Yesterday, I ran a marathon. This has been one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that I would enter, train for, and actually finish a marathon. There have only been a couple of times in my life that I have experienced true euphoria, the finish line yesterday was one of those times.
The morning started off on the chilly side and wet. But not too chilly or too wet and, thankfully, there was no wind. There was a slight breeze once we got away from the taller buildings but nothing that would slow us down. Temperatures started in the upper 40s. Cool enough that I wanted my jacket and long pants before the race started, but warm enough that I wasn’t sad that I ditched them.
My first few miles went by very easy. I ran with a neighborhood friend Kyle. I had been apprehensive about the long straight roads in Richmond. I normally run on windy roads and trails in Brandermill and Midlothian, never really going much more than a half mile before turning or curving. So, looking at the 2 miles starting out on Broad street and, later in the race, the nearly 3 miles straight up Boulevard, had me thinking those sections would be very boring. Fortunately, they went by without much thought, and before I knew it, I was headed across the Huguenot bridge to Riverside Drive. A really beautiful stretch of road along the James River.
After running past Pony Pasture, we headed up to Forest Hill and across Powhite Parkway. Just a little further down the road was the halfway point, where Christi, Grandma Shirley, Sarah, Leanna, and Cooper were waiting to see and cheer me on. Just past the halfway mark our neighbor, Jennifer, joined us and ran with us for a couple miles. She ditched us right after mile 15, saying she would rather not run the Lee Bridge again (Jennifer ran the marathon last year, and the Lee Bridge has quite a reputation for sapping the energy of runners).
Kyle and I split up at this point, and I went on ahead up the bridge. I won’t say the bridge was easy, but I will say I conquered it. I skipped out on the junk food stop at mile 16, preferring to stick with the GU Roctane energy gels I brought with me. After passing through VCU, I headed through an area of Richmond I had never seen. I didn’t even know we had an area called Uptown. It was a very pretty area, with many of the buildings looking near historic.
Next I ran through Carytown and then it was time for the dreaded Boulevard. I know most runners probably didn’t dread this the way I did. I just can’t get into a long straight run. I tried my best to take in the scenery, and that worked until I got to Broad Street. After that, Boulevard becomes a street I drive almost daily and there isn’t anything scenic about it. I made it through by thinking about my favorite barbecue joint that’s on this stretch of road, Buz ‘N Ned’s. After passing Buz ‘ Ned’s, it was just a little further to the top of the bridge, then downhill past the Bryant Park Interchange area and mile 20 where Christi and the family were waiting again. It was really good to see them, and always made me smile.
Just down the street from there I was joined by my neighbor John, who ran the rest of the way with me. It really helped to have someone running with me. It was almost like getting a new burst of energy. Thanks to John and his “GO GREG” sign, the 1 mile straightaway down Brook Rd seemed like nothing. It was great when John would hold up the sign and spectators, people I did not know, would start shouting “GO GREG!” I never thought about it before the race, but this really made me feel like a rock star!
Turning from Brook onto Lombardy I realized there was less than 3 miles left. And I wouldn’t spend more than 9/10ths of a mile on any street before turning. And, most of the remaining course was downhill.
With the final turn onto Cary Street and only a little more than the final 3/10ths of a mile remaining, I stretched out my legs and flew down the hill to the finish line. Breezing past Christi, Grandma, and the kids with a quick wave, I handed off my fuel belt to John and took off. I finished the final 2/10ths in 1:28.
Crossing the finish line of my first marathon was the most amazing feeling I think I’ve ever had. The rush of emotion reminded me of when my kids were born. I actually felt like I could have gone another 4 miles at that point, but that quickly faded after walking a bit and realizing how tired I actually was.
Today, I’m still a little sore. Mostly my thighs, but really everything is feeling a little pain to remind me that those muscles are all there. No, I won’t be running today. I might tomorrow, just a quick and easy run. No training for a while because I haven’t even picked my next race.
I’m happy I ran the marathon. My official finish time was 4:25:04 and my pace was 10:12 per mile. My overall finish place was 2201, my age group finish place was 249 and my gender finish place was 1484. This is something I’ll always remember as one of my best days.