Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Runners {half} Marathon of Reston: a two year review - by Liz

my finishes in 2017 and 2018 - take a look at my crazy leg muscles in the 2018 photo!

A two year review of the Runners Marathon of Reston - by Liz Badley

Six years ago, when the Reston Runners designed the Runners Marathon of Reston, I thought they were insane. Sure, Reston has 55 miles of paved walking paths within it's 17 square mile jurisdiction, but it's literally up hill in every direction. Why on earth would anyone want to run even a HALF marathon in Reston!? The first few years, they held the race mid-March and dealt with some of the worst weather conditions. A freezing cold, hilly run in Reston that you had to pay for, no thank you! But, when they moved the race to April in 2016, I thought 'next year I'll give it a shot...'

I'm so glad that I've come around to the idea of running this race, as it's a race like no other! It really has a wonderful hometown feel that you just can't get with a race in DC, even the smaller ones. So here we go, the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Runner's Marathon of Reston!

The Good: First and foremost, the course! Reston Runners could have designed a course that was all road in Reston. BORING! They also could have put all 13.1/26.2 miles on the narrow, twisty, up and down (but mostly up) hill, paths of Reston. Instead, they designed a course that truly showcased the beauty of running in Reston. The first 4 miles are on mostly flat and down hill sections of road, without any technical trail, which is perfect for the start of the race because it thins down the crowd! By the time you get to the trails, it's easy to pass and you can really enjoy the beauty of south Reston. You're back on the road for the middle section of climbing, but it's a straight away, so it's not too bad. Then you're right back on the pretty trails through mile 11, then you get two fast road miles to finish out the half. It's really a great course!

The atmosphere of the race is also pretty amazing! It's a party from start to finish, literally. I haven't attended, but they host a pasta dinner the night before the race and the post race party is stocked with so much food, it's incredible. Finally, the swag is awesome! Not only do you get a race shirt, and this year they updated it with a really nice hoodie, pull over, tee shirt that I'll actually wear! But last year I got a pint glass, some years they have gloves, and best of all, a themed Hoo-Rag! It's the best race swag! And a final plus, Fairfax County Police do an amazing job of making sure all of the course crossings are super safe. It's one of those things that I really appreciate as a tax paying runner!

The Bad: Did I mention the course? Oh yeah, it gets talked about in the 'bad' category too. South Reston is full of hills and the Reston Runners made sure to showcase them! I've only run the half, and even though I love a low key marathon, I don't think I'll ever end up running the two loop Runner's Marathon Course. In 2017, there was a break off around mile 7, which made it tough for friends who were trying to run the first half together. They fixed that this year, but I still wouldn't want to run the Lawyer's Road section more than once... The only other bad I can think of is the weather. But no one has any control over that and they've done a good job of moving the race date to try to avoid rain and snow!

The Ugly: This is something most people wouldn't even think about, but because I've witnessed so many deaths at races, I've got to point out the lack of medical support and the difficulty EMS would have if there were to be an emergency on the paths. Reston is super lucky, our EMS response time is around three minutes! But if something were to happen on the trails, it would probably increase response time by about 10 minutes. My suggestion would be to post up some stations with AEDs (RA has them already for the pools, and since the pools aren't open in April, it would be a zero cost thing to do!) along the trails. Chances are, they'd never be needed, but having an AED accessible can help prevent death in the event of cardiac arrest.

Bottom Line: The swag and atmosphere makes this race WELL worth the entry fee! I personally wouldn't choose this for my first half marathon, though I know a TON of runners who did! I think it was Naomi's second ever, and she's run all 6 years! I also wouldn't try to PR on this course, but again, Naomi did and in 2018's my second fastest time to date. As for the marathon distance, I don't think this one is one that I'll do (but never say never!), but for an experienced marathoner looking for a challenge or just a training run with a medal, I'd say go for it! Newbie marathoners - stick to the classics: Marine Coprs and Richmond are my two faves to recommend to first timers!

2018 - Naomi and I made it over JUST IN TIME for the MRTT pre-race photo!

When I went into this race in 2017, I was literally just thinking of it as a training run. I was on my 'negative split' kick, and I remember just playing with intervals and keeping the entire run at an easy effort, both physically and mentally. This year, I knew it was supposed to just be a training run, but I had it in my head that I should try to average 8:08, for a marathon goal pace run. But I hadn't been feeling great (and still have the beginning of a cold that just won't manifest!), and something just felt off right from the beginning of the race. Naomi and I were hitting great paces and my sense of doom was about to lift when BOOM, I tripped and went down just before the third mile marker. That was it for me mentally. I was done. I told Naomi to go ahead and I did everything I could to keep myself from walking off the course at the shopping center and just going home. I felt like I'd already lost the race and I wasn't even 1/3 of the way through it yet.

