Fun signs, good advice and a confidence boost at the Anthem Richmond Marathon

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I went back and took a picture from a spot on the Anthem Richmond Marathon course along the Huguenot Memorial Bridge. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

As spectators cheered for runners during Saturday’s Anthem Richmond Marathon, there were a few who made comments about how I was smiling during the race. I liked that people noticed that — and I remember smiling as people called out my name, which was listed on my bib, or when I saw some of the signs.

I was also happy that I felt strong near the end of the race; I felt like I had a second wind instead of hitting the wall.

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Here I am with my fleece blanket, medal, pint glass and beer after finishing the Anthem Richmond Marathon on Saturday, Nov. 11. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I didn’t hit the “A” goal I set for myself at Saturday’s Anthem Richmond Marathon, but I’m pleased with my performance and filled with confidence going forward.

 

The race is known as “America’s Friendliest Marathon,” and the crowds were great, especially in the second half of the race. It’s always fun to read all the creative signs that people come up with, and there were plenty to entertain me as I embarked on 26.2 miles through the city.

One of the first ones I saw said something like “Run like her dad walked in on you” — I don’t have exact quotes for the signs since I didn’t write them down during the race. I later saw another sign that said “Run like someone called you a jogger.” Another one was “See you later” with a picture of an alligator — and the spectator holding the sign was wearing an alligator hat.

In the last several miles of the race in particular, there were plenty of signs attached to trees for someone named Caleb. I remember seeing one that said “Looking good Caleb” (or something like that — again, I don’t have exact quotes). I remember thinking that was funny in a way because there was no one holding the sign, so how would they know he was looking good? I wasn’t the only one who noticed all of the signs for Caleb, and friends and I talked about it after the race. There was even a news article about this (read that here), and when the marathon posted this article on its Facebook page, plenty of people commented.

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I took this selfie at the Anthem Richmond Marathon expo with the Retro Richmond copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and my race bib. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

However, before I go too far into the race, I’ll back up a little bit to Friday, the day before the race. I started my drive to Richmond, Virginia, shortly before noon that day, taking the Eastern Shore of Virginia route (from Salisbury, you can go either way around the Chesapeake Bay, but I opted for this direction). I made a couple stops and got stuck in some traffic on the other side of Virginia, but I made it to the Richmond Times-Dispatch just in time to pick up a T-shirt I’d preordered.

 

The marathon used to be called the Richmond Newspapers Marathon, and in addition to the retro logo T-shirt I got, I also picked up a Retro Richmond copy of the newspaper at the expo and bought a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday, in which there was a special marathon section. The names of the Top 300 marathon finishers in each age group were listed, so my name was listed.

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Here’s my name in the female 25-29 marathon race results section in the Nov. 12 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch — No. 244. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There was also a photo-op with a start line photo background from 40 years ago — it was the marathon’s 40th anniversary — and some newspaper front page decorations at the expo. Particularly as a former reporter, I thought this was all awesome!

 

The expo was held at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center. I easily picked up my bib and race shirt and did some shopping while I was there. Then I headed to the Delta Hotels by Marriott Richmond Downtown, where I stayed with my friend Kelly and her boyfriend. We got some pizza for a carb-loaded dinner and I went to sleep for the night, waking up a few times probably because of nerves.

I don’t normally get too nervous before races, but for some reason — even though I knew I wouldn’t get a personal record — I was nervous.

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Here I am before starting the Anthem Richmond Marathon. (Vanessa Junkin photo) 

The weather was expected to be much colder than any of the training runs I’d done, and I brought so many choices for clothes. I ended up wearing what I think I expected to wear anyway once I saw the forecast — a long-sleeved tech shirt from the Baltimore Marathon with running tights/leggings. I also wore a BibRave Buff over my ears and some gloves, which I ended up taking off around Mile 4 or so.

 

As I made my way to the start at 5th and Grace Streets, it was about 28 degrees, and I was cold, but not uncomfortable, even though I didn’t wear throwaway clothes (I usually don’t). I walked up a hill to the start from the hotel and easily found my corral. It didn’t seem overly crowded in the corral, even though we only had about 20-25 minutes to go till the race start. As I walked toward the start, I saw some of the fastest 8K runners. The race weekend includes a marathon, half marathon and 8K.

I started in Corral 4, the one I was assigned to. I was originally thinking I may start with the 4:45 pacers, but I worried that may lead me to start out too slow and then not have enough energy for the end. However, it probably would have been fine, since it took me a little longer than 4:45 to finish.

