Richmond Marathon 2011: Seeing the Big Picture

I woke up on Friday morning with a strong sense of peace and the knowledge that I would not be running the full marathon in Richmond on Saturday.  I was so relieved to feel so sure of myself, because this decision was making me batty all week.

After lunch Jodi, Baby Gus and I hopped in the car to drive to Richmond.  During the car ride I talked with Jodi about my decision to not run the full marathon and I told her I was considering two options: (1) switch to the half marathon (which I could do easily for a $30 fee) or (2) run pieces of the full marathon with her at her pace (if that was appealing to her).  There was no doubt in Jodi’s mind that she would run the full and I was really excited when she told me that she would LOVE it if I ran some of it with her.  I was SO happy – I didn’t want to make her feel as though she *had* to run with me (in case she was looking forward to the solo journey, which I would have completely understood) but I was definitely hoping she would be up for sharing some miles together.

We went to the expo immediately upon arriving in Richmond and got our race packets, etc.  Traffic had been a complete BEAR so we were running late, but we didn’t let it get to us.  We went in and out of the expo pretty quickly and then made our way to  grab dinner with T and G and the rest of the Richmond posse.  It was lots of fun to meet everybody in real life and see them before the excitement of the marathon.

After dinner we checked into our hotel and Robert met us there.  Once I got the baby to sleep I pulled out the course map to figure out what miles I would run with my sister the next day.  As I studied the map, I realized this was going to be REALLY hard for me.

Part of me wanted so badly to run the whole thing.  I knew I could do it, that mentally and physically I was strong enough.  But something deep down was telling me I shouldn’t.  I seriously drove Robert and Jodi crazy with all my chatter about how conflicted I felt.  How could I come all the way to Richmond, have a bib number for a full marathon, feel strong and NOT run all 26.2 miles?  Ugh, I know I was annoying them.  Good thing they love me so much :o) 

The next morning we woke up and everything was sooo easy.  The start line was literally right out the window.  There was a Starbucks in the lobby of our hotel.  Jodi and I went downstairs to get our coffee and then came back up to the hotel to get race ready.  I decided at that point that I would start the race with her and run through Mile 16 where I could hop out and hang with Robert and Gus until catching Jodi between Miles 24-25.  I would take it one mile at a time and see where it took me.  I let go of my anxiety about the decision and just focused on enjoying the day and the time with my sister and friends.

We walked to the Start at about 7:30.  Despite eating M&Ms and peanut butter cups at 9:00pm the night before (don’t ask), my stomach was totally fine.  I was relaxed.  No pressure.

sisters happy to be at another start line together 
me and baby g at the start

We found T and G and their crew really easily before the start.  T ran the NYC marathon 6 days earlier and was planning to run the full at about the same pace as Jodi so the three of us started together.  I was stoked to get to spend some time running with T.  The two of us met in our RRCA certification class back in the spring of 2010 but didn’t actually become friends until after the class, via our blogs and over email.  This was a major treat to get to hang out like this and it was definitely one of the highlights of the whole experience for me.

happy, relaxed and ready to run!

The miles ticked by and we were holding a great, conversational pace.  The course was beautiful and it could not have been a prettier day for a marathon.  I wasn’t thinking much about how fast we were or weren’t going and I don’t think Jodi and T were either.  We weren’t there to worry about the clock, we were there to enjoy the day.  Our pace was relaxed, smooth and consistent and every time we passed a mile marker I think all of us were a little surprised to see it.  I even completely missed seeing some of them.  All three of us were feeling good physically and mentally, checking in with one another and just enjoying the ride.  We got through the halfway point in just under two hours.  At that point Jodi mentioned to me that she wanted to slow the pace down to closer to a 9:30 – her hips were tight from the get-go and she didn’t want to risk pushing too far.  She got a SWEET PR at MCM two weeks ago (3:56) and she was not even trying to beat that in Richmond.  She was being smart.  I had no problem with slowing down so we pulled it back and T continued ahead of us.

A little before the 15 mile marker Jodi’s bladder was talking to her and we saw some porta potties.  Since we weren’t racing this marathon, she decided to stop and use the bathroom – the clock didn’t matter.  As I waited for her I lightly stretched my legs and considered what I would do in a little over a mile when we saw Robert.  My body was feeling good (my right calf was a little tight but not bad), I was enjoying the time with my sister … but there was a voice inside my head that was telling me I would rather not be “marathon sore” in a few hours.  At that point I knew without a doubt that if I kept running past Robert I would spend the rest of the race regretting my decision.  If I stopped I would not regret it!  Decision made.

