I can count on one hand the times I’ve been speechless. I was pretty flummoxed when MB proposed (he had fake proposed twice but that’s a different story for a different time) but I still managed to say yes. I was pretty choked up when I left VA and my team of Afghanistan and Iraq war vets made me an honorary veteran. But I still managed to say something. Or at least look ridiculous. And now, I have to put literally all weekend during the Richmond Marathon event on the list of times I was rendered dumbfounded. For like super good reason.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Richmond, as we all remember was a redemption race on many levels. First and foremost we were there to get Hilary across the lines of her inaugural marathon. Finally and forever breaking the Paul Ryan curse of 2015. Hilary had retrained super hard and had amassed a force at Richmond in the form of her best college friends, Team Princess 1983, 1/4 (turned out to be more like 3/4) of the #BABs and her family which was more than enough in my mind to get her to that finish line.
I, of course, was there to really prove that this cycle rocked for me and that I could have a good marathon outcome when I didn’t have a terrible sinus infection. But I’ll be honest when I tell you that part of me doubted that Richmond would be OK. What if, I wondered, I’m just not good at marathoning? What if despite the training I’m just not built for it and sinus infection or not, I wasn’t going to get the PR I thought I had trained for? This self-doubt was compounded by the concern about the pace group situation. There was a 5 hour and a 5:30 but again no 5:15 or 5:20. Would it kill someone to pace that finish time? Apparently yes.
Regardless, I picked Katinka up from the airport with glee on Friday afternoon and jetted over to Tori to then eat some Guapos before getting on the road to Richmond. We made excellent time and were at the expo by 4. I was so happy because I had promised coach Jeff that I would stop in before dinner time to pick up a trinket he had sent with HIS coach (the 4:45 pacer) for me.
we found our names on the wall. there were 2 Lauren Baileys!
We got our bags and shirts and bibs and cruised the expo trying to find the pace group leaders and waiting for Hilary. (NB: Richmond’s expo is small and navigable and well run. Their merch was plentiful and everyone was ordered and friendly.) Hilary rolled up and then this happened:
Coach Jeff and his bestie George (not Steve as my stupid brain and mouth would have you otherwise believe) had driven from Pittsburgh to Richmond that day to help coach Hilary across the finish and both of us to redemption.
Dude that is real friendship. Now is a great time to thank Tori, Katinka, Hilary and everyone else who were in on the secret and then getting it on video.
After the screaming and crying and more screaming and jumping we headed into Richmond for dinner at the Robin Inn where we FINALLY reunited with Natalie and Team Princess was in full effect. We also got to meet Mr. and Mrs. Natalie for the first time which literally made our lives, mine especially because Mama P and I are totes besties now.
After dinner we split from George not Steve and Coach Jeff and headed back to our hotel room. Hilary hooked us all the way up with a sweet room at the Hilton Garden Inn literally right next to the start line. After some photos and a mix up with the cot, Tori and I settled in for a 5:30 wake up.
flat Lauren and Katinka
I thrashed all night, too hot, too cold, too nervous. I tried to be hella zen going into this race. It wasn’t about me, it was about Hilary. But now Coach Jeff was here to make sure we BOTH succeeded and I was worried I wasn’t in good enough shape and I would be letting them both down. I read somewhere that if you can’t sleep before a race it’s OK. Just lay in the bed and breathe deeply and relax which I tried too do as much as possible. I must have fallen asleep at some point because my eyes shot open at 5 convinced I had overslept.
I got my pre race breakfast in me and Tori and I leisurely got ready for the day. Tori, as it turns out was NOT, running the half that she registered for because she’s getting some well deserved PT to get her ready for Princess in February and training for our spring cycle. She didn’t TELL me this until the night before though because as the coordinator of all the fun surprises, she didn’t want to tell me beforehand and have me insist that she not come (which I would NEVER do as I want everyone around me always ;)) or something ridiculous. So Tori was our official cheer squad leader with George not Steve for the day.
We met with Hilary and co and then made the made the mad weird dash that you make when you’re rolling squad deep before a marathon to the half and full start lines. Loosing people, finding them, loosing them again, loosing gloves and then finally getting in the (wrong corral).
I sadly didn’t see Natalie again all weekend. Girl, you were awesome. I love you and can’t wait for January!
And off we go! We started in Wave 3 or 4 I think and we hit the 5:1 intervals immediately. Natalie and Hilary’s friend Nicole stayed with us for about 2 miles and then were off! We got passed pretty quickly by the 4:30 and 4:45 pace group (lead by Coach Jeff’s ultra coach Marie!) and settled really nicely into our rhythm.
he’s very important
At mile three, which came up really really fast, we saw Mr. and Mrs. Natalie with their Team Princess sign and then immediately hit Tori and George not Steve which resulted in some hugs and kisses all around. We cruised around the beautiful residential part of Richmond and headed over to the bridge so run on the opposite side of the James river.
It was around mile 10 that I noticed Coach Jeff had pretty much stopped talking. We were hitting our intervals just fine and had started to warm up just a scoatch. By the halfway mark we had all shed our first layer, though I was still pretty chilly, so I hung onto my MCM shirt just in case. We sang living on a prayer as we hit another big hill at the half marker and kept scooting along.
all the fun!