Anyway, I started out at the front of the corral, I believe somewhere between the 4:15 and 4:30 pacers. I figured I still wanted to bank a little time in the beginning or see if I could come in faster than 4:45 if possible — not too much faster, though.

I tried not to go too fast at the beginning, and I logged my first mile in 10:08. Although that was a faster pace than I’d done for my long runs, early on, it still felt like I was slowing myself down and going slower than I could.

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Here’s a view of Broad Street, which was part of the race. We were on the other side of the median, and I took this picture the day after the race. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The first parts of the race took runners up streets including Broad Street, Monument Avenue, Grove Avenue and River Road. We went over the Huguenot Memorial Bridge, which is where I returned the next day to take a couple pictures. I didn’t take any pictures on the course while I was running, but it was nice to see the fall leaves on the run.

 

During Mile 9, I stopped at a portable toilet. I’d felt like I needed to go since the beginning of the race, but since it wasn’t urgent, I ideally wanted to stop at one where there wasn’t a line. I found one with a short line, but I’m not the fastest portable toilet user and that mile ended up coming in at 13:10, my slowest of the day. When I came out of it, the 4:45 pace group had just passed me. I caught up to them and mentioned to the one pacer I was going to try to get a little ahead but that I might see them again.

The pacers soon caught back up to me — I did some walking on the hills to try to conserve energy — and eventually I decided I would try to run with them, even though they were a little ahead of me on time because I had started in front of them in the corrals. For example, if I were to finish with them, I would not come in at 4:45 because I had started the race about 2 minutes ahead of them. However, I figured it would be helpful to have the group support.

I also felt a breathing issue coming on around Mile 10 — thankfully, it seemed to go away — so I didn’t want to speed up too much and run out of energy by the end of the race.

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Here is the front of the Anthem Richmond Marathon finisher medal. I went back to the Huguenot Memorial Bridge and took this photo with the backdrop of some fall leaves. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There were a man and woman who were pacing together, and the man had said something like “If it feels like you’re jogging the first half, you’re doing it right.” That isn’t an exact quote as I didn’t bring my reporter notebook to the race, but I thought this was great insight, and it’s something I will remember in the future. I did feel like I had a relatively easy pace for the first half, but of course, the race got tougher. However, I did not feel like I ended up hitting a wall.

 

I ran the first half of the race in 2:22:40, according to the race results, which would have been a nearly perfect pace for a sub-4:45 finish. Although I did not run negative splits, my first and second halves of the race were at least close. My total finish time was 4:47:52, so that would mean my time for the second half of the race was 2:25:12.

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Here’s the back of the Anthem Richmond Marathon medal. The race had its 40th running this year. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Somewhere around the halfway point was a candy stop put on by the Richmond Road Runners Club. I had seen there was going to be a candy stop, and even though I hadn’t trained with candy, I wanted to have at least a little, so I took a cup of peanut M&Ms. There were other junk food stops later in the course, but I didn’t stop at them. I fueled during the race with my usual Clif Shot Bloks, although I kept forgetting to take them, so they weren’t at precise intervals.

 

I ran with or near the 4:45 pace group for several miles, but eventually I lost them. I had been getting water and walking at the water stops, which were every two miles throughout the course, and every mile during the last 10K. Although I could have stopped at each one in the last part, I continued only walking at every other one — continuing the every-two-miles pattern — so that I could try to hit my goal, which changed during the race.

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Here I am with my finisher medal after finishing the Anthem Richmond Marathon in 4:47:52. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

At some point in the race, probably around the time I lost the 4:45 group, I altered my goal from running sub-4:45 to running sub-4:50. That helped keep me going in the last part.

 

I took my gloves off at around Mile 4 or so, but I kept them tucked in my waistband. Kelly had said that it’s good to have them until a bridge around Mile 16. So, I kept them till then, and after I finished crossing the bridge, I dropped them near another pair of gloves — they were inexpensive and I didn’t need them.

I consistently looked at my watch to see if I was on pace, and I did some calculating in each of the miles at the end to see what I needed to come in under 4:50. As I mentioned before, I almost felt like I got a second wind at this point.

In the Louisiana Marathon — my most recent 26.2-mile race, which I ran in January — I felt so much worse in the last 10K or so of the race than I did at Richmond. I had started out too fast for what I really trained for, and I ran the first half of that race in 2:15:17. My total time was 4:53:11, so the second half took much longer than the first.

