted down the hill. I heard my husband cheering and the crowd was amazing. It was a tunnel of yelling fans. When I saw the finish, I put my hands up in victory. I had finally conquered the marathon and it felt AMAZING. I had finally run a strong 2nd half and as a result set an 11 minute PR -- qualifying for the Boston Marathon was really just icing on the cake!

Looking back on my pre-race thoughts, I stated "My plan for Richmond is not to strive for a stellar performance. I have no intentions of qualifying for Boston, or even setting a PR... my main goal is to go out and have fun, run a conservative race, and stay strong through the final 6-8 miles." I truly meant those words. I stayed relax and had fun, I ran a conservative first half and my final 10k was the fastest of the entire race. Things certainly went a lot better than expected.

Part of me wants to think, "Do I deserve this race?" But I quickly remember that yes, I do. This race was the culmination of a year's worth of solid training (other than my 2 month break). I may not have put myself through a killer training cycle this fall, but the miles and workouts I put in earlier in the year certainly contributed to my success. This was my third "attempt" to qualify for Boston, and my persistence finally paid off. I feel like I conquered the marathon and as a result am floating on air!!

As always, I'd like to thank everyone that has ever supported and encouraged me. Most of all, I'd like to thank my husband for pushing me to do this and not letting me give up. [Now the pressure is on and it's HIS turn to qualify for Boston 2014].


  1. I am SO proud of you!!!! You're welcome for all the cow bell ringing.... you know thats what really got you to finish so strong!

  2. Amazing Kristen! You absolutely deserve this race

  3. I ran Richmond last year and thought it was an AMAZING course. It was my first marathon and I couldn't have picked a better one. CONGRATS ON QUALIFYING. You are one epic hokie runner :) I'm currently an undergrad in the dietetics program and looove it.

    1. Thanks Kailey-- cool to have another Hokie runner on the blog. Keep working hard with those classes!

  4. From one Hokie to another...congrats on qualifying!


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