Monday, November 18, 2013

Surviving the Philadelphia Marathon With A Smile...Again

This weekend was such a whirl wind, it's hard to believe I ran a marathon yesterday. The weekend started off great, my Megabus was on time, I got to Philly half an hour early and I was able to check into my hotel before noon. Philly is one of my favorite cities, and I loved being right across the street from Reading Terminal Market. I ended up meeting up with a few friends and we went through the market, went to the expo, and had a hearty pasta lunch.

Later that afternoon I decided to text Josh, and ask him what he thought my predicted time would be. It's sort of a joke at this point, because he can usually predict his athletes time within 60 seconds. Though I haven't officially been training with him this season, I wanted to get his opinion and test his powers. After all, I hadn't done much speed work, and I was going to run it stress free with no time goal. Just have fun.

Josh turned my question around on me and asked what I thought my time would be, to which I replied 4:30's, which was true. It wouldn't be a PR but I knew I could keep a 10:20 pace for the race. Of course Josh had a reply to that. "Really? I was thinking high teens" to which I laughed out loud. 4:18? 4:19?? I asked him what pace that translated to, and when I found out it was sub 10:00 I laughed again. Virtually every long run I'd done this year was on the other side of 10:00. Could I really pull off a 5 minute PR Sunday? We spoke a little more about how I needed to grow a pair of man-balls and race fearlessly. I admit I liked the idea. What's the worst that could happen? My legs would feel sluggish from the start and I would slow down. Best case? Shiny new PR.

I went back to the hotel room after dinner and made sure I had everything I needed for the race. I also grabbed a pen and wrote two things on the inside of my right wrist: STRONG. (The best mantra I've come up with is telling myself how strong I look and how I am so much stronger than I think I am.) MARBLES. (To remind me to grow a pair) And then I drew a little heart. (To remind me of my boyfriend, and how I knew he was rooting for me even though he wasn't with me)

Predictably, I did not sleep a wink that night. But that's okay, I know by now getting a good night sleep before the race doesn't mean much.

In the morning I met up with Jonathan, Eugene and Kate, and we all walked to the start of the race coffees in hand. The security line we were so worried about and warned about took us about 30 seconds to go through. (At least at 5:30am, when we got there) The porta potty lines on the other hand where out of control. We all decided to hop on line for a final time at 6:15, and unfortunately Kate and I didn't get into the corrals until 7:15. Yes, we waited an hour on line for the bathroom, and we were far from the last in line!

Starting the race, I felt great. I was trying my hardest to not look at my watch for pace because I didn't want to freak myself out, either way. I was just running with the group, my legs felt light, the air was chilly. Around mile 2 I looked at my watch and saw I was running a 9:38 pace. HOLY CRAP. I tried to slow down a bit as we were running by Penn's Landing. I kind of hoped there was a 5k checkpoint, so everyone tracking me could see how I was breezing through the first few miles (Ridiculous logic, I know) Finally around mile 4-5 I was able to settle in to a much better groove of low 10's high 9's.

My pace was fluctuating a little bit through miles 5-9, but I hit the 10k in just under an hour, and still felt amazing. The crowds on Arch Street were amazing. I try not to do too many high 5's, because I feel like it wastes energy, but I couldn't help it. My legs felt great, the endorphins were flowing, and I thought to myself, "Holy shit! I can do this!"

The zoo was slightly less brutal than I remembered, however coming back on MLK Jr. Drive was awful. It seemed never ending, and I hate to admit it, but my legs were starting to tighten up. My pace was still in the low 10's, but it was starting to creep up. I just kept trying to focus on my music, getting to the next mile where I'd take some salt or a gel, and just keep moving. I hit the half in 2:12 and I told myself that I was doing great and on track to PR.

If I thought those last few miles were tough, the way up Kelly Drive was brutal. By mile 16/17 my legs were so tight/dead. My left hamstring/piriformis was bothering me. I was tired. I knew the last 9 would be ugly, but I kept chugging along, trying my hardest to keep my walking to a bare minimum. I kept thinking about the turn around at mile 20 and just tried to focus on that. I hit the 30k in 3:13 (10:20 pace) and knew I had to try my best to not lose any more time.

The crowds at Manayunk were awesome, but I never got that huge surge of energy that I had gotten in 2010. I was miserable knowing I had six freaking miles more. I was grateful that my hamstring/butt had stopped hurting, because my quads were fried, and my lower back was aching. I tried to keep moving as best as I could. I stopped to stretch a few times but it didn't seem to make much difference. The worst part about it all is just watching the seconds slip away and feeling like you have no control over it. I mean, I know I am literally controlling the pace, but I think most of us know that feeling in a race where you just give up your goal, and force yourself to shuffle along, and if you walk you walk.

I must have had a burst of energy at mile 26, because it was the fastest of the last 7 miles, at a whopping 11:03 pace.

I crossed the finish line, giving Mayor Nutter a high five, and just started to cry. I was so upset. I was glad that I didn't have a friend waiting for me at the finish, and my boyfriend didn't pick up his cell phone on the first try, because I would have just lost it. I was so sad that it all fell apart in to what I would almost call a disaster. I cried because I was sad the race was over. I cried because I was ecstatic the race was over.

Having a little time to think about it, I realized I'm proud of myself for trying. Those first 17 miles were by far the best marathon start I've had. What difference would it have made if I ran 10:20's-30's the whole race and finished in the 4:30's? No PR is no PR. I'm glad I tried to go for it, and for all those miles I believed in myself and let myself believe I could do it.

This years giant medals vs the medal in 2010
This years giant medal vs MCM 2012

All the medals, all lined up


  1. I know the feeling about the marathon being over. I had the same experience this year. Let's face it, we run marathons. We do what most people don't do. That alone should make us happy on some level. It should, but it doesn't always. Keep plugging away at it, I know I will. One of my friends just went sub 4 for the first time on his EIGHTEENTH marathon. If he can keep trying, so can we :)

  2. I'm really proud of you. I love the "marbles" thing. I think you are so great.

    One of these days I'm gonna make you sign up for a race with me. :)

    1. Brennan--weren't we talking about doing the AC half in April? I'm signed up!