It’s hard to believe I’m writing a recap of my FOURTH half marathon! It seems like just yesterday I was lacing up my first pair of real running shoes and preparing for my first half marathon…but it turns out that it’s actually been five years already!
I was really excited to run the Richmond Half again. I love Richmond and I’ve run this course two other times. The fact that race day fell on the 5 year anniversary of my very first half marathon was just icing on the cake.
Training was really hard. When Jim created the training plans for us I knew it was going to be challenging with the addition of speed workouts. I kept saying it was one of the toughest training cycles I’ve ever done…even more so than this year’s marathon training, which seems crazy to think about. I’ve never trained for a specific pace before and it was much more difficult than solely training for distance. Especially during busy wedding season! I had a lot of doubts leading up to race day but they were mostly about whether or not I’d be able to hit goal pace for 13 miles. Little did I know I should have been more worried about cramping.
Race day arrived and I was excited to find that it wasn’t quite as cold as it had been in 2017. Last year it was 26 degrees, which as you can imagine, was pretty terrible. This year’s weather was perfect for running. I was excited that I’d moved up a couple of corrals to C! Only two from the front! My corral was jam packed and kind of unpleasant because it was hard to get around so many people.
Once I actually started running I felt really good for the most part. I was cruising along and enjoying the weather and the funny signs and the race atmosphere. Race days are so much fun and it’s always exciting to be finally getting to run the race that I’ve been working so hard towards! I felt good at the 10k mark and was looking forward to start to push myself a little harder going into miles 8-10. Everything was going according to plan until all of a sudden my right leg started cramping just as I passed the 8 mile marker.
I know I probably should have stopped at that point and stretched, but I’d already stopped to use a port o potty and to tie my shoe. I was also really worried that if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start up again. So I kept going and hoped that I could outrun the cramping.
Instead of out-running the pain, it got worse. And worse. Eventually both legs were cramping pretty badly and it was all I could do to push myself to keep running. I changed my playlist and turned up the volume on my headphones and focused on moving forward. After a while, the 2:00 pace group caught up with me and I cursed under my breath because at that point, I knew 1:55 was out the window. It took a lot out of me to try to keep up with them, hoping to salvage my race and still finish with a good time. At some point, the group passed me, which made me want to dissolve into a puddle of tears. It was all I could do to just get it together and just focus on finishing.
I thought about quitting. I thought about hobbling over to find a police officer or race official and telling them I felt like I needed medical attention. But then I thought about how hard I had worked in training and how terrible it would feel to see DNF next to my name. I knew that would be even worse than seeing a “bad time”. I thought about all of the people who supported me and believed in me and how awful it would feel to have to tell them that I quit. I saw a sign on the side of the road that said “Do not let yourself be made to feel small” and thought to myself “I WILL NOT LET THIS STOP ME”.
I kept going that last 5 miles with the cramps coming off and on. Pain radiated throughout my lower body and continued to worsen as the race course started sloping more downhill. Eventually I made it to the final mile and began pushing myself even harder, desperately working to open up my stride to try and make up some time (but mostly just so I could finally stop and sit down).
I made it right to the very end of the race…literally yards before the big 13/26 mile mark where they photograph you before you cross the finish line when my entire left leg locked up. It was so painful and so sudden I burst into tears from the shock. I couldn’t put my foot down on the ground or move the leg at all and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it the rest of the way down the hill with only one functional leg.
At the same time that I’d stopped, an ambulance started making its way down the hill to attend to someone at the finish line…I saw it and tried to hop out of the way on one leg barely making it out of the way before a man basically pushed me to safety on the sideline. A lady who was spectating saw what had happened and rushed over with a little packet of Bio Freeze which she immediately started rubbing all over my leg. At this point, I was sobbing pretty hysterically. Like a full blown ugly cry…Kim K style. I had said throughout training for my first half marathon that I would literally crawl across the finish line if it came down to it and I thought that might actually become a reality for me. I already knew that I had really blown it when it came to time and now I maybe wasn’t even going to get to finish. It felt like I’d thrown away all of my hard work and that I’d let everyone who supported me down.
Whatever it is in bio freeze that works on cramps started working on my leg and although it still hurt pretty badly, it got to a point where I could move it again. Instead of pushing myself to sprint across the finish line like I love to do at the end of a race (or even at the end of a training run…) it was all I could do to jog/hobble across the finish line.
I was finally done.
Technically this is still a PR (at least on paper) by 1:48. It doesn’t feel like it though. I know that I probably could have pushed a little harder last year…so even though it’s a small improvement from last year, it really isn’t my real “best”. I feel as though I’ve put in a solid year of hard work with my running and I wanted my time to really reflect that. That’s probably one of the frustrating things about the whole situation. I have no idea what my true best is or what I really have the potential to do. And it’ll be a long time before I can go out and do it all over!
As disappointed as I am by how things played out yesterday, I know that I really did the best that I could for what the situation was. I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from running this race and hopefully come back with a 1:55 (or even better!) at the next half that I run.
I also learned that although I struggled with goal race pace during training, it was actually do-able on a race day (at least, a cramp free race day…). There’s no reason that I shouldn’t be able to achieve my goal time and just because I couldn’t do it yesterday doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of it.
My favorite thing about this race was getting to experience this with my squad. In the past year we’ve all gotten to be close through training for the Shamrock Marathon and now this Half. Running is usually a very solitary sport, but being able to do it with a group of such good people is such a gift! Training for these races brought me closer to Jim, who has become one of the best surprises of my 2018, and to Leah who is one of my favorite girlfriends, and to Lee and CJ, who are like the annoying, but lovable brothers I never had. Literal #squadgoals, y’all.
Before I close out this recap I have to give props to one of my pals…this was my friend Cortney’s very first half marathon…she travels for half the month and has been battling super painful sciatica in one of her legs but remained incredibly dedicated to her training. I am so impressed by her and so proud to have been able to help her prepare for her first half!! It made me so happy to hear her say that she feels she really does love running now! It’s such a gift to be able to share something that’s changed my life and watch it bring one of my friends joy.
I am also super proud of Leah who ran an amazing race and PR’d by ten minutes!! I am so inspired by how she is able to balance her career, her family, and training for these races. She's allllll of the #momgoals.
As bummed as I was yesterday, I wouldn’t change a thing. Some of the most challenging things I’ve been through in life are the ones that have taught me the most and have changed my life for the better. This race was indicative of the type of year I’ve had since the last RVA Half…both in life and out on the race course I am tenacious and I am stubborn and I am bound and determined to be the best version of myself that I can. Today I’m sore and a little sad, but tomorrow I’ll be better for having limped across that finish line. Here’s to the next round of training…on to the next one!