I walked for about a minute and the pulled myself together and decided I'd at least run through the glade. I had my sleeve pulled down over my watch, but I later discovered that even with the fall and the extra walking, I was an 8:01 for the third mile and under 8 for the 4th.

2018 - right after my fall. I'm actually putting my glove back on after inspecting my hand for cuts.

I pushed through the Glade, thinking about how easily it would be to turn off the course and go home when I got to Soapstone Dr, when I made the decision to ease up on the throttle and just complete the race. 'It's not going to be a PR, I fell, and I have a bad attitude right now. Let's just finish this' is literally what went through my head. So I eased up on the hills on Lawyers Road when Scott, Naomi's husband caught up to me. We ran together for a bit and I had actually caught sight of Naomi a bit ahead, but put the thought out of my mind that I could try to catch her. Maybe on a day when I was mentally more IN it or on an easier course, but not today. I thought Scott would leave me after running with me for a bit, but when I took my walk break, he decided to give intervals a try! So he ran the rest of the race with me. I was really grateful to have him running and chatting with me. It was just the distraction that I needed from my bad mood and the soul sucking hills of Reston! Believe it or not, I almost fell again when we turned from Lawyers onto the paths. Luckily, I only wobbled and dropped my bottle, but seriously, it was not a good day for my balance!

The fact that this race is in my home town, means that right at mile 7, we run by my parents neighborhood and they've come out to the trail both years to cheer me on. It's really nice to have them come watch me race! Another highlight was the MRTT water stop at mile 9! It's always amazing when your friends volunteer and shout your name at the TOP of their lungs {I'm looking at you, Stacy} as you approach! It was the BEST!! Especially since you're in the woods for the majority of Miles 7-11. That's when you need all the cheers you can get!

You can see just how happy and care free I was in 2017, running the trails about midway through the race.

The best part of running through the woods with Scott was his attitude that it was just "one more hill" until we got to the road. Then it was "downhill" to the finish! That positive thinking really helped me kick it into the next gear for mile 12; clocking a quick 7:32! I wish I had been able to bring a little more intensity into the last mile, but I was spent - physically and emotionally. I remember saying how relieved I was when we turned the corner into the school that we didn't have to go up and down Seahawk Drive.

Scott and I took our last walk break as we headed towards the track and I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that I was right at my PR with less than 1/4 of a mile to go. We started running as we entered the track and I dropped my bottle, deciding to really push the final 300. I built descended my run until the final 100 meters and then took off. Both Scott and another runner finishing with us commented on my finishing kick! I think it's the thing that I'm most proud of in my running. Sure, my PRs have all gotten faster in the last two years, but no one can finish a race like I can! It's the sprinter in me.

I remember before the 2017 race, texting with Stacy about just running easy. Turns out my version of "easy" in 2017 was 1:55:36. I remember not really pushing any step of the race, just enjoying the run alone through Reston. It was a very, very different mental attitude. This year, none of my running really felt hard, I just couldn't really find the joy - probably due to the left over adrenaline from the fall. I do feel like the effort was about the same though, considering my poor attitude this year, which bodes well for the fitness I've gained. Below you can see my paces for 2017 and 2018 (in 2017 the race was just a bit short, so I kept going on the track to finish out 13.1). You can easily see where the hills are, just on pace alone!


Me, Naomi, and Scott at the finish of the Runners {half} Marathon of Reston in 2018 - I know, we look like a goodr ad!

Clocking a second best ever half time of 1:47:39 on this course definitely helped lift my spirits! I was even more impressed with Naomi's new PR of 1:44:29! When we checked the results, they had only posted the first 10 women, and wouldn't you know, Naomi was the 10th woman and 1st place in the 30-34 age group!!! Seeing that, I had hopes of at least placing in my age group, but what I didn't expect was coming in 14th overall and placing 1st in the 35-39 age group! Naomi and I have another month and a half until we start competing in the same bracket again, so I love that we were both able to be first at this race!

Again, the Runners know just how to do awards, check out these sweet age group winner photos by Jim Kirby!


All in all, the past two years of running the Runners {half} Marathon of Reston has taught me that some races are easy, effortless, and fun, and some races are mentally more of a challenge than even the worse Reston hills. But I'm so glad to have added this run to my repertoire. I think I'll continue to run it as long as I live in Reston. Especially since I'm sure that Naomi want's to keep her streak alive!!

I'm so lucky to get to train with this girl! She and I complement each others strengths and weaknesses. It's training partner perfection!
Naomi's amazing 2017 and 2018 finishes

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