The picture above sums up well how I feel about this past weekend and specifically my Philadelphia Marathon finish. Friday the race director, organizers, and elite coordinator held a press conference to open marathon weekend. As a local (I went to Upper Merion high school) I was invited to participate. 99% of people would find the press conference to be boring but because I was in it, standing in front of Bill Rodgers, being announced as an elite marathoner in my home city and being given my race bib by the city Mayor; I was the happiest girl in Philly at that moment.The Philadelphia Marathon team really knows how to take care of it’s runners. Post-press conference, I was able to get one of Mayor Nutters famous high-fives. Every year at the Philadelphia Marathon, Mayor Nutter gives out hundreds of high-fives to the runners as they cross the starting line. To get mine two days early started the weekend off absolutely right.
Saturday morning I slept in for the first time in months then went for a solo 3 miler in a nearby park. The rest of the day was spent with family getting pedicures, having lunch (boring, plain foods only!), watching a bunch of tv, laughing, etc. Staying with family, just outside of the city, was one of the best decisions I made. I never had a chance to get nervous and barely allowed myself to think about the race. I had packed my Bedgear pillow and was able to sleep in a familiar bed leading to the best nights sleep I’ve ever gotten before a marathon. I woke up at 3:50 am on Sunday morning getting about 7 hours of rest and quickly ate my planned breakfast. 2 1/2 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem (55ish grams of Carbs), 1 Philly Soft Pretzel (70 grams of carbs), and an hour later 1 small bottle of Gatorade (21 grams of carbs), with 1 Gu gel 15 minutes pre-race. I did NOT want to eat an entire soft pretzel that morning. I was not hungry and even though they are one of my favorite foods, I had to force it down. Earlier in the week I had read an article that stated I needed around 170 grams of carbs race morning for my 106 pound body. That amount is almost double what I would normally have pre-race but my gut instinct was telling me to follow the article and as I write this, I’m glad I did.
My high school running coach, Dave Symonds, and his wife took me to the race and were a huge comfort to me. There is something to be said about the fact that as a high schooler, I dreamed about doing what I am doing now. That fact was not lost on me and I was incredibly grateful for every moment of the weekend. Thanks to the elite coordinator we had a nice warm tent to relax in pre-race with restrooms so we wouldn’t have to stand in line. Before I knew it, I hugged my sherpas goodbye and was standing on the starting line listening to the National Anthem with a big, stupid grin on my face. I had been dreaming of this moment for months of hard training and happily soaked it all in. Calm & confident as Coach Hadley likes to tell us.
The course was fantastic. Within 4 miles I found two guys to run with who were aiming for 2:45-2:46. This was the exact range I was hoping to run on Sunday. If you’ve read my last blog entry, you know this didn’t happen. I finished in 2:47:09. Am I upset? Nope, but we will get to that. I clung with these two guys for the next 10 miles. The first 7 miles of the race went by like we were running a Sunday long run. I knew the area well so it wasn’t at all intimidating like some other marathons have been for me. We ran through the city with spectators cheering the entire way. Mile 7 started a huge climb but there were a group of
drunk college boys chanting “USA, USA!” as a happy distraction. The two guys I had started running with were great pacers so I reassuringly told myself; stick with them until Mile 10. At Mile 10 I said; stick with them until the Half. At the Half I said; stick with them until 15. Somewhere close to 15 though their sporadic surging concerned me so I let them go, while feeling thankful for how long they let me hang on with them (thanks strangers!).
At this point I had seen so many friends spectating that my spirits were still incredibly high. I knew that soon we would hit a lonely spot though and I made it a point to remind myself to maintain absolute focus. Stolen from Rocky I told myself “Fighters, Fight!”. Not until mile 18 did I really start to feel heavy legs. We were starting to head into Manayunk with a very nice decline but knowing full well that decline would turn into an incline on the way back was a bit discouraging. Manayunk was booming with the Rocky Theme song and hundreds of spectators, including my Mom, Aunt, and Cousins screaming. I hit that turnaround near Mile 20 and told myself; you have six miles left…get after it! Here is where I have to give a BIG thank you to Coach Mark Hadley. I have had so many marathons where the last 6.2 miles is about survival and now I feel like I’ve been trained to really fight in that last 10K instead. At the 20 mile turn around I was in 12th place, hurting terribly but able to keep my head up and focused on passing girls.
Along the last 4 mile stretch back into the city I heard so many familiar voices cheering my name which was an amazing feeling. As I was cruising along, trying to fight every ounce of pain that was screaming in my body, a man listening to head phones came to a complete stop right in front of me, throwing his elbow into my chest. It caught me off guard and knocked the air out of me. Because I was already breathing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath for 30-40 seconds. It felt like an eternity. A few weeks back a good friend, Anne Spillane, told me “Something WILL go wrong, you just have to prepare for it.” That little sentence popped back into my mind. I told myself that was my one thing, no dwelling or pouting about about it…get moving….and so I did.
I crossed the finish line, as 9th place female, without even thinking of looking at the photographers, completely overwhelmed by the fact that I just ran a marathon faster than I had ever run one before. As a volunteer put my medal around my neck I started crying happy tears. I have PRed in every marathon I have run and to keep that streak alive for one more race was huge to me. I made my way to my cousin Ben, pretty sure I scared him with Gu, tears, and sweat all over me Then I found my way to the elite tent to change and gather my things, take pictures, and then we drove home so I could rest and happily eat everything in sight.
On that ride home, driving by the city skyline, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Months and months of hard training, sacrificing social events, running doubles, etc. all paid off. Coach Mark Hadley and I had decided the goal for the Philadelphia Marathon was to run a 6:18-21 pace. My Garmin said my average pace was 6:19 for 26.42 miles. Do I think that means I ran a 6:19 pace marathon…no. I get that I didn’t run the tangents and my real pace for the marathon is 6:22 but it comforts me to know I can run 6:19 pace for that long, that I was in my goal range, that I’ve continued to get faster and faster. I consider my race at Philly a successful building block in my goal to run a 2:43 marathon.
Again, thank you all for your support! Thank you to my sponsor Running, Etc. and Coach Mark Hadley. Thanks to my family & friends. Love you guys & gals! Can’t wait to start the next crazy marathon cycle!