Richmond Marathon 2019

Richmond Marathon (#4), (Marathon #69)

This was my 10th and final marathon for 2019.  I signed up last summer and was excited to be able to run with my friends Marisa and Marci and share the experience of this beautiful course.

I had tracked the weather and then winter snuck up on us early this year and CT had record lows.  I was hoping that Richmond would be a bit warmer than CT,  but they were also experiencing the extreme cold with us.

We had a quick trip planned; Friday morning to Sunday morning, less than 48 hours.  We woke up at 3 am on Friday and left for the airport. We don’t typically fly United and had to experience smaller planes coupled with having to wait outside on the tarmac in Washington for our carryon bags that wouldn’t fit in the overhead bins.  The wind was so cold, and I was praying Richmond would be warmer!

This was the first time that I’ve stayed at the host hotel for Richmond.  The prices were very reasonable, and we were in walking distance of the start and finish of the race.  This was a huge plus for us. The last few times we ran the race we had to get up extra early and fight the volunteers as they were closing the streets to look for parking.  We checked into the hotel seamlessly.  Kim made friends with the valet parking attendant that gave him the least expensive way to pay for our parking and suggested the coolest restaurant for breakfast.  We ate at the 821 café.  If you’re ever in Richmond, you must go there!

The Expo:

The expo was better this year than previous years.  One thing they didn’t have were clear plastic bags for gear check.  They told us “use any bag you have for gear check”. We said, “we traveled here and didn’t bring  any extra bags for gear check.”  They told us to go to the Geico booth to get a free bag.  We had fun spinning the wheel and even won a little stuffed Geico.  We got our free gear bag and left.  I’m sure we will probably be inundated with Geico emails after providing our contact information in exchange for the bags!  We also made a point to say hi to the Fleet Feet booth and met Jason who spoke so highly of Stephanie and Carrie from our Fleet Feet, West Hartford.  It makes us very proud to tell people that we coach for such a fantastic duo.  I have to mention there was NO free snacks, no GU, no Honey Stingers (the course nutrition), no NUUN, no UCAN, nothing!  This was a first that we didn't have snacks for the plane ride home!

The race shirts weren’t my favorite material or color, so my plan was to use it as a throw away for the race.  I had packed hand warmers, sweatshirts and the disposable heating pads that the woman at the NYC marathon recommended. I wore a new pair of Capri’s for this race since it was going to be cold.  Just wanted to point out that I’d never worn them before and they weren't marathon friendly!

We picked up Marcie and Marissa at the airport after the expo. They had a later flight.  When they got to the hotel there was a a mix up with their room, so they were given a pass to the 19th floor for club members only.  This was something that I was looking forward to post marathon.

We had our pre-race meal at Tarrant’s that I’ve eaten at the past few years. We got to bed early and figured since we were within walking distance from the start we could get our stuff ready in the morning. 

Race day:

Race morning started off with the first hiccup as the coffee maker didn’t work in the room.  I called the front desk and they said, “We have coffee in the lobby”. She was quite snarky to me after I mentioned “I really need my coffee in my room to get ready”.  She said “well, aren’t you going to be coming down to the lobby anyways?”, I replied “no, I would like my coffee in my room, so I can get ready!”  Next,  I told Kim I would head downstairs to get coffee.   I put on my sweatpants half asleep only to find that there was no coffee in the lobby. I found this out after walking in circles in the lobby looking for it only to find runners geared up and ready to go.  I was getting more anxious as I realized I haven’t even eaten or gotten my clothes ready. Now 20 minutes had gone by and I was getting more upset.  The shuttle driver walked in and noticed that I was upset and brought me in the back kitchen to get me a coffee.  He was getting ready to pour when this woman started yelling “Get her out of here, she is not allowed in here”.  This is the moment that I’m not proud of.  I looked at her and started to cry “listen I just want my F*%$king cup of coffee, I am running a marathon, I am not ready, my coffee maker in my room is not working”.  She noticed I was having a meltdown and apologized.  She got me my coffees and hugged me and said, “You got this race girl, you will be fine”.  Embarrassed, I walked away, wiping the tears from my eyes.  I was trying to get my composure when I got on the elevator.   Some guy got on dressed in race gear and I said, “Why is ev eryone getting ready so early?” and he replied, “it takes a ½ hour to walk to the start”. My heart started to beat too fast again as I stormed into our room and said to Kim “I just had a melt down and we have to hurry up and get ready”.

I pulled myself together before Marcie and Marissa met us and we headed to the start.  We were all bundled up with hand warmers,throw away clothes and to our surprise it wasn’t so bad.  I said “it’s nice here but when we are away from the buildings let’s hope the wind doesn’t pick up. 

The race:

After the National anthem,  the horn went off and we took off running.  It was much colder near the start and I was miserable thinking I’d never warm up enough to take off my throw away sweatshirt and hand warmers.  We got to mile 2 or 3 and the hand warmers went.  Next, went my Key West sweat shirt.   I took my gloves off but kept them remembering what a woman said at the start “wait till you get to mile 15 – 16 when you go over the bridge before you toss your stuff because it’ll be cold and windy”.

It’s funny how I forget the courses of the different marathons that I’ve run until I’m actually running them again.  It all came back to me  when I started running knowing exactly where I was.  My favorite part of the race is running on the narrow road along the James River.  It captures all the “fall” beautiful colors with the sun peaking through the trees.  It is quite beautiful.  I remember thinking to myself “I hope Marcie and Marissa also think this course is beautiful”. 

