I was coming from a very disappointing Toronto Waterfront Marathon, with lots of lessons learned, anxious for another race to put in check those lessons. The Virginia Marathon was the next on the agenda, but would it be the one to test my knowledge?
Certainly not the one to chase a personal best. It is organized in the countryside, in the charming wineries of Virginia. The route is unpaved and irregular, but not too technical. The gravel and the dirt already drag a lot, but almost 1000m of elevation drags even more. The competitive spirit is always there, but in a fun race, the only time we can beat would be the one from the same race in a previous edition, which I had none, so it was really about having fun.
Why run a marathon in such a remote place? We were just trying to find an excuse to visit relatives in the US. After travelling to so many races, running became a must-do attraction anywhere we go these days. That’s why we started our planning by asking “Is there a race happening soon, close to where they live? Are they free at that time?”. Luckily, we got Yes for both questions.
A big plus for this race is its trail characteristics, surrounded by trees, farms, birds, and locals. Nature always distracts our minds from fatigue, but the race day was uncomfortably cold. I was afraid to be overdressed, which makes me sweat a lot, causing sodium depletion. Fortunately, I had family around to leave my top layer with them and start with just two layers. To my astonishment, the elevations started right away, with a long downhill (which also meant a tough finishing) and multiple ups and downs, like waves. My body was warm in less than 2k, which turned my warning sign on. I decided to slow down and enjoy the view. Since the beginning, my goal was simply to finish the race while constantly running. Some runners passed me and for the first time, I was OK with that. The number of viewers on the course was surprisingly high for a race in the middle of nowhere, but the most amazing experience was getting more encouragement from other fellow runners.
I felt strong through the whole race, even passing those who passed me at the beginning. The tricky part was a 10k straight uphill, from 20k to 30k. I kept my pace slow and constant because I knew I had a long downhill on my way back. In fact, there were ups and downs throughout the whole track and my strategy was to slow down when going up and let gravity push me when going down.
Despite the fatigue at the end, it was nowhere near the wall I hit in Toronto. I was able to finish strong and even together with my son, who was also finishing his 5k at the same time. What a special moment!
I think some pre-race changes made the difference this time around. The day before, we had Japanese food for dinner, instead of pasta. It is rich in carbohydrates and sodium. Since I lose a lot of sodium through sweating, this food is my choice from now on. During the race, I was drinking mostly sport-drinks, rarely water, and felt great all the time. So I think I have room to drink just water next time.
Overall, the race was organized, scenic, welcoming, and supportive. I was excited about finishing one more marathon feeling so strong. I can’t recommend it enough.
Best Marathon Time to Date: 04:07:11
Elevation Gain: 921 m