Richmond Marathon 2013

It’s been over a week since I ran the Richmond Marathon.  I have been thinking about it every day – remembering the details, trying to learn from the experience and embrace all that I loved about it and all that I struggled through.  In some ways, I have found myself wishing I could go back and do it all over again.  Not necessarily out of regret or wanting to change the result, because I am so happy with my time and how awesome the whole experience was and because I really did learn so much, but because I feel like it just flew by so quickly and some of it is a blur to me now.  Those few hours that I worked for months and months to arrive at, went by in a blink.  I want to savor all of it.  I don’t feel that way about every marathon that I’ve run.  Some of them I have literally begged and prayed to finish and then swore I was DONE with marathons altogether afterwards, and I never wanted to think about running 26.2 miles again.  Not this one.  This one was nothing like that.  This one left me feeling more excited, more grateful, more passionate about running and especially about running marathons.  This one left me understanding more about myself as a person and as a runner.

halfway through and happy – doing what i love!

We talk about this kind of thing a lot as runners – one of the reasons many of us love distance running so much is because it is so symbolic of life.  You get out what you put in.  When everything sucks and you feel like you’re falling apart, the best thing to do is to keep moving forward.  All you need is within you.  Trust in the process … trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be and that the struggles and how you overcome them (and you WILL have struggles and you WILL overcome them) are there for a reason and will help you grow.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Be in the moment, that’s where it’s at and that’s all that matters!  Don’t worry about what lies ahead or how far you have to go.  Just BE.  Here.  Now.

It all might sound cliche, but I don’t even care.  It’s all true.  And that kind of stuff is the reason I know I will run for all of my life.  Not for times on the clock, but for what it does for my spirit.  How it fuels my fire and reminds me of who I am and that I am ALIVE.

Every marathon, in my opinion, is practice at trust.  Practice at not quitting, hanging on and hanging in.  Practice at moving on when you hit the lowest of lows.  At riding it all out – the good the bad, the amazing, the agonizing.  And every marathon is also an opportunity – a chance to learn things about yourself, a chance let yourself shine, a chance to dig deep inside and pull out some courage and fight when the going gets tough.  A chance to take some risks.

I think the biggest lesson I have to face from Richmond is this – I am still a scaredy-cat when it comes to putting myself completely out on the line.  Don’t get me wrong – I have done a ton of work on this and I have grown by putting myself in tough places and pushing through them, but when it comes to racing the marathon I am bit of a chicken later in the race.  I keep myself as comfortable as possible for as long as I can and then when things start to get hard, I just make it my mission to stay comfortable, which oftentimes means pulling back and resisting the chances for disaster.  This might sound smart to you, and for the first 2/3 of the race I think it really is the way to go, but what I’m realizing from Richmond is that I am going to need to take a risk later in the race if I want to achieve my full potential.  I’m going to need to make myself really uncomfortable during those last 6 miles of the marathon, and let things happen and maybe even let my wheels fall off as a result…and be OK with that because I will KNOW I gave it my all.

I almost went there for Richmond, but I made a decision not to because I was pretty happy, really content is the right word, with how I was doing and the time I was running.  I knew I was going to run a personal best time and didn’t want to risk failing at that.  I weighed my options and decided to be careful.

For the first half of the race, I was steady and in control and everything felt light and easy – just as it should!  I was drenched from the rain, but I had a huge smile on my face as it poured down on me.  Everything felt good and I was happy and strong and in control.

Miles 1-13: 7:21, 7:14, 7:18, 7:12, 7:09, 7:15, 6:53, 7:13, 6:58, 7:15, 7:24, 7:09, 7:26

I came through the halfway point in almost exactly 1:35.  And I felt like I was ready to crank things up a bit.  I had a LOT of energy in my tank there.  This was awesome because I felt confident I could negative-split the course and come in under 3:10.  I hadn’t been checking my watch at each mile up to that point, I was listening to my body and trusted that I was running a smart race because everything felt so smooth.  I saw Maddie (most amazing friend ever!!!!) at that point and gave her my hand-held water bottle.  I would grab cups at water stops from here on out.

I ran the next couple of miles faster and felt strong, and then had some hills to tackle for a few miles which I was both mentally and physically prepared for.  I didn’t let them get to me, didn’t worry about my pace slowing because I was maintaining a steady effort.  It wasn’t time to feel like crap yet, I told myself.