Of course, I was sore on Saturday, but I was able to keep up my general pattern of continuously running and then walking at the water stops every two miles. I also walked some uphills. However, on the running miles at the end, I ran a 10:26 for Mile 22, 10:27 for Mile 24 and 10:16 for Mile 26. My total pace was slower because of my walk breaks, but I’m impressed that I was able to keep up these kinds of running paces after already completing 20-plus miles.

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Here’s the awesome race swag — a long-sleeved tech shirt, the stainless steel pint glass and the fleece blanket. I particularly love the blanket! (Vanessa Junkin photo) 

The race ended with a huge downhill, which I thought was a welcome part of the course. I tried to pick up some speed on the downhill and remember seeing 8:35 as my current pace on my watch. As I neared the end, I heard and saw the presentation of the real ruby, which was being awarded to a random runner for the race’s 40th anniversary. I even made it into a video that the marathon posted on Facebook with the presentation. Since the video is only 37 seconds long, that shows how close I was!

 

I happened to cross the line at pretty much exactly the same time as my friend Lisa. (Her time was almost two minutes faster than mine, since I started ahead of her.) I called out to her and we got our post-race food and waited for some other friends. The post-race food included a piece of pizza along with a banana, granola bar and bagel.

I also enjoyed the post-race Sierra Nevada beer. There were a few choices for beer, but I chose the appropriately-named Celebration for my post-marathon celebrating.

The finisher swag was awesome. In addition to the long-sleeved tech shirt and bag I received at the expo, I got a fleece blanket and stainless steel pint glass upon finishing the race.

Although I did not hit my “A” goal of breaking 4:45 as mentioned in an earlier blog post (and earlier in this post), I did hit my “B” goal, which was to beat the time of 4:52:36 I ran at the Baltimore Marathon in 2015.  This makes the Richmond Marathon my third-fastest of the seven marathons I have run, and my fastest since the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon in 2014.

My finish time gives me confidence because I was able to bring my time down and also because I was able to do run this time without really doing dedicated speed work or tempo runs, aside from races and the occasional fast run. I’m thinking if I bring speed work and tempo into my training, I could work my way back toward a possible PR — maybe not at my next race, but eventually. I think a logical goal for my next marathon might be to beat my Richmond time or to try to aim for 4:30, depending on the hills. My PR is 4:17:45.

I had heard the Richmond Marathon was relatively flat, and I’m not the best at reading elevation maps, so I didn’t pay too much attention to that ahead of time, and I didn’t do any hill training. I definitely felt the hills and it didn’t seem flat to me — but I also live in just about the flattest area possible. My watch said there were 764 feet of elevation gain on my run.

The BibRave reviews for the my next marathon, the Vermont City Marathon, range from 1 to 4 stars for elevation (1 is the lowest; 5 is the highest), so I’m thinking I will try to do some hill work beforehand, just to be prepared. It can’t hurt!

After the Richmond Marathon, I spent some time on Brown’s Island at the post-race party with friends and then made my way back to the hotel. Then, I spent the rest of the day eating tasty food and drinking delicious beers with friends — before going to bed around 9:30-9:45 p.m. or so.

Interested in signing up for the 2018 Richmond Marathon? Through Thursday, Nov. 16, registration is $70 for the full marathon and $60 for the half marathon. Click here to register or learn more. I signed up at this rate last year! Although I enjoyed the race, I am thinking about running a fall 2018 marathon at a BibRave partner race.

Splits: 

Mile 1: 10:08

Mile 2: 10:19

Mile 3: 10:30

Mile 4: 10:08

Mile 5: 10:26

Mile 6: 10:22

Mile 7: 10:37

Mile 8: 10:49

Mile 9: 13:10 (stopped at portable toilet)

Mile 10: 10:20

Mile 11: 11:36

Mile 12: 10:54

Mile 13: 11:00

Mile 14: 10:42

Mile 15: 10:40

Mile 16: 10:53

Mile 17: 11:49

Mile 18: 10:35

Mile 19: 11:36

Mile 20: 11:14

Mile 21: 12:07

Mile 22: 10:27

Mile 23: 11:32

Mile 24: 10:26

Mile 25: 11:47

Mile 26: 10:16

Last part (watch had .37): 3:15

Official time: 4:47:52 / 10:58 pace (watch had 10:55 pace for 26.37 miles)

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7 thoughts on “Fun signs, good advice and a confidence boost at the Anthem Richmond Marathon

  1. Congrats on a great race!! It’s so nice to feel strong like that at the end of a marathon… it’s taken me quite a few to get there! I really enjoyed the crowds and signs too. Such a fun race!

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