This weekend was my second time running the Virginia 4 Miler, which is held in concurrence with the iconic Virginia 10 Miler in Lynchburg. My parents always have people over to watch the race since they live on the course, so it’s special for me to have my family and neighbors cheering me on. I ran the 4 Miler last year and was hoping to beat my time this year.
I didn’t start running seriously until after college, so I’m still a race novice. I ran two 5Ks and the 4 Miler last year and plan to run the 4 Miler and a Turkey Trot 5K this year. I don’t like to run further than five miles—I would rather focus on speed than distance. Last year my 4 Miler time was 34:41, so I wanted to beat that time and, ideally, run four eight-minute miles for a total time of 32 minutes.
Hill City, Y’all:
An eight-minute mile goal doesn’t sound that tough, but the 4 Miler and 10 Miler course have brutal hills. Lynchburg isn’t known as the Hill City for nothing! The 4 Miler course runs downhill on Langhorne Road for the first mile, then uphill for the next two miles to Rivermont Avenue, where the runners turn right and run on mostly flat ground to the finish line at Randolph College. The 10 Miler participants continue on Rivermont Avenue for another mile, then turn around and run the same way back.
People were surprised when I talked about training for a four-mile race, since it’s not very far in a world where people run ultramarathons. To beat my time from last year, though, I knew I would need to train harder than I did the year before. Luckily, the long summer days meant I could run outside after work several times a week, and Arlington and Falls Church have great paved running trails. I could choose how far I wanted to run, usually between two and four miles, and whether I wanted to run on flat ground or rolling hills. I ran on the treadmill in my apartment gym if it was late at night or rainy. H and his mom were planning on running the 4 Miler with me like we did the year before, so we trained together as well.
My fastest four-mile practice run time was 30:42, which I ran on the treadmill the Monday before the race. I did a two-mile shakeout run on Tuesday and then rested the rest of the week. H and I left DC early to make sure that we would get to Lynchburg with plenty of time to settle in and get a good night’s sleep.
Saturday morning, my dad dropped H and me off at the high school where the 4 Miler and 10 Miler would start. We found H’s mom and all stretched together. The weather was perfect—clear and bright, but a little chilly before the run started. I wore just a t-shirt and shorts, since I get really warm when I run. Since I was going to walk back to my parent’s house from the finish line, I didn’t have to carry my keys or phone with me. We positioned ourselves at the start line, and I worked my way through the crowd to start with the eight-minute mile time group.
The year before H and I ran the first mile and a half together and he set the pace, but this year we ran separately, so I had to focus on not running too fast during the first mile. The first mile is downhill and I was full of starting-line jitters, but I knew I needed to save my energy for the next three miles. My first mile time was 7:58, right on target for my goal pace of eight-minute miles.
I felt like I wasn’t running very fast uphill during the second and third miles, but I wanted to reserve some energy for the last mile, where I lost a lot of time the year before. I kept my head down and my pace steady. My time from the first mile marker to the third mile market was 16:51, well over my eight-minute pace goal but still respectable. If I do the 4 Miler again, I’ll practice more on hills to improve my time there.
At the start of the last mile, I chugged up the last bit of hill and then rounded the corner onto Rivermont Avenue running at top speed. The mile was mostly flat, and I was trying to pass people if I could. I sprinted across the finish line with a 33:56 overall gun time, and my time for the fourth mile was 8:11. I was absolutely spent after I crossed the finish line and for a second I thought I might pass out, but thankfully it passed—the last thing I wanted was some race volunteer I went to high school with making me put my head between my knees.
My chip time, which we received via text alert about an hour later, was 33 minutes exactly. I was disappointed that I hadn’t met my 32-minute goal but still happy that I ran faster than I did last year. I also placed third in my age group, which was exciting since I’ve never placed in a race before. I found out later that the woman who got second place was only a few feet in front of me, but I’m not sure I could have passed her even if I had known—I was already pushing myself to the max.
Overall I was pleased with my performance and thrilled to do so well in my age group, even though I know the more serious runners were doing the 10 Miler. Since the Lynchburg 4 Miler is so challenging, I wanted to run a four-mile race on flatter terrain while I was still in peak performance shape, but I couldn’t find a suitable race before work really picked up in October. My next goal is to run a 5K in under 25 minutes.
Would you run the Lynchburg 10 Miler or the 4 Miler? What are your running goals? Tell me about it in the comments!