A record-setting stroll
By ZACH JOACHIM
Whitney Richman was a little bummed she finished as fast as she did.
As a stay-at-home mom, running is Richman’s outlet. So at one point somewhere in Charles City County on her April 18 run along the Virginia Capital Trail, she stopped to admire the serenity of her pursuit.
“It was a beautiful day, and I just looked around and I wasn’t listening to anything and it was so peaceful,” said Richman, a Midlothian resident.
“I was like, ‘I’m not taking care of anyone, I don’t have to think about anything, I’m just running. And there’s nothing in front of me, there’s no messes.’ … So it was really calming. I didn’t even want it to end.”
Richman ran the fastest recorded time on the Virginia Capital Trail, which stretches about 52 miles from Richmond to Williamsburg, finishing in 7 hours and 41 minutes. The previous record was 9 hours, 52 minutes, set by Jason Hallenbeck last September.
Richman, a year-round runner, was confident she could set the record. She was an alternate for the United States in the 2019 IAU 24 Hour World Championships in France, and she routinely runs 100-mile and 24-hour races. In order to qualify for the 24 Hour World Championships, competitors have to run 130 miles in 24 hours.
“My goal was kind of to beat all the boys too,” she said. “It’s a relatively new trail, so I don’t know how many people have actually attempted to do it. But it’s kind of nice to be the fastest one.”
Richman was supposed to run the Boston Marathon the Monday following the weekend of April 18. She grew up in Hopkinton, Mass., where the annual race starts, and the younger of her two children is named Arley after one of the subway stops by the finish line.
The first race she ever ran was the Boston Athletic Association 5K, which traditionally kicks off Boston Marathon weekend. She was “9 or 10 years old” at the time, ran with her mother and dropped out about halfway through, and walked home when she passed her street.
But her early experience with the famous race fostered a lifelong love for running. She’s run the Boston Marathon “like eight times” and said “it’s really emotionally close to my heart.”
Richman said the idea to run the Capital Trail came about after the Boston Marathon, among other races she’d signed up and trained for, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The run filled an important psychological void, she said.
“You put in so much training and time, so much time away from my kids and getting up early to go on the runs, I wanted some kind of culmination, something to make the training feel like it was worth it, there was some kind of end to the goal,” she said.
“It’s nice to get some kind of personal satisfaction out of it.”
The day before the run, Richman and her older child, Cole, drove halfway along the route and hid water bottles and a bottle of Coca-Cola behind a fence so she could refill her hydration pack.
The next day, Richman parked at the beginning of the trail near the end of the canal walk, and her husband and children met her at the ‘finish line’ in Jamestown to pick her up. They made her a medal reading “Virginia Capital Trail winner” and presented Richman with flowers the children had picked from their front yard.
But along the trail, Richman was totally alone. She didn’t stop at gas stations or even a portable toilet. For a 15-mile stretch, she didn’t pass a single person.
Particularly in light of the lockdown imposed to quell the ongoing pandemic, she said the alone time was a welcome reprieve from the rigors of motherhood.
“Especially as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve struggled with depression and it’s my outlet, running. I kind of joke about, somebody said ‘Why’d you do this?’ Well, it was a day away from my kids,” she said with a chuckle.
“I mean, I love my children. But sometimes you need that time to yourself.”