At mile 16, we crossed the bridge that would take us back downtown to do the back half of the marathon. After a junk food station (official name, for real. I love you Richmond Marathon) I turned on the playlist that I had made for Hilary back in January. It had a lot of my favorite songs on it and included messages from Hilary’s family and friends wishing her well for her first marathon. Just what all of us needed to pick us up and keep us moving. We were facing a blustery head wind but we kept hitting our intervals just as Coach had intended. I texted Katinka who had finished her half marathon and was already showered. Everyone was in good spirits back at the home base!
At the mile 17 marker, and after some lovely wet and dry towels, Coach Jeff finally confessed that his stomach was in extreme distress. He felt like he was going to vom and he could not keep going with us. My heart broke a little bit, but for Jeff, not for me. I could tell he had been hurting for most of the race and he had been gutting it out — literally — just for us. Coach was insistent that we keep going without him and after a few painful minutes we decided to push on.
This was one of the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a race. I had never finished a successful marathon without Coach so I panicked a little. But the overriding feeling was extreme guilt and even bigger worry. CJ had come all this way for me, for us, and he got a tummy ache :(. And HE felt bad about it which made me feel worse. Needless to say it was a lot of emotions that I don’t think either of us had a lot of time to process.
Hilary to her undying credit picked up on her watch (I failed to wear mine which I knew was a bad idea but I also didn’t want to psyche myself out too badly with a PR on the line) with the intervals and we kept cruising, now back onto the original part of the course we had run earlier that morning.
As we rounded mile 19, I saw a sign that said Go #BABS! Weird, I thought, that’s our team name — the name of the girls I trained with all summer. And then I saw it. A huge sign of my face. And holding it was none other than Mandy.
AH!! my heart explodes every time I post this pic
Now, Mandy had been sending me random texts of a race that I thought she was running. Turns out that race was SUNDAY and the pictures she was texting me were of RICHMOND. She got up EARLY in the COLD and drove all the way down to see us. With a huge sign of me drinking a wine slushie. So of course I did what ever self respecting marathon runner does who sees one of her very best running friends out of nowhere at mile 19.
I lost my ever loving shit. I bolted to the side of the road, sobbing and crying hanging onto Mandy for dear life. We hugged and clapped and hugged some more. I grabbed Tori and George not Steve, too for putting this all together for me. I told George what was going on with CJ and told him to look out for him. I did some more crying and clapping and finally Mandy said: Lauren, mama has shit to do today — get a move on! So we did.
In any marathon, the race really starts here. Hilary and I however, were not feeling unbelievably terrible. Richmond also starts handing out aid at EVERY MILE at 20 so we used the stations and the songs on her list to keep our intervals as Hilary’s watch died. We cheered along with the spectators and ran with some of the Richmond Marathon Training Team coaches. As got past mile 25 there was a sign that said three more turns. We were almost there. I untied my stupid MCM shirt and left it on a cone. Another marathon finisher came by and said “Is that an MCM shirt?” It’s all yours! I replied. It’s cursed. 🙂
As we started making our way down the BIG downhill finish we saw our friends one last time. I rushed over to give one last round of appreciative sobby hugs. Katinka yelled GO GO GO KEEP RUNNING AND WE DID.
You know that feeling when something really good is about to happen. It sort of starts in your toes or in your tummy and spreads to your finger tips, the tip of your nose the top of your head? That’s how that last .2 felt. And this is kind of what it looks like.
When we hit the mats and crossed the finish line, I could not stop smiling. We met Hilary’s family — her husband, sister, sister in law and aunts. I started texting everyone to meet up in the reunion area. Then I sat down on the curb and checked my time.
5:20:22. Exactly a 20 minute PR from my auto-PR set in Pittsburgh in 2013. I called Mark and sobbed. He and my mom and brother were cheering in the background, having just got the text that I had finished.
I got myself back up and across the bridge to my friends waiting to continue to cheer and celebrate us. We waited for a completely deflated Coach Jeff who finished in a mad respectable time of 5:48 (which is still below all my other marathon times. For real.). We ate a little, talked about the race, gave out hugs and kisses and claps. Finally we decided it was time to get home and we started the uphill walk to our cars. We said goodbye to CJ and George not Steve promising to make up for any disappointment today with all the fun in January. And of course Pittsburgh in May.
TL;DR: I executed the fuck out of this race. The Richmond Marathon is far and away one of the best marathons I’ve ever run. My friends, especially my running Ohana — the Broads and Princess obviously included — are amazing beyond measure and I worry that I am not nearly good enough of a person to deserve supportive friends from all over. Running a marathon is the great equalizer and it can be a good day or a bad day but rarely an in between day. Interval running is the only way to get it done. I will be back to the marathon. In 2017. Don’t tell MB. Oh. And I nothing feels better than a PR you worked really really hard for. Nothing.
special thanks congrats and love to Hilary and Coach Jeff! ❤ ❤