20) Runners Marathon of Reston, Reston, VA, 10th April 2016

I had already entered the Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond on Saturday 9th but decided I’d make it into a big training weekend with the wife away.  The original plan was to run the 10k as a race then use the marathon as a long slow run.  It was near home so easy to drive there on the day and as it was a two lap course it would be easy to do the first lap slow and push the second, assuming I could get over my usual need to race every race!

The course looked interesting with a mix of roads and cycle trails, and plenty of small undulations so very different from the flat routes I’d been running for IM races.

I ran 39:03 at Richmond (a great event – a large 10k but very well organized), my second fastest time and 1:13 off my PR.  I was very happy with it given I’d done QC Marathon and the Cherry blossom 10 miler the previous weekend.  Since QCM, I’d cycled for an hour on the Tuesday, swam for an hour Weds then did a 2.5 mile easy run on Thursday.

I decided to register Sunday morning and just relax Saturday afternoon.

I was up early and had my usual pre-race breakfast of coffee and a pb&j bagel, then a coconut water in the car on the way to race. I also had a banana whilst registering (about an hour before the race) and another coconut water. It was cold and icy so I wrapped up with compression tights and a long sleeved top.

Knowing I’d done races the week before and a 10k meant psychologically it was easier to start slow.  There were a lot of people at the start as there was also a relay and Half Marathon. I started back down the field as it gave me even more encouragement to go off slow. The first part of the course is uphill then a long mostly downhill section before getting onto cycle trails.  The first lap felt good and early on I decided to run on feel and not look at my watch.  I felt pain in my hip about 8 miles in, not sure what it was and I had never had it before, possibly too much driving… or probably lack of proper stretching after the previous weeks races. I slowed and decided to run through it and thankfully it just remained as a niggle.

I looked at my watch after the first lap.  I felt good, tired but not overly and I was on just slower than PR pace but after the last weekend I decided just to keep running on feel and not push as I expected to tire later on. I was mostly running on my own now.  There was still some support, particularly from numerous volunteers at aid stations, who were very attentive.  One even commented on my form – chin down! Which I know I need to do, and that advice now sticks with me (thank you whoever you are!) .  It was warmer on the second lap so I was taking on more fluid and just kept pushing.

Towards the second half of the lap I started overtaking HM runners but had no idea where I was in the field. I knew there were several ahead of me but I wasn’t sure who was doing relay and who was running the marathon.  I was feeling good going into the last few miles with the hip niggle still manageable and on the edge of, but not getting cramp. I pushed a bit harder and more so after the final climb on the downhill towards the stadium and a final lap of the running track.  I could see a HM Runner up ahead which gave me an incentive for a (semi) sprint finis, crossing the line in 3:16:03, just 55 seconds off my PR.

I took my finishers medal, then had to walk up the stairs (ouch) into the school for a veritable feast.  Soup was particularly welcome, then back for a sandwich, coffee and cake.  Official times were up and I came 6th which qualified me for an age group award (very nice mounted print of part of the route).

They even had a local company providing massages in 15 min slots.  I normally cramp up after races but the food and wait for the awards meant my body had got over the initial shock.  I was asked if I’d had massage before.  Yes in the UK but not for a while.  Well this is going to be very different.  It was the most painful one I’ve ever had but also the best I’ve felt after a marathon / Ultra.  The guy used an equine massage tool which felt weird but obviously worked, or just prepared the muscles for the upcoming digging in of hands, elbows etc.  I managed to withstand the pain, just…  the pleasure of lying down after all the running helped.

Another great, small event with good atmosphere.

Lessons learned.

I don’t need to run with the watch – but need to practice this more.

I can run a marathon without cramping.

I can’t run a marathon and not race…!

Could I have run quicker?  I felt I gave it my all in the last few miles.  I was very happy to not to cramp at all during the race (though I did once I stopped!), and given the unofficial time the previous week, it was a big confidence boost to prove I could get close to my PR time again on two very different courses.

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