I saw Maddie again just before around 18.5/19 and told her I was feeling good and that I was happy because I was pretty sure the hills were over.  She gently told me I was wrong (she ran this race last year), that there was a pretty big hill coming up.  She was right.  I told myself to stay comfortable for longer.

Miles 14-20: 7:01, 6:58, 7:19, 7:26, 7:28, 7:18, 7:43

mile 18.5-ish

When I came into Mile 21, I started to feel discomfort in my tummy.  This is when I wanted to RACE, when I intended to put it all out on the line.  But …. I also didn’t want to.  I had a reasonable excuse not to now – another reason to stay conservative.  I had noticed my tummy feeling crampy earlier in the race a few times but it subsided.  I told myself if I stayed at a comfortable pace that maybe it would subside again, but I had a pretty strong feeling I would need to make a porta-potty stop at some point.  My efforts to ignore it stopped working, and by the time I was in Mile 23 I realized I had no real choice but to stop and take care of it.  I was determined not to let it ruin my experience or derail me – I started telling myself it was still okay that I wasn’t racing yet.  I jumped right back in and tried to get my pace back down.  I found myself hanging in a pack of guys which turned out to be the 3:15 pace group.  I stayed with them for a mile and then tried to pull ahead a little bit.

For the last two miles, I made it my mission to ENJOY the finish of my fastest ever marathon.  I knew the race wasn’t over yet, that I still had two miles more to run, but I had no doubt I would do it and that I would keep running, even if I wasn’t “racing” in the way I wanted to at that point.

I saw Maddie again just before the finish and she said to me something like “How awesome is this!??!”  Seeing her really help me move beyond any lingering negative thoughts and feelings about those last several miles, because there was SO MUCH to be SO HAPPY about.  I was running my fastest ever marathon!

Miles 21-26.2: 7:29, 7:44, 8:20, 7:20, 8:06, 7:54, 6:57

almost done!

When I crossed the finish, the first person I saw was Bart Yasso.  I had met him at the expo the night before – which was a very cool experience!  He gave me a hug and then pointed at me and said “BE HAPPY!”  And I was.  So happy.

My official finish time was 3:14:10.  A 7:22 average pace.  This is a seven and a half minute PR for me, and over 11 minutes faster than I ran my fall marathon last year.  I’m pretty ecstatic about that.  There’s a lot to be happy about.

For the first hour after the race, all I wanted to do was be dry and not on my feet.  Maddie and I sat together and talked for a while – I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me that she was there.

so grateful for her

The rest of the weekend was really nice.  My sister Jodi and a bunch of our buddies and I all went out for yummy Mexican and beer that afternoon.  Jodi and I stayed in Richmond Saturday night together and had a mellow and fun evening hanging out with Bart Yasso which was, um, really really neat.

so fun!

I got on the foam roller that night and my legs felt great.  This past week I did not feel as though I was recovering from a marathon at all, though I am no dummy and knew that even though I wasn’t feeling that way, I needed to honor my usual post-marathon recovery routine.  I went swimming this week (!), worked on my core, and went for a run on Friday with Maddie and yesterday solo.  My legs feel great and I’m excited to spend the next 6-8 weeks not training for something, just enjoying running because I love it, sleeping in some (if my kids will let me!) and recharging so I will feel renewed and excited about training in the winter for Boston!

As Thanksgiving approaches I am feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude.  Gratitude for this sport I love so much, and for the people it has brought into my life.  Gratitude for my family and and for my friends and for all of their support and love and encouragement, always.

8 thoughts on “Richmond Marathon 2013

  1. Such a great recap! I know we haven't met but I have followed your blog for awhile and yelled your name when I saw you pass by at the tail end of the race! You looked so happy! Congratulations! — Ericka @ The Sweet Life (

  2. Congratulations on your PR (especially with nagging tummy issues)!!
    I completely understand your mindset of just wanting to enjoy your race when you know you'll still PR, I've done it myself and didn't regret it one bit.
    Enjoy your next few weeks sans training plan! 🙂

  3. Jess you are increadible!! Your race report is the epitome of who you are as a person – a geniunely joyful soul. I love you so much and this is inspiring me for my race in two weeks!

  4. Congrats!! That is a huge PR and look at the improvement you've made in one years time! Bart is the announcer and at the finish line of the Little Rock Marathon too (in March). Pretty cool guy!

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