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Patrick Henry Half Marathon

Half Marathon 5 is in the books.

I knew going into last week that things may not work out exactly how I planned, considering Thursday was the biggest event of the year at work. Monday through Wednesday were non-stop with very little food and very little sleep. Thursday was even worse as I was on my feet, sprinting from one side of the football field to the other and up and down from the press box on the top of the stadium for close to 12 hours. Around 1 a.m. I finally found my way to bed, only to be woken up by the hubby’s alarm at 6:30 a.m. 

Around 1:30 p.m., after working a half day, Kevin and I started the 5 hour trip to Richmond. We arrived and went straight to packet pickup. Numbers were given based on last name rather than when we signed up. The race was caped at 1,500 participants but there were only a few under 1250 registered at that time (we were 1230 and 1232). The participant shirts left much to be desired. They were a poor material and an ugly pea green. As a marketing professional, I also thought it was strange that the managing organizations (Richmond Sports Backers, Richmond Road Runners Club) had no visibility on the shirt (logo, name, etc). It was as if they didn’t want to claim the race as their own.

The next morning, Kevin and I awoke at 4:45 a.m. for breakfast and our typical pre-race rituals. We arrived on site at 6:10 a.m. 50 minutes before the race was to begin. We decided to walk towards the start line and make one final stop at the bathroom as my stomach was a wreck from what I believe was the banana I had with breakfast. Little did we know that that stop at the bathroom would be the only thing we would have time to do before sprinting to the start line. Apparently the entire field had to ‘go’ as we stood in line for nearly 35 minutes. I’ve never seen lines so long and there were at least 30 people behind me who never made it inside before the race started. With only a few minutes to spare, I made my way to halfway up in the pack (finally finding Hayley) and got myself prepared to start the race.

As is tradition with the Patrick Henry Half, they started the race by playing the Grateful Dead’s rendition of our National Anthem. Not sure what the correlation between the band and Ashland, VA is but I wasn’t going to question it. The race started promptly at 7:00 a.m. along the railroad tracks just across from Randolph Macon College. I started out with a comfortable 8:45 pace knowing that with all my speedwork and tempo runs lately, I could keep that up throughout the course. Unfortunately, my stomach had other ideas. 4-5 miles in I was forced to walk after severe cramping took over. I fuel every 4 miles so I took advantage of the few minutes walking to take some beans. I soon realized that my beans were somehow stale. They were rock hard and despite taking them in with water they were near impossible to chew. Not a good sign.

I came into the race with the notion that I was going to smoke the competition. I checked out results from previous years and with my estimated finish time, it looked like I would finish in the top 10 of my division. HA. Clearly, the entire running community had spent the year between last year’s and this year’s race training because I’ve never raced in a faster group. Ever. Even at an 8:45-9:15 pace I was getting passed like I was standing still. I tried to keep up with Hayley or at least keep her within eyesight but with having to walk a couple of times I lost her somewhere around mile 7.

The on-course support was more than I anticipated. There were people out cheering every few miles (in the populated portions of the course) and each water stop had 20-25 people cheering and handing out water/Powerade.

The course itself was a nice change of pace from Charlotte. Our scenery started with the beautiful RMC campus, transitioned into some older neighborhoods and finally took us out into the country with corn fields, farms and lots of open pastures. The course was relatively easy with only a few moderate hills. The last hill, which lasted from mile 11-12, was brutal and seemed like it really demolished everyone’s pace. 

The post-race party was nearly non-existent and no awards (aside from the finisher medals) were given out on site. They had some bagels, fruit and Costco muffins for finishers to eat but no real vendor booths to wander through while waiting for other friends to finish.

Overall, and even with finishing way over what I was hoping and pacing for, I finished with a decent 2:01:19. All things considered, and after finally calming the disappointment of not getting a PR, I was happy with my finish. If you’re looking for a unique race with an extremely competitive field and a cheap registration, I’d recommend it.

You’ll have to check out Hayley’s description of the race this week, because hers has a much different outcome!

This post is already long, so i’ll post pictures later today. You’ll also have to stay tuned as my hubby will make his blogging debut with thoughts on his first half marathon!

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