It's rare that everything goes perfect in the build-up to a marathon. Bad training days happen. Bad training weeks happen. Life gets in the way. Sometimes we feel like we're under-prepared; sometimes we feel done before the race starts.
There aren't too many weekends in the year when almost the entire team is in action, less so in a marathon. In most years, Richmond and Philadelphia are separated by a week, but this year apparently was the perfect storm for scheduling and the two races were on consecutive days. To give each its due, this is Philthy Rich Race Weekend Recap Part 1.
Tim Parker loves the Richmond Half. He loves it so much he's raced it every year since 2009. This is his Roland Garros, his Wimbledon. He comes to play, and every year he's seen amazing results. He's run his fastest half marathons here, and even when it's not a PR, the time is always consistent. This year was no exception as he ran 1:20:55 for 47th place.
Christa Wagner is a relative rookie when it comes to half marathons. Having only run one previously, it was almost assured that she was going to run a PR. For the past few months her training has been focused around triathlon, which has taken her to a new level of fitness and given her strength and speed. But the long season has taken its toll, and in the past few weeks a few little flare-ups have curtailed her running. She didn't let that get in her head. Instead she remained confident in her fitness and performed. Her 1:32:33 was a 13 minute PR, and she finished 47th out of 5000+ women in the field. As soon as she was done, she changed clothes and made her way onto the course to cheer on our marathoners. But wait, there's more! She got in the car, drove back up to Baltimore, pulled a quick turnaround and headed up to Philly to watch her friends race on Sunday. That's boss.
If marathon success were measured purely by effort, Terry Decker would have won on Saturday. He put in the work on Tuesdays when he was running 3x2mi intervals by himself on the track. He followed a training plan. He made adjustments. He wanted it. Bad. Like so many out there, Terry has other life commitments. He got married earlier this summer. He has a demanding job that leaves him drained most days. He sees firsthand things that we only read about in the papers the next day. But he doesn't complain. On Saturday he went out through the half on the pace that he believed he could hold for the whole race. I believed he could too. The back half, though, was a different story. Actually, his day sounded a lot like mine at New York; suffer in the back half, but be proud of the chance to run with his brother. That's what it's all about.
Sara Damiano has been working towards her goal of qualifying for Boston for quite some time. She's been close, but would come up agonizingly short. This time was different. She's racing faster than she ever has before, and more than anything, had the confidence that Saturday was going to be her day. She was cool as a cucumber before the race, and went out and simply got it done. A 5 minute PR led to a 3:31:06, meaning she qualified for Boston by 4 minutes. Way to go, Sara D!
Emily Hurley was sidelined most of the first half of the year, and didn't really start training again until early fall. She's able to get into shape pretty fast, and decided that Richmond was a good goal. On race day, she thought she'd run 3:15. But you know how it goes when you feel good, and she went out there and, as she often does, ran happy. She crossed the line in 3:08:48 and was all smiles.
We all know how tough it can be to improve on already great marathon performances. Carly Page's 3:04:06 from NYC 2011 is a time that many would be happy to rest their laurels on. But much like her professional side, Carly's relentless pursuit of perfection keeps her hungry. Carly's training cycle was far from perfect; in fact you might call it the complete opposite. In a race, as with any situation, we always have two choices. We can choose to let excuses get the better of us, let our minds play tricks and tell us to succumb when things get tough. Or, we can rise above it, and be great. Carly chose to be great on Saturday. At mile 16, where most people would say the day often starts to get tough, Carly was ready to go: "I'm rolling, I feel great, let's do this," she said. She was running comfortably with the 3:05 group and came through the half in 1:31:17. Then, she picked it up. She went from 6:58/mi to a few miles in the 6:40s, before settling back in around 6:53. When you're able to do that at mile 18, you're untouchable. Her slowest mile was a 7:13 mile 25 - if that's your worst mile, you ran the marathon right. At that point she had so much time in the bank, she was going to blow her PR out, it was just a matter of by how much. The last two-tenths is severely downhill. Think Westminster - it's rough on tired legs. But it's also a pretty nice way to finish, because you could roll down the hill. She crossed the line as the 8th place woman in 3:02:12. By her own admission, she hasn't had a good race this entire year. I think this one made up for all the rest. The look on her face as she finished said it all, she knew she had done something spectacular. And for that reason, she earned a Purple Drink Athlete of the Week.
We'll be back with Part 2 later, but what an amazing race Richmond is. Having been to Richmond as a spectator on three occasions, it's easy to see why it's considered America's Friendliest Marathon. The course is beautiful - and to those who think it's "hard" or "slow" (particularly compared to Philly) I'll respectively disagree. Richmond is a smaller race, with great logistics and if I had to choose between the two, I'd pick Richmond.
It was fun watching everyone, and shout to the spectators Dan Miranda, Molly Decker, and then Christa Wagner!
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