Mills, Miller find marathon success in Richmond
DC area runners make their mark in Richmond
By Charlie Ban
|Shannon Miller during mile 17 of the Richmond Marathon Nov. 10. Photo by Cheryl Young|
DC resident Shannon Miller arrived for her first visit to New York City on a Friday afternoon.
Unfortunately for her, it happened to be the Friday the ING New York City Marathon, the reason for her visit, was cancelled as sentiments turned against the race following Hurricane Sandy. There went her goal marathon for the fall.
A week later, though, she made her first trip to another city -- Richmond, Va. This time, she came away with a little more to show for it than an unused bib and t-shirt -- she had the fifth place overall trophy from the Anthem Richmond Marathon.
Her time- 2:53:00, didn’t thrill her as much as being able to run did.A week after she won September’s inaugural Navy Half Marathon, she fell from a ladder at work. The concussion she suffered prompted her doctor to order her not run for three weeks, but at the time that was the least of her worries.
“I had to start walking all over again,” she said. “My balance was pretty bad, and running would have been asking a lot back then.”
It robbed her of a crucial month of training, but when her symptoms faded and she was able to get back after it, she wanted to follow through with her race schedule. She gave the Army Ten Miler a shot, though her 20th place finish didn’t exactly inspire her. But the marathon, not the 10 mile, remained her objective.“I was hungry for the marathon,” she said.
Miller, 28, was one of nearly 800 runners who turned to Richmond after New York’s cancellation. She spent the first few miles in sixth or seventh place, then got more aggressive as the half approached, splitting 1:24:24, good for her 2:50 goal. The second half of the course does fewer favors than the first, however, though the Lee Bridge over the James River was bereft of the typical crosswinds that bedevil runners in mile 16.
Falls Church’s Chris Mills did his part to prove that the race’s tagline -- America’s friendliest marathon--described the athletes, too.
As he blew through 20 miles at 5:20 pace, he spared some breath to thank the spectators who cheered for him. At 24 miles, he wore a wide smile as he headed toward an eighth place finish in 2:22:41.
“I tried my best to show my appreciation for the fan support, it was really important,”
|Chris Mills approaches mile 20 of the Richmond Marathon. Photo by Charlie Ban|
he said. As for deviating from his breathing patterns to thank the crowds, “If I could talk, it meant I wasn’t running too fast.”
His coach, George Buckheit, wanted him relaxed for the race. He got it.The race went out exactly as he wanted, coming through 10 miles in a significant pack of Africans in 53 minutes. The next few miles, though, tested his priorities -- running with someone else versus keeping himself under control. As the pack surged along the rolling hills of Richmond’s southside, dropping 5:10s, Mills, 22, decided it was time to go alone.
“If I would have stayed with that pack, I would have had a very difficult time,” he said. “I might not have been okay.”
Even as he slowed and ran alone, splitting 1:09:14 for the first half, he maintained a steady pace and settled into his routine--water every two miles, trying to run uphills and downhills at the same pace, regardless of the temptations the course dangled in front of him.
At least 10 of the men he was pursuing dropped out in the second half of the race, and only one athlete, Pittsburgh’s Nick End -- a marathon veteran -- passed him.
“I didn’t hit the wall,” he said. “I slowed down at the right time. I wasn’t about to risk my running career by getting away from my plan.”Not only did he avoid the hospital, but the next day he physically felt like he hadn’t run a marathon just a few hours prior.
Mentally, he was ready for a change to try again.“I know I’ll be able to keep up,” he said “Maybe next year.”
Contact Charlie Ban at email@example.com