We ran across a huge and beautifully scenic bridge for mile 16 and then came upon Robert and Gus.  I took Jodi’s long sleeve shirt for her, hugged her and sent her off on her way.

done with 16 miles together

For a few moments I considered catching up with her again, but the logical thinker in me resisted that urge.  Plus, Robert was so insanely proud of me for making the right decision (he knew how hard it was for me) and I was excited to get to spend time with him and Gus before running again.  The three of us went to a restaurant so I could nurse and change the baby (this was so hilarious to me) and then we walked to somewhere between miles 24-25 and waited to see Jodi again.

This was FUN.  I was cheering my heart out for runners.  We caught the people who were going to come in under 3:30 first.  I was screaming my head off telling them to run proud, run strong!  Telling them to GO GET IT – today was their day!  It was totally fun.  Robert and Gus got in on it too.  We were our own cheering squad at a lonely part of the course.

i love these guys

I remember seeing the people who were going to come in under 3:40 and telling Robert – this is my crew.  This is where I will be in my next marathon.  It will happen.  I even saw a girl wearing words on her shirt that said “BQ, Baby!” and I think my heart skipped beats – she had a huge smile on her face.  Such pride.  I will be like that in March. 

We saw T coming and I screamed for her – she was going to PR!!  6 days after running NYC (where she missed her PR by just 8 seconds) she was running the fastest marathon of her life.  H E L L O — she is my hero.  I was so excited to see her that when I tried to take a picture it was a complete fail.  I am bummed about that but I was so freaking excited that I could not concentrate on the camera.

Not long after seeing T, I saw my sister.  It was time to run again and to bring my sister into the finish of her 7th marathon!!!  The excitement was beyond me.

Jodi looking strong!

I hopped in with her and was surprised at how tight and creaky my muscles felt after not running for a while.  I never stretched or anything after jumping out after 16 miles.  Ooops.  It didn’t take long for me to loosen up though and Jodi and I held hands and ran another mile and half to the finish!

It was one of the best marathon finishes of my life, and one of the most rewarding, even though I did not run the whole thing and don’t count this as one of my own marathons.  My sister and I were holding hands as we crossed the finish.  It was a moment I will cherish in my heart for always.

We crossed the finish line together in 4:21:23.  This day was not about PRs.  It was not about even covering all 26.2 miles in my case.  It was about two sisters on a mission.  Two sisters supporting one another and celebrating one another.  For Jodi, she followed through on and honored a commitment.  I could not be more proud of her and am so thankful to have shared this journey with someone I love so completely.  For me, I followed my gut instincts and found the courage to do what I knew I should do, rather than letting myself get caught up in the emotional side of things.  For both of us, we had a wonderful experience doing something we love with someone we love.  It was perfect.

The 2011 Richmond Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart.  It was a wonderful day and I am incredibly grateful for how it all panned out.

And today, I don’t feel “marathon sore.”  I ran 17.5 beautiful miles yesterday at a pace that was slower than my long run training pace leading up to MCM.  I’m looking forward to the next three weeks of running whenever I feel like it and for however many miles I feel like it.  For the next three weeks I will not follow a training schedule and my running will be relaxed and fun.  Training for the Rock n Roll USA (National) Marathon begins the first weekend in December, and I know without a doubt that I’ll enter into it feeling READY.  Sometimes we have to let go of the short term in order to keep the big picture in mind.

My big picture was clear to me yesterday and I am so glad I focused on it.

7 thoughts on “Richmond Marathon 2011: Seeing the Big Picture

  1. Congrats on what sounds like a perfect day for you! I love the Richmond course. And I was laughing that you described the mile 16 bridge as beautiful. Right after that bridge is where I got my first low point the last two years there! And you were in my RRCA class too–didn't realize this!

    Way to go!

  2. Oh gosh I love love this. I know it must have been crazy hard to stop at mile 16. way to listen to your body. i love how you guys approached this marathon!! its amazing. 🙂 🙂 congrats!!

  3. So cool. What a great race experience. One of my favorite races was a Turkey Trot I did with my little sis a few years back. She is not a runner, but trained for this 5K and we ran together the whole way. I was so proud of her. She has started asking more questions lately about running. I am crossing my fingers we will do another race together soon – but as you know, you can't push anyone into it.

  4. Awesome! I am so proud of you for just having fun and really listening to your body. It was a beautiful day out there and you got to enjoy the run without any stress— physical or mental! Yay!

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