Philadelphia Marathon (Part 3)

Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for this year. 2014 has easily been the best year of my life so far. I always say so far because I obviously hope it just gets better, but 2014 has been one of those years you can cling to and remember fondly when you’re having a terrible one, and for that I’m thankful.

So, I’ve recounted the build up to and first half of the Philly Marathon. Let’s wrap this up!

The grumbly stomach I had in the first half never went away, but I worried about it less in the second half. I kept taking a gel every mile, and that provided a nice distraction.

Once I broke from the half marathoners, I knew I’d see Chris soon, and that was awesome motivation. He texted me their location, and I spotted him immediately. He was holding a huge sign with blown up cut outs of Miles and Moshi and it said, “Run like the cats at 3am!” Our cats like to tear around the house at a million miles an hour in the middle of the night, so that made me laugh a lot. From far away, I thought they were just stock photos of cats, so when I saw they were our guys, I actually screamed, “I know those cats!” I was so happy to see Chris and Travis. It was the perfect boost and I just wanted to see them again.

The stretch along Kelly Drive was beautiful. The sun was high in the sky at that point, and the river looked lovely. This was the stretch I was most nervous about, and it ended up being my favorite part.

I reached what I thought was the turnaround at maybe mile 17 and got ridiculously excited. I texted Chris that I was heading home. Then we turned and heading up another out and back. It was my fault for not knowing the course well, and it really just made me laugh that I thought I was almost done when I wasn’t even close. Oops.

That next out and back took us to Manayunk which was a nice break from the quiet Kelly Drive. People of Manayunk, you are awesome. There were bands, kids, dogs, great signs, guys giving out beers and even one couple who must have cut up 300 oranges. They were handing out orange slices, and at that point, an orange was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I almost kissed them. It even took my mind off my grumbly stomach. The crowd was awesome, so even though my legs were fading and we had another daunting hill, I kept running and smiling.

When we finally reached the real turnaround, I threw my arms up in the air and did a little happy dance. The girl in front of me put her arms out like an airplane. Everyone was just cheerful.

We had a bit of a lonely stretch of highway before we hit Kelly Drive again, and I knew I wouldn’t see Chris until mile 24, so I buckled down and prepared to tough it out. Just then, I saw my friends! Judy, Ashley and Amanda were cheering with signs, and I was so excited to see them! I promised myself then that I really have to spectate and volunteer at some races. It’s the best to see faces you recognize when you’re out there struggling.

Once I was back on Kelly Drive, I realized I was now running longer than I ever had before! 20 miles were behind me, and I felt good. At mile 22 I started marveling about how I didn’t hit the wall at all. “Go me!” I thought. Then I crossed mile 23, and that brick wall came out of nowhere and smashed me in the face. Holy cow.

The thing I didn’t realize about the wall is that it’s not physical. I mean yeah your body hurts, but my body had been hurting since mile 12. The real challenge was that mentally I started to crack. It was like a switch flipped. One second I was tired but happy to be out there. The next second, I was questioning everything. Why was I running this stupid race? Why was I doing this to my body? I should stop. I should walk off the course and tell Chris to pick me up. This was stupid. I was stupid. I couldn’t do it.

Luckily, I recognized what was happening and just tried to regroup. I forced myself to get to 23.5 then stopped to walk for a minute. I forced myself to think positively even if I didn’t believe it in the moment. I ran for 9 minutes and walked again for 1. I decided I might just do that until I finished. Then the 5 hour pacer passed me.

At that point, I remembered my goals and decided I had come too far to give up mentally. I started running again and kept pace with that group. It wasn’t easy, but being able to follow someone and not think helped a lot. I stuck with them until I saw Chris and Travis up ahead. Seeing them gave me the final push I needed. I broke away from the pace group. I yelled to Chris, “I’m going to run a marathon!” He yelled back, “I know, and you look so great!” He’s the best.

I kicked it into high gear and ran basically as fast as I could through the finish. I thought I might cry, but I was all smiles.

I thought that by passing the 5 hour group, I would come in under 5, but I didn’t realize that they had started after me. When I saw my time my heart sunk just a little to realize I had not broken 5 hours. I reminded myself that, hello, I had just run my first MARATHON, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take some of the wind out of my sails.

I walked through the finish chute and got my foil blanket, medal and snack bag. They were giving out Philly style pretzels which was a cute idea in theory, but those things need to be eaten pretty quickly after being baked or else they get stale and gummy, so it didn’t taste all that good. I didn’t really care though.

I sat on the steps of a building (I think it was the Franklin Institute) while I waited for Chris and Travis to find me. They did pretty quickly, and we walked up a couple blocks then scheduled an uber to pick us up and take us to our car. From there we drove to Travis and Laura’s where I had the longest, hottest, most painful (holy chafing) shower of my life followed by a Five Guys double cheeseburger and fries. It was delightful.

The rest of the night was spent on the couch with some wine. I fell asleep at 9pm.

Looking back, it’s kind of insane that I was dissatisfied with my finish time. I finished in exactly the time I was trained for. I think had I finished in 4:59, I’d be disappointed it wasn’t 4:55. If it had been 4:55, I’d be wishing it were 4:45. Runners are never satisfied. I had hoped that the race day enthusiasm would propel me faster than I was trained for, but I forgot about all the race day variables you can’t account for in training. Taken together, I think I finished in just the right time.

More importantly, I loved (almost) every minute of those 5+ hours. I smiled like a fool. I took everything in, and I really experienced the marathon. It was a perfect day, and there’s really nothing I would change.

Now the question I keep getting asked: would I do it again? Right now, I have to say, I don’t know. Immediately after was a big, fat no. It’s time consuming and physically grueling. It kicks your ass not just for 5 hours but for 18 long weeks. I ran over 400 miles to prepare for Sunday, and that’s the low end of training plans. However, it was a great day, so I can’t say never. For now I’ll say, not next year, maybe someday. But I know I ran the best first marathon I could have hoped for, so if it’s my last, that’s ok too. I’ll remember this one forever.

Thanks for following along. Happy thanksgiving !

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2 thoughts on “Philadelphia Marathon (Part 3)

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