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Fourth-year crushes Charlottesville Marathon

Rich earns 2013 race's first-place for female runners

Fourth-year College student Holly Rich may have been among thousands of runners during her April 6 marathon debut, but she certainly didn’t blend into the crowd. Pounding the pavement for 26.2 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes and 42 seconds per mile, Rich surprised even herself and won the 2013 Charlottesville Marathon women’s race with a time of three hours and 21 minutes.

“I had no idea I was going to win,” Rich said.

Hoping to place somewhere in the top 20, Rich wanted to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon with a time under 3:35:00, though her goal was to beat 3:25:00.

Despite hitting a “mental wall” around mile 22, Rich managed to slip past the leader after one of the hardest parts of the course — a sizeable hill on the return from the Rivanna River trail at mile 24.

“That’s where I saw the girl who was in the lead at the time,” Rich said. “She was [just] walking up the hill. I was feeling okay, but mentally it was really hard for the last few miles.”

Rich, a member of the University club cross-country team, added long distance runs to her weekly training schedule to prepare for the marathon. She said the team gave her a solid base for marathon training.

“We trained pretty intensely with club cross-country,” Rich said.

Some of Rich’s favorite places to run include a gravel trail on Dick Woods Road and the Rivanna Trail system. Charlottesville’s hilly terrain helped prepare her for the scenic marathon course, which wound through Albemarle farmlands on Garth Road, past the Rotunda, through historic neighborhoods and along the Rivanna River, finishing in the heart of the Downtown Mall.

Rich, who received much of her marathon racing advice from her father, stressed the importance of slowly building up mileage to avoid injury.

“Since it was my first marathon, I didn’t want to do too much,” she said.

George Rich, who has run 13 marathons — including four Boston Marathons, one of the sport’s most prestigious races — was inspired by his daughter to start running seriously when she began to compete in high school. Holly was an all-state track runner at Monticello High School before joining the club cross-country team at the University.

The father and daughter ran the last six miles of the Charlottesville Marathon together after completing several long runs together during training.

“My wife and I were jubilant when she won,” George Rich said. “It totally took me by surprise. I never knew for sure she could win it until she caught the leader at mile 25 and passed her.”

Though Holly’s father gave her ideas about how to train, he admitted the 2013 Charlottesville Marathon’s first female finisher is the faster one in the family.

“She beats her dad pretty good,” he said.