“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
– Kathrine Switzer
This is the truth. Admittedly, there was a tiny sense of grief about not actually running Richmond this year. I’ve now run 3 different marathon courses: Chicago, Marine Corps, and Richmond, and Richmond is still my favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s my adopted home town. Maybe it’s the beautiful views of the James River and the Richmond skyline. Maybe it’s that Sports Backers runs fantastic events! Or maybe it’s the amazing support from those on the course, especially from my MTT coaches.
This year, I was one of those coaches. I definitely gained a new appreciation for the amount of work the coaches do on race day. I was grateful that fellow MTT coach and bestie Patty was there to tell me what to do, where to be, where to cut the course, etc.
It was a cold, windy day, and I struggled with deciding what to wear. I actually had on 3-4 layers all day, and I was super grateful I’d decided to wear a light windbreaker, too. I wore it most of the day!
Pre-race, the Pink Nation (and lots of other runners!) gathered in the lobby of the Omni Richmond. We are so grateful they put up with us every year! We had a coaches’ huddle, then gathered our peeps and headed to the Capitol for the team benediction and MTT picture. Then, we were off to our corrals.
It was optional to run the first 5 miles with the team, but I chose to do so. I have a friend and sub-team member who I felt needed a great start to his first marathon, and this was my mission. After the first 5, I sent Eric on his way, knowing I would see him later on the course. We met our drivers, went to Starbucks to hang a bit, and then were driven to the halfway point. This happened to be where the Richmond Road Runners Club had their candy stop. Oh, the Skittles! They also had jelly beans, gummy bears, and M&M’s. Love that candy stop!
From there, I picked up a few veterans from Pink Nation to check in, and they were all doing great! And then I picked up my first new marathoner, Kelley. She was doing an outstanding job! I ran her to the Lee Bridge, which is at about mile 16. I then picked up runners for a bit, running back and forth and providing general encouragement, guidance, and advice about focus. Focus on the beautiful skyline and the junk food stop right after the bridge! I handed out salt chews to cramping runners. I was super happy to also see my friend Amanda on the bridge! (@mindfulathleteyoga) But I waited to cross until I saw Eric. I teared up when I saw him with Kelly and Lisa. It’s awesome how bonds solidify on the course. It was clear they had a mission to make sure Eric met his goal. Once on the bridge, I realized how brutal the wind was! But we survived.
I found Patty, and we cut the course to Grace Street about 2 miles from the finish. I got to check in and run with so many teammates and friends! You start to recognize the look of focus vs. the look of pain. If runners were focused, I tried not to bother them. But if you were in pain, I was there. Running into a friend was even better. I serenaded Kimberly with a rather awkward rendition of Respect in her 25th mile. It was fun. But the real fun was picking up my newbies.
Kelley came in hot at the finish, running much faster than her typical 11ish minute pace at 9:40 and actually ran faster as she neared the finish! She was simply phenomenal! Brother and sister Neil and Catherine, also running their first race, soon followed, still smiling. And Eric followed later, still with Lisa and Kelly, both seasoned marathoners and triathletes. As these new marathoners approached the finish, it was the most fun to watch them realize that the goal they had worked so diligently toward was about to be achieved. There were tears. There were Shalane Flanagan moments (F*%k Yeah!). And it was awesome. And those moments happened over and over again!
In the end, coaches from Pink Nation were the ones who crossed the line last, police cars in tow. I’ve never shut down a course before!
All said and done, I ran 18 miles on Saturday!
The weekend was punctuated by seeing Bart Yasso at the expo and on the course. He’s a super nice guy and does so much for the Richmond running community.
I can’t believe the fall season is over. Now I’m contemplating what’s next in my running adventure. Spring half or full? We’ll see. It’s the first fall marathon season in a while that I’ve emerged from without injury, and I don’t want to lose momentum!