We went out into a neighborhood after the river and then turned out to a long straight away where I saw Santa sitting on a street corner.  He was sitting in a chair fully dressed with his red outfit. He wasn’t a clean Santa and Kim said he reminded him of Dan Aykroyd in the movie "Trading Places".  I did what any runner would do.  I screamed “SANTA!  IT’S ME JEANNE – I’VE BEEN A GOOD GIRL THIS YEAR”.  He replied “You’ll be getting  a new pair of sneakers for Christmas this year” 

We finally got to the dreaded mile 15 where we would be crossing the James River back into the city.  Unfortunately, the wind was no longer a tail wind, now it was a strong cold direct, in your face, head wind. The bitter cold wind went right through me pushing me backwards as I ran a long slow steady uphill battle trying to stay warm. Its funny how quickly my body cooled down when I was not able to maintain the strong pace I had earlier.  I was so glad I didn’t toss my gloves because they were back on my hands.  Kim had lost one glove at one point and used his Richmond marathon shirt that we planned on throwing away as a hand warmer.

Bart Yasso was at mile 16 at the end of the bridge yelling “you got this”!

After the bridge there was another long another straight away section that seemed forever. Kim looked at me and said, “Let’s just take this one mile at a time” and that strategy really worked for me!  We got to a really cool section of the race where the buildings were painted with graffiti with beautiful murals on the sides of the houses.  Each house had something unique.  This certainly took the pain of the higher miles away. 

I noticed there had to be 20-30 coaches from a local running club was out there in a pack that were leap frogging sections, making sure their runners were supported during the marathon.  I thought this was so cool to have these new runners to have so much support during their first marathon. They were even cheering us on!  They must have a huge running group in Richmond.

We ran past the Athur Ashe convention center where they had the expo around mile 19.  I kept saying to Kim “When are we going to turn off this street”  Kim assured me it was coming up.  Finally, we  turned right off that long straight away.  I remember this next section from previous years as the “hot section” where they had people handing out beer and pickle juice. Not this year!  I never once felt overheated. I was still freezing.  I skipped beer and pickle juice!

When we had 6 miles left we decided to walk through each water stop.  It’s makes those last miles forgiving knowing you’re going to get a walk break.  I kept looking ahead and counting down the traffic lights on the corners.  I was thinking when I get to 10 lights, that will be a mile. 

I also remembered my blog that I just shared on the Napa Valley marathon about mental toughness.  The section where I say “when your legs have had it, your mind will get you to finish as long as you are positive.  I counted on these positive thoughts which really helped me finish the race.  “When your legs give up run with your heart”.  Also, it really helps when you think about runningonly one mile at a time.

Finally, we had approached the final turn which is downhill for about a ½ mile to the finish.  This section was a very steep downhill with uneven pavement where if you weren’t paying attention could be pretty dangerous with tired legs.  This section felt like someone was stabbing my quads with knives.  We saw the finish line and grabbed each other’s hand and crossed!  We did it!  5 marathons and 2 half marathons in seven weeks.  I am so ready for a break.  We waited in line for our gear check shaking from the cold.  They don’t provide heat shields, but they give you a nice fleece blanket.  It wasn’t enough to keep me warm.  The sun was gone, and the wind picked up. I never thought I’d be warm again.  I didn’t even want a post-race beer.  It was too damn cold!  Thank God we packed extra gloves, heat shields, hand warmers, sweat pants and extra shirts.

Marcie messaged me that she finished.  We met her and walked over with her to get pizza at the post-race party area.  The Cupid Shuffle song was playing and both of us started in dancing “To the right, to the right, to the right, to the left, to the left to the left, to the left…… It was the best thing that they could have done.  The music and dancing helped relieve the stiffness in my legs; moving is the best recovery.  Marissa messaged us that she was done and just like that she was standing behind us WITH A TANK TOP AND NO JACKET!!!  It was almost painful to see her like that.  We wrapped her fleece blanket around her, took a photo and walked back to the hotel.

We walked into the room and noticed housekeeping was there.  The first thing I did was try to make a cup of coffee hoping they came and fixed it.  NOPE.  Not working.  I called the front desk and kind of flipped out to the poor dude working telling him my horrible experience.  This guy said “I will buy you and your husband a cup of coffee.  What?  Are you kidding me?  I hung up and housekeeping came into the room to “teach” me how to make a coffee.  I said to her “I KNOW how to operate a Keurig.  I have one at home! Well, apparently you are supposed to have your cup placed strategically at the edge of the bottom plate, teetering off for it to work.  It did however start to brew.  She left and now I started to feel foolish knowing the dude from the front desk was on his way with Starbucks coffee. 

Then, I heard talking in the hallway, and then the dreaded knocking at the door.  I opened it to the front desk guy with my coffee.  I put my head down and said “boy, do I feel like an ass”.  He just smiled and said, “enjoy your coffee”.

We were cleaning up for dinner when I looked down and saw an envelop on the floor.  I opened it only to find a hand-written apology from the general manager.  He took $50 off my bill for my bad experience.  Talk about excellent customer service.

Post Marathon:

We had dinner at a pub called “Penny Lane”.  I am a Beatles fan and this restaurant was filled with so much Beatle memorabilia.  It was incredible.  I walked around and looked at photos of John & Yoko, old photos of the Beatles when they were both young and old.  They even had a 45 of “Penny Lane” that was framed.  What a great meal and great experience. This was extra special to me as well as I just learned that I will be running the London Marathon in April.

We got back to the room and packed up and were back in CT in less than 48 hours. This marathon was not my fastest, but it was one that was completed purely with mental toughness.  My legs had had it, but my mind would NEVER let me quit.

Would I come back to run Richmond again?  Not right away, maybe in a few years, kind of like childbirth. You somehow forget all the pain!  

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