In early October whilst doing a mind numbing 10 x 2K around Toronto airport, I got a text from Gavin Finlay, Sportsworlds own resident historian. Well, how’s the training going? Taper time soon, right? Confident of running in the 2:30s? Btw, I recall you mentioning you might be in the US in November. That still happening? There’s a good half-marathon in Richmond. A couple weeks after Dublin though.

A half marathon in Richmond, Virginia on November 10th seemed too tempting to resist. The seven hills at the James River that the British first colonised in 1607 became the site of a pivotal American city. Richmond was a birthplace of the American Revolution. It became the permanent capital of Virginia and served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Richmond region has always had history, for about 400 years.

Panoramic view of Richmond. Richmond, Virginia, USA.

I expected to be recovered enough from Dublin to race. Unfortunately I would pick up a calf injury running Dublin. When I arrived in Richmond last Thursday I was expecting to just spectate but I decided to do a couple miles on Friday to see how my injured calf felt. A short two mile run with no pain was a great indicator that things were moving in the right direction. I text Gavin with a thumbs up that I would be able to jog the race.

Gavin was driving down from North Carolina with his friend John. We arranged to meet at the race expo on Friday afternoon. That gave me most of Friday morning to look around downtown Richmond visit some civil war museums and historical sites.

The weather was so bad that I arrived to the expo early and went on a bit of a shopping spree. The expo was big, similar to the one for the Dublin Marathon. The race tshirt and goodie bag were excellent. I met Gavin and his friend John for a pasta and pizza dinner.

We had an early start on race morning as we needed to drive downtown. Unlike the day bevore, weather on Saturday morning was fantastic with temperatures around 6-8 degrees, some wind but gorgeous blue skies. The kind you rarely see in Ireland.

Civil War Battlefield near Richmond

This was big operation with a full, half and 8K options. There was 25K runners, popping out from all of the cities hotels, parking lots and apartment blocks. A few things about the setup that I thought were great compared to races in Dublin. They had UPS trucks to take your clear plastic bag to the finish, they had water at the start, lots of parking and it was super easy to get into your coral.

I minded the gear whilst Gavin did his warm-up. I have never been so relaxed for a race. The plan was to run easy and finish somewhere between 85-90 minutes. Basically enjoy it!

Race warmup

Gavin was doing the half as where most of his Bull City Runners group. John who was staying with Gavin was running the full and aiming to break 2.40 for the first time at 49. A great achievement if he pulled it off.

At 7.30 I was off. The courses ran through scenic and historic sections of the city and through a nice wooded area. Having not ran in two weeks I started off slow with the 1.45 pacers. The support that you got out on the course was fantastic. It was a nice feeling to be looking around and enjoying the scenery for once. I got 5K in and was starting to loosen up. Not feeling any discomfort I upped my speed a little, being careful to slow down on hills and corners.

Course Finish

Around half way we came to some woodlands, a beautiful section of the course that loops back on itself. I saw the top runners go by and thought Gavin must be close behind. I decided to stop and wait to cheer him on. He was running with the lead women. I let a few roars at him and continued on my way.

Watching the marathon finishers

The course had lots of long straight roads. If you had a good group to work with I can see it being very fast. I didn’t notice much wind but the others thought it was in their races allot of the time. Over the final 10k I picked up a small bit and caught the 1.40, 1.35 and 1.30 pacers. All three races ended on a downhill slope at Brown’s Island and the Canal Walk on Richmond’s beautiful downtown riverfront. This was a proper downhill finish. Think 6-7% grade. I had to hold back so as not to aggravate the calf. It wouldn’t be impossible on a good day to run under 10 minutes on the last 2 miles of this course. Its on great roads and allot is downhill. Overall, the half marathon course was very scenic and featured some nice rolling hills. I should jog a half again in the future. It was great fun. Id love to go back next year and have another go.

Gavin, John and Andrew from Bull City

My heart rate was sky high for the run having not ran in two weeks but the effort felt easy. At the finish line it was cold but they had hats and towels, along with your medal for every finisher. Races in the US are always expensive. This cost $100 but in my opinion it was well worth it with all the stuff they gave out, chance to run around the close city streets, the great expo, free beer and food.

Gavin finished a little disappointed in 74 low. he had been hoping for 73 low. We met back up and went to see John come over the line in the marathon. Be ran a 2.37. The same time I’d ran in Dublin 2 weeks earlier. A fantastic achievement at 49. That’s what 100 mike weeks buys you he told me.

In the afternoon we went to a few brewery’s in Richmond, got some pizza and tasted some of the local ale.

Triple crossing brewery

This is a top class race. So well organised and you get a suitcase full of swag. Parts of Richmond as a city may have seen better days but it is a good holiday destination, and is full of history that you just dont get in new York or Chicago