Friday, November 22, 2013

Richmond Marathon - BQ, Baby!

This past weekend, I finally did something that I never thought was possible: I qualified for the Boston Marathon! I always joked that it would never happen until I was 80 and my qualifying time was slower, but through some key changes, I was able to do it! But let's hear about the race, shall we?

Friday afternoon, my friend Annie and I drove down to Richmond. She offered to come down and pace me, which meant I had a co-pilot in the car and a friend during the race. Perfect! We drove down and hit crazy traffic, which got me all nervous. I was worried that sitting in a car and driving for that long was going to tax my legs, but I couldn't change a thing. We stayed at my mom's college roommate, who lives outside Richmond. My mom came down and we all had a lovely dinner before the race, filled with carbs, before heading to bed.

Before I even knew it, it was time to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and hit the road to the start. It was pouring when we got ready, but the weather forecast predicted it would stop raining about an hour into the race, which made me happy. I did a 12 hour race in the rain, so I knew I could handle it, but it's just not fun for chafing and blisters to run in wet clothes and shoes.

Suz and me before the start
Annie, my mom, and I got to the start, then met up with a friend from the Runner's World Forums, Suz, before the start. We used the facilities (important before a race!), then quickly got to the start to find the 3:35 pacers. Since the race is small, we crossed the start line exactly 1 minute after the gun went off.

The rain started to pick up the first hour, but Annie and I tried to make the most of it and we chatted through the first few miles. At mile 4, I knew to expect my mom's college roommate and her kids. Boy, what a boost it was to see them! Running with the pacers was great, too, because you instantly had a crew of people to run and talk with.

Around mile 8, Annie and I made some new friends and were chatting along. I told Annie that if she felt good, she should take off and not worry about me. She told me she wouldn't be doing this, but around now is when she took off with one of our new friends. I was happy for her because I really didn't want to hold her back! Is it weird that I felt proud when she took off? She looked so strong, so I was happy for her!

Annie and me before the start
The course ran through some pretty neighborhoods and near the James River, which made for pretty scenery. I got the halfway point knowing that the pace was a wee bit fast (1 minute faster overall than goal pace at that point), but I felt good. I decided to just break down the next half by mile, knowing that 16-18 had some slight hills.

Those miles past and I felt fine, especially since the hills weren't bad at all. It's when I got to the 20 mile mark that I really struggled. I really thought I had lost it and wouldn't be able to hold on. I didn't bring any music device with me due to the rain and I was starting to really hurt once we had 10k left. My legs felt like jelly and keeping pace with the 3:35 pacers was growing tougher and tougher. I kept telling myself that it would be so awful to finish just shy of a BQ (Boston Qualifying time), but negative thoughts kept creeping up on me. I started to prepare mentally for not qualifying, but I had to stop myself from thinking that way and focus all of my energy on sticking with the pacers and BQing.

Annie and me at mile 4
I decided to just break down the last 6.2 miles into mile increments and that helped a bit. The crowds were okay during Richmond, but they were really helpful that last 10k, especially with my costume. Running as Wonder Woman was such a great decision! I loved the costume and everyone around me seemed to as well. I was worried the pace group would get sick of hearing people call me out specifically, but the pacers kept cheering for me and talking about my costume, too. Anytime we'd come up to a runner hurting, the pacers would say, "Alright, we're the 3:35 pacers. You should stick with us; we've got our own Wonder Woman."

6.2 miles became 5.2, which became 4.2, 3.2, 3.2, then 1.2. The crowds were growing and become more exciting. It felt like such a struggle, but I kept pushing. I lost the pacers, but knew that if I kept my pace up, I'd still go sub-3:35. As I turned the last corner, coming to the dreaded downhill finish, I relaxed and let gravity take me to the finish. It hurt like hell, but I saw the time on the clock and knew I'd qualify for Boston, a feat I never imagined I'd achieve this young. I crossed and immediately started tearing up, just in awe of what happened. I got my medal, quickly found my mom and Annie (who ran a 3:30:25...badass!), layered up in compression, and called my best friend, Caitlin. She's always given me crap for not coming to Boston (not realizing at first that one had to qualify) and I finally got to call her and tell her to save room for me in April 2015. :D

It hurt to stand, but I was beyond happy!
Looking back, my training was solid and I did a lot of good miles and speedwork, but the biggest difference this time was mentality. I always thought a BQ wasn't possible and out of reach. Last year, when I PRed by 6+ minutes, it opened my eyes to the possibilities ahead for me. Instead of telling myself it wasn't possible, I let go of those mental constraints and allowed myself to really push myself, without letting limits stop me. I truly think this was the biggest aid for me getting my BQ and I couldn't be happier.

After we showered, ate a bit, and filled up the car with gas, we quickly headed back to Philly. Why so quickly? Well, I had to pace my boyfriend in the Philadelphia Marathon the next day. But that story is for another day. :D

Final time: 3:34:00


  1. Congrats on a great race! Hopefully that time holds up against the "effective qualifying" time (after all qualifiers are ranked) so you can get into Boston. Having a place to crash in Bean Town is nice; race weekend hotels can be uber-expensive!

    1. Yeah, I'm already frantically looking for another race to see if I can qualify by more. 1 minute probably won't be enough of a buffer, sadly. :(

      Yes, having someone to crash completely rules! So lucky. :D

  2. Congrats on the BQ - what an amazing experience. I always say the same thing about BQ-ing (maybe if I keep my pace up as I age). Would love to hear how you paced your boyfriend two days later!

    1. Thanks so much! It really was a crazy experience. Posting about pacing the next day in Philly soon! :D