Let’s just start with a disclaimer: I freakin’ love Richmond, y’all. It’s a great city – which is what made the somewhat miserable race conditions for this year’s Carmax Richmond Half Marathon tolerable enough for me to call this race a success.
I fell in love with Richmond on a visit back in spring of 2019 while I was hopping around as a digital nomad. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and it’s just a darn pretty place. The only real downsides are that parking can be a pain, and it’s still essentially part of the South and is thus prone to a level of heat and humidity that I’m unwilling to deal with on any kind of a regular basis.
So! Richmond didn’t make the short list of places to live, but it definitely made the permanent list of places I’d like to return to. That’s why I set my sights on running the Richmond Half as my Virginia race and was delighted when my running buddy friends agreed to make this the year!
This year is also my 40th birthday year (three short weeks away!), so I pulled the “for my birthday” card to get us all assembled again. And it was a great weekend all around. We “slayed” it – as we collectively decided the kids might say.
As for the race itself, the pre-race communication was excellent, the expo was decent (if in a somewhat weird location), pre-race parking was easy, crowd support was delightful, and overall things went smoothly.
That being said, it was also hot and humid in a way that caught me completely off guard for a mid-November run. A tropical storm came through the night before and spiked the temperature from the 40s/50s to the upper 60s, and that made for a deeply, deeply unpleasant run.
Bless my dear friends for taking me to Kohl’s the day before the race to get a pair of shorts and a tank top, as I would have metaphorically died in the running tights and heavier weight shirts I had packed for the trip.
And bless the race organizers for having the foresight to plan for cold/wet towels around mile 10. They helped. As did the sweet, angel from heaven spectator who brought a stick of body glide to let runners make use of. My thighs thank you, good sir. You are a ginger-bearded force for good in the world.
Honestly – I don’t remember a whole lot of this race. At mile three I realized that listening to music was just going to keep me in my head in a way that would amplify the misery of a hot humid run. I turned on an awesome audiobook (always and forever I love books by Drew Hayes) and spent the next ten miles trying to ignore that my thighs were trying to chafe. The bearded angel of mercy with the body glide appeared at mile 4 and again around mile 11 – so he definitely saved me from the worst of it.
The finish line party was absolute chaos but mostly good. I got a slice of pizza! And a blanket! And a hat!! And then my phone wouldn’t work because there were soooooo many people there, and I only somewhat miraculously found my friends again.
Thus. The key take aways I’ll offer are to bring a range of outfits, plenty of your favorite anti-chafing support, and pre-plan an end of race meeting point.
Oh, and go eat at JewFro (we went twice!), Whisk bakery, Joe’s Inn, Scoop ice cream, and Proper Pie. All glorious purveyors of food. Just note that the wait will be insane at Joe’s if you get there after 5:15 (we got there at 5:00 and were spared the hour+ wait).
Overall Assessment: Do it! Just be prepared for unpredictable weather.
Time of Year: mid-November (11/12/2022)
Start Time: 7:45 am for the half
Temperature: 66° at start, closer to 70° at the finish. 80% humidity. Full sun. Wind: 9 mph
Size of Field: around 6500 for the half, more for the 8k and full – so it’s a BIG crowd in a good way
Elevation Gain: 173 ft (according to Garmin), 258 ft (according to Strava – which feels more accurate)
- good swag! The shirts run a little large, but the design is cute. Medal is nice, and I got a hat and blanket!
- billed as the “friendliest race in America” – and I’d say that’s not an unreasonable claim.
- great course support and plenty of port-o-potties
- Nuun hydration – which I vastly prefer over Gatorade
- pizza at the finish
- includes a full, which means there was still plenty of food at the finish for us slower half runners
- scenic course with a lot of variety – both urban and nature sections
- Richmond itself is awesome, so highly recommend for that reason
- unpredictable weather. It was so stupid hot.
- kind of a later start (slower runners like me started around 8:00)
- weirdly not very many first aid stations. Not something I usually pay attention to/need, but I was in desperate need of Vaseline for like three water stops before there was an aid tent.
- chaotic finish area without cell service – I think this was a downtown issue in general (as my phone struggled at the start, too), but something to note for planning a meet up point