On November 12th, a bitterly cold and windy Saturday morning, runners lined up for the 39th Annual Anthem Richmond Marathon, the American Family Fitness Half Marathon, or the VCU Health 8K. Participants were either running a 26.2, 13.1, or five mile tour through the city of Richmond. Despite the 35 degree weather, spirits were high as several thousand runners assembled at the starting line. I actually was one of those who ran the half-marathon this year. At 7:30 that morning, as I was lining up to go, I started sweating because I felt a little nervous, yet my heart was beating quickly from excitement as well. A few minutes later, at 7:38, I heard the word “Go!” and my endorphins kicked in, and I took off running.
The route for the half marathon starts near The National on East Broad Street. The runners continued through the city with a final sprint down 5th Street to Brown’s Island, which was the location of the finish line. After runners completed their 13.1 mile run, they were awarded a finisher’s medal, offered a bagel, a slice of pizza, a Powerade, and a blanket. The blanket proved to be quite valuable last Saturday, since the temperatures were only in the low 40’s by the time the first runner crossed the finish line at 8:34 a.m.
At 7:45 a.m., those running the full 26.2 miles also started on East Broad Street, but they took a different path than the half marathoners. They got to see some of my favorite running spots in Richmond, like Monument Avenue, Grove Avenue, and Riverside Drive. Marathoners also got to see the James River at many points along their run. They finished their 26.2 mile tour at the same spot on Brown’s Island as the half marathoners and 8k runners.
While each of these races is demanding in its own right, the scenery, as well as the supportive onlookers, compensates for the challenge of the races. The layout of the course of the half marathon allowed me to enjoy the beautiful parts of the city, which helped to take my mind off of the running. I got to see the amazing architecture of some of Richmond’s historic homes, captivating views of the James River, awe-inspiring parks throughout the city, and all with the perfect backdrop of the fall colors of the foliage on the trees. I got to see different parts of Richmond, even some I had never seen before. In addition to the captivating sights, there are also thousands of people along the sidelines cheering me on, while holding signs with clever words of encouragement. One sign said, “Worst Parade Ever!” Another read, “If Trump can run, then so can you!” These signs offer a needed laugh as well as motivation to continue on the run. Hundreds of volunteers also lined the course to hand out cups of water, Powerade, various snacks, energy gels, and even alcoholic beverages. There were several bands who played music throughout the course as well. All of these elements made the race more enjoyable for myself, as well as the other participants.
One of these participants, Dadi Beyene, 28, of Ethiopia, won the 2016 Richmond Marathon. He finished with an impressive time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 36 seconds. Bizuwork Getahun, 27, of Ethiopia was the first female runner to cross the finish line. She ran the marathon in 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 51 seconds. The winner of the half marathon was Girma Gebre, also of Ethiopia, who completed the course in just one hour and four minutes and 41 seconds. Joan Aiyabei of Kenya was the first female to run the 13.1 miles. She finished with a time of one hour and 12 minutes and 25 seconds.
Several Collegiate faculty, staff members, and students also participated in one of the three events this weekend. Upper School English teacher Pete Follansbee ran the VCU Health 8k. He finished the race in 43 minutes and 44 seconds, at an average pace of eight minutes and 47 seconds. He was pleased with his results, because his goal was to finish his run at a pace of nine minutes per mile or less. “I felt really good about this whole event, even the 7 a.m. start, because even though it was a pretty cold morning… it was still beautiful and clear, with a really good sunrise,” remarks Follansbee. When asked about the course, Follansbee said that he liked it because “it’s largely flat.” He also added that the finish is a bit “tough on the legs, because it’s all downhill and down onto Brown’s Island.” I agree with his remarks; having to run down hill after running 13 miles is hard to do. Follansbee added that he “love[s] the challenge and the excitement of events like this, and Richmond does a fantastic job planning the weekend and welcoming runners from all over the nation… and the world.”
Suzanne Lewis, a history teacher in the Upper School, ran the Anthem half marathon. An avid runner, Lewis has run all three events over the years, and says that “every year I am impressed with the organization, volunteers, and enthusiasm of the event.” She also shared that her favorite part of the race was around mile 12. “There was a great cheering section, complete with music, which was a wall of sound… that part, coupled with the fact that it was near the finish line, must have been a shot of energy for every runner who passed,” stated Lewis.
Senior Kate Partlow (‘17) also ran the half marathon, along with her dad. “I really loved being a part of the race on Saturday!” said Partlow. She and her dad both agreed that the cool and sunny weather was perfect for the race. “My favorite part of the race is the fact that you get to run around really cool parts of Richmond,” remarked Partlow. “The music and all the spectators every mile or so, really helped make the race go by a lot faster too,” added Partlow.
Personally, I was just excited to have finished the race. This was my first half marathon, and I had not trained as much as I had wanted. I set a goal that once school started, I would try to run every Saturday morning, but preparing for the SAT’s, taking the SAT’s, and my seemingly endless amount of homework prevented me from completing that goal. In spite of all of that, I am really glad I did it, and I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to try running in one. There are only a few small hills on the course, but most of it is fairly flat. The course provides a scenic tour of Richmond, and the spectators definitely are an added bonus. This race is a thrilling experience, and there’s no wonder thousands participate in it every year. I hope to run more half marathons in the future, maybe even the Anthem Half Marathon in Virginia Beach that is coming up in March.
All photos by Hayden Gee, except featured image by Misti K. Davidson.