Richmond Marathon Weekend 2022
This isn’t a race recap, exactly. I didn’t race this weekend. I was simply there to support everyone who was!
I woke up Sunday feeling sore from hours of walking, running, and standing. My throat hurts a bit from yelling all day. I’m sunburned from spending a couple of hours on the Lee Bridge without shade. But I’m also immensely proud of my Pink Nation, one of the subteams of the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team.
Mother Nature threw some curve balls in the weekend’s weather. Bearing the brunt of the remnants of Hurricane Nicole on Friday, thankfully, race day eve was punctuated with periods of torrential rain, wind, and tornado warnings.
Those of us Pink Nation coaches who could adjust our work schedules made it out early in the rain pre-race day to hang the Pink Nation sign at the Pope Arch, which greets both half and full marathoners as they enter Northside. I’ve never been able to be a part of this coach’s tradition, so I’m grateful to have learned the secrets! And, y’all, it’s really something! But secrets are secrets.
Those who chose to attend the expo Friday may have had to wait in their cars or shelter in place at the Richmond International Raceway as the worst of the storm passed! Trust me when I tell you that it was equally frustrating for the volunteers. But safety first!
I volunteered at the expo on Thursday, spending most of my time at the Richmond Road Runners Club booth! We have new merchandise for sale, including some pretty fabulous custom BOCO gear hats which will be in Lucky Road stores soon. We were also in charge of issuing pacers their official shirts.
I couldn’t make it to the expo last year, so I didn’t get to see how impressive the venue is! Imagine being mere steps from a Nascar track. It was surreal!
Saturday morning started with a 4:00 AM wakeup. I made it out the door by 5:00 and had parked downtown before 5:30, even before the folks in charge of the parking garage were there. I was assured that where I parked was fine and that I would only be charged the special $12 rate. They lied. It was $21. Yikes. Volunteering is expensive.
We hung out in our usual space before the race: the Omni Richmond lobby. They are such gracious hosts to all of us! Amazingly, they put up with our shenanigans every year.
We had our benediction and team photo and then headed to the corrals to wait for the start. I found myself grateful to be coaching instead of running. I was already sweating! It’s November!
Although grateful we didn’t have to deal with the severe weather threats from Friday, the storm left sunny skies, heat, and humidity in its path. It’s a bad sign when you are comfortable in a running singlet at the start of a marathon.
As coaches, we harp on our runners to control what they can. Well, the weather is definitely something beyond our control. And it’s been so long since we’ve run in these temperatures, most of us have lost some of our skills in managing our responses to running in summer conditions.
My original plan to support our team was to run the first 5 miles as I have in years past, but after I cut last week’s 8 miler to 2 because of right knee pain, I nixed that plan. Instead, another coach and I rode out to the 5-mile point and cheered our runners, then made our way to the Lee Bridge. I went through an entire bottle of SaltStick fast chews and nearly depleted a can of Biofreeze spray.
The bridge is mentally challenging, and you hit this right before the 16-mile mark. For many runners, the wheels have begun to fall off at this point, especially with the heat and humidity being what it was. Sometimes some electrolytes and cool pain relief are just what you need to power through the next 10 miles.
The concrete monstrosity that is the Lee Bridge carries you across the James River and is usually a place to cool down on the course. Winds are notoriously strong here, and I’d often tell my runners to keep their gloves until they’ve passed the bridge. Those winds can cut like knives! But on Saturday, there was virtually no breeze. We simply baked in the hot sun.
At some point, a runner alerted us to someone who had almost collapsed and was sitting on the sidewalk. I ran back to find her. There she was, on the sidewalk, as described. She was with the larger Sports Backers team, but on a different subteam than mine. She was almost incoherent but still talking. Her heart rate was also pretty high.
Her husband was on speakerphone, obviously concerned. I assured him I wouldn’t leave her until I knew she was OK. I called our head coach, and she tried to get medics to us, but there were so many runners who needed medical care that it took a long time.
I gave her the only aid I had: pickle juice, Biofreeze, and salt. She started to feel better. The medics called her, and she refused care, partly because of the possible medical bills. Who can explain the irrational runner’s mind? Suddenly, she was determined to walk and finish the race. I took her to Main Street at about mile 17 where some members of our walking team adopted her.
This also changed my coaching strategy. I was supposed to ride over to the Diamond, home of Richmond’s Flying Squirrels baseball team, to provide support at around mile 20 of the route. Missing my ride, I cut the course, making my way toward the finish line instead to help the final runners in the last miles.
I found myself standing right in front of NuVegan Cafe, a place I’d never been to! Needing real food and a restroom desperately, I popped in for something to eat that I could grab quickly. Cornbread and cheesecake it was. Both were delicious, by the way, but left me wishing I had picked up something saltier!
I did finally find the coaches’ pod. This was loaded with snacks and drinks for the coaches since we are typically on the course for hours. As I guessed, there was very little that was vegan. I’m glad I stopped at the cafe!
As coaches gathered and waited to cheer on our final runners at the turn to the downhill finish on 5th street, I was surprised to see who did well and who struggled. But to witness perseverance in the face of such brutal conditions is inspiring.
After crossing the finish line with our very special Team Woody, we waited for the very last finishers. Team Woody is our wheelchair participant, his mom, and several other members of our team who worked together to push him! Watching them cross was a great moment!
You can learn more about Woody’s story here!
Several minutes later, I saw a gait I recognized. It was the runner I helped on the bridge. She was lilting to the side, walking with our head coach, who picked her up at mile 20 and walked with her all the way to the finish! I’m so glad she earned that medal!
This is what it’s all about on race day for the coaches. Seeing our team finish, especially despite all of the challenges and uncontrollables, like the weather, is amazing.
The Running of the Dinosaurs
On Sunday, race weekend was capped off by a Road Runners Club event. We finally brought back the T-Rex run, which hasn’t been put on since before the pandemic. It was hilarious to see so many folks in inflatable T-Rex costumes all at once! By the signup numbers, we had enough to break the record. However, only about 200 people in qualifying costumes participated. We hope that next year, we can break a world record.
Another trip to Longwood
My younger daughter signed up for a STEM immersion day on Monday at Longwood University, which is on her short list of possibilities for schools next year. It also happens to be where my older daughter goes to school and where I went as well. We met some very lovely fellow prospective students! I think after this trip, it’s more than likely that we will have another Lancer in the family. It was a nice way to cap off a very busy weekend!
Time to Regroup
One thing is certain: this introverted runner is tired. My body took a beating this season. And I’m peopled out for a while. I will take some time to rest from running heavy miles, focus on my diet, and try some other workouts for a bit. But I will find my joy in running again. I always do.
Did you participate in any of the Richmond races last weekend? I’d love to hear about it!
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.