The rolling hills of Richmond topped with fall foliage at its peak is a sight to behold. Whether you’re running the full or the half marathon, the course has gently rolling hills that pass by historic monuments and beautiful homes. And the best part about this course? It’s a never-ending block party with junk food stops and beer stops as well as the much needed water and fuel stations. Any race that has junk food stops stocked with candy bars is my kind of race.
This is my first year running the half marathon; the previous two years, I ran the full with Phil; however, he ran the full alone, and my 6@6 running friend, Hua, ran her first full marathon over the weekend. Although I didn’t get to see all of my friends running, I had a chance to hang out with Hua and her family after the race, which is always a treat.
The marathon begins slightly later than the half marathon, so by the time my wave went, the elite marathoners began their run too. I found my groove on Broad Street as the elite runners ran by like gazelles–holding a five minute per mile or better pace, those runners make it look effortless. I ran slightly faster to try and see them for a little bit longer, but they were soon gone.
The first turn to the right took me north of the city and into the historic residential neighborhoods. Leaves continued to fall in my path as we made our way into Joseph Ryan Park’s rolling hills and the 10K split. With my tight hamstring and sore IT bands, my legs were just plain pooped by this point in the race, but I saw my friend, Kerry, leaving the park as I was entering it, and I kept running faster. She didn’t see me, but if she did, she’d smile and wave. I tried to blurt out, “KERRY!” but I was out of breath.
A huge hill stood in my way as I exited the park, but I just told myself that I eat hills for breakfast. Seeing all of the other half marathoners entering the park gave me encouragement: they weren’t giving up, so I won’t either.
Miles 8 and 9 ticked by, and I when I saw mile 10 I knew I only had a 5K left. I held back a little bit, saving my final kick for the last two miles. I was foolish–I had forgotten about the hill approaching mile 12 that took whatever was left out of me, until the final downhill: Richmond ends with an incredible downhill that begs for speed. And I gave it all of my speed and flew by cautious runners and weaved around groups running together and leapt over potholes in the road and I finished fast… without falling on my face. In my mind, I was a gazelle too, only less graceful.
It wasn’t my fastest half marathon, but my second best. I’ll take that. I’ll just keep thinking I’m a gazelle and hold my head high.