It's taken me a really really long time to write about this, but even though it's super belated, I couldn't let such an amazing experience go undocumented. A couple months ago, after what started out as a casual conversation in the gym one day after class, my friend Leslie and I set out to start training for the Richmond Half Marathon. Though I initally signed up for the race looking for to improve upon my last time running Richmond, I ended up getting not just that PR I was hoping for, but also the beginning of one of the best friendships I've ever had, as well as learning a lot of life lessons along the way.
I started running when I was 25 (and by running, I mean glorified speed walking/jogging). I casually decided to run both a half and full marathon within a few months of lacing up my very first pair of running shoes because, well, I'm just that kind of person. I need/crave having a specific goal to work towards and I also tend to believe that if there's something out there you want to do, you should live by Nike's motto and just do it already. I trained for those races completely alone. I didn't really choose it that way...I just didn't know anyone else who liked to run and lived in close enough proximity to train with me. In fact, at the time, I didn't even like to run. But I didn't know what else to try and do to get "in shape" and running seemed pretty simple...I figured I could handle putting one foot in front of the other.
Doing all of that running and all of that solo training changed my life for the better. I always did my best thinking in the solitude of training, with nothing to distract me besides my music. No Snapchat, no Instagram. No TV or chores or emails or whatever else to distract me from my own thoughts. As much I learned from doing it all on my own, after training with my friend, Leslie for 3 months in preparation for our half (her first race EVER), I realized that there's also something to be said for training with a friend too.
We kind of haphazardly put together a plan for training which culminated in a final ten miler a couple weeks before the race. We ran together for the majority of training. Both of us were sick for probably 70 percent of the duration of the time leading up to the race (I still swear we had whooping cough) and I was healing from a back injury for the most of it. Despite feeling like we were hobbling around much of the time we trained, we still managed to finish the race at 2:05 (a PR for me and a great start for Leslie!) which makes me really proud of us. Especially knowing all that we went through to get to that point!
I love Richmond because I like that the majority of the training is in much MUCH more mild weather than it is training for Spring races. The irony here is that this race ended up being THE coldest race I've ever run. When we made our way to the starting line it was only TWENTY SIX DEGREES. Both of us were nervous, me especially because I waited til the last minute to eat my giant Rice Krispy treat and then had to shove it down my gullet in two minutes before we took off. I was trying to make sure that we didn't have to stand outside in the cold too long, which ended up backfiring when we ended up rolling up right before our wave started!!
I had wanted to race with the 2:00 pace group since 2:00 was my ultimate goal...but we quickly lost them after I had to stop to tie my shoe. It wasn't worth it to speed up early on to try to catch them, so we just worked on running our own race after that.
By mile ten or so, I could tell Leslie was getting tired. Personally, I was starting to feel a lot of adrenaline, especially since I knew the course and could tell how close we were to the finish. At this point, I became a crazy lady, just yelling things at her to motivate her (and probably pissing off the other people who were running near us) but I knew that we were too close to slow down!
When we finally rounded the last corner and flew down that hill (that hill is literally the best thing about running Richmond...you get to FLY down the finish line because it's all downhill) I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I never cried after either of my prior two half marathons or even the marathon I ran (though I might have been too exhausted and/or dehydrated to physically create tears at that point...), which is shocking, because I'm a very "heart on my sleeve" type of person, but I got so emotional when we finished. I think it was mostly because I knew that we had really been so much farther than just 13.1 miles.
With all of the things I had been going through during the Fall, I needed Leslie there to run next to me, to listen, to love me unconditionally and to laugh at my terrible jokes. And she needed me to be the bossy little person telling her that we were doing this and to remind her there was alcohol waiting at the end of the finish line on race day. I teared up at the end because I was proud of her, proud of myself, and all in all glad to have been on such a transformative journey with someone who went from friend to a best friend in the space of the time that we trained together.
All mushiness aside, this is one of my favorite races. This is the one I'd do again and again just because I really enjoy the course, the people, the atmosphere, and that freaking amazing feeling running down that hill to the finish line. This race is oddly enough the only time I've ever cramped while running, but I'm very used to running on extremely flat terrain, so that's probably why. I'm in the middle of training for the Shamrock Full, but I'm really seriously considering signing up for the full Richmond...it's just that good of a race!!
If you've made it to the end of this, thank you for listening to my story! I really believe that running is one of the most theraputic things I've ever done for myself. And although at times I have a love/hate relationship with it, I know that I'll run the rest of my life, as long as I'm able. Running changed my life by teaching me I could do things I never thought were possible and I am just so glad that I was able to bring that amazing feeling into my friend's life too:)