Last Sunday, I ran my second marathon.
Keith and I headed down on Friday afternoon to check out Philadelphia and the expo. We got the requisite cheesesteaks, and I picked up my bib and t-shirt at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
The expo was a runner nerd’s dream – lots of arm sleeves and tech tees for sale. The Convention Center was right near the Liberty Bell, so we took a stroll and did a bit of sightseeing.
|Sneaking a pic with our first prez.|
|A man we did not know.|
On Saturday, we hung out with my family and had an awesome carb-loading dinner, courtesy of Mama Wyman. After some amazing chicken parm and cookies, Keith and I headed to the Aloft Hotel by the Philadelphia Airport. We settled in for the night, and I tried my hardest to go to bed early (with absolutely no luck). And what seemed like 20 minutes later, my alarm went off at 4:30AM.
Keith offered to drive me to the start, along with my cousins Pat and Sean, who were also running the race. We did some porta-pottying, and before we knew it, we hopped in the corrals and started to run.
|Pat and Sean!|
Notice my beautiful Wal-mart throwaway hoodie.
Sean and Pat were looking to finish in under 4 hours, so I decided to start with them and see how I felt. For the first 7 miles, I felt really good, and was able to hang with them. My legs felt strong and I just took in the sights and sounds of the race.
|Bros being bros.|
We started the race around a 9:40/9:30 pace, and then the boys sped up closer to a 9:00 pace, which felt a little fast for me. Deep down I was hoping I might break 4:00 hours, I knew by mile 7 that this wasn’t the race to do it in. I didn’t want to kill myself and not enjoy this race, so I dialed it back, and let my cousins go ahead.
At about mile 8, I noticed a little bit of pain on the outside of my right knee. It was really foreign to me – I haven’t had pain in that spot since last winter, and didn’t experience pain in any of my recent long runs. I tried to shrug it off.
Around mile 10, I heard some house music in the distance. There were some amazing spectators lined up on the side of the course, dressed up in costume, just dancing along to the music.
|A unicorn! And some neon guy!|
By mile 12, the pain in the outside of my knee was getting worse. I tried saying a mantra to myself with each step: “Go…away…” It didn’t really seem to be working, but I kept trying anyway.
At mile 13, we split from the half-marathoners, which was not as terrible as I thought it would be. I felt kind of awesome for being a full-marathoner, and the psychological part of having to run another 13 miles didn’t really bother me. Plus I saw Keith right after the split, which was a huge boost.
After a quick hug and kiss, he told me my parents were waiting for me at mile 17. I ran off, and put on my iPod. The pain in my knee was spreading up to my quads and hip, and by the 14th mile, I was in a lot of pain. I had a short pity session for myself, wondering how I was going to run another 12 miles with my right leg the way it was feeling. I decided to text my family mid-run, asking if they could have Motrin ready for me when I saw them. I somehow got through the next three miles, which was a huge, painful blur.
At the 17 marker, I took out my earbuds and looked for my family. All of a sudden, I heard loud screaming – “KAAATE!!!” Everyone - runners and spectators alike, turned their heads to see who was yelling. It was my amazing family.
|Teary-eyed at mile 17.|
I started to cry, seeing my mom, dad and sister screaming and jumping for me. It couldn’t have come at a better moment, because I was so down on myself, and my right leg felt useless. They handed me some Motrin, I gave them hugs, and kept going.
Slowly but surely, the pain disappeared from my leg. Miles 17-20 felt really hard, but I had a feeling that I would start to feel better. Also, as a side note on the race, I wasn’t a huge fan of the out-and-back course. During Miles 13-20, you run out to a suburb in Philly called Manayunk, and on the opposite side of the course, you get to watch faster (and presumably more trained) runners already on their way to the finish line. It seemed like the final turnaround point would never come.
|Random shot of me at mile 13...|
About 200 yards from the final point of the race, I saw my two cousins come up behind me. I was SO HAPPY to see them. I was really confused why they were there, and realized that I had just passed them. They were the running angels I needed at that point, and seeing them made all of the pain vanish from my leg.
By mile 21, I was running a few feet in front of them, and they waved me to keep going on without them. Shortly after, I saw my family for the last time, and I felt like I was running a completely different race.
|My amazing sister.|
I realized at this point, that I would be in pain no matter what, and I might as well finish strong. I started to dedicate songs on my playlist in the last few miles to my favorite people in the world. During Melissa Ethridge’s “I’m the only one,” I pictured Kelly and me belting out the words together as kids, and silently thanked her for all of her amazing cheer-leading during the race. “Uptown Girl” reminded me of car rides with my parents, and I thought of all the support and love they give me when I need it most. During the Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” I thought of Keith and his unending words of kindness when I’m super stressed or nervous about running (and life).
I ripped out my headphones at mile 25, and I wanted to remember and enjoy the last mile of my race. The spectators lining the course became more crowded, and I heard perfect strangers cheering me on, whether they were calling me a runner, by my name, or by the animal print I was wearing.
My last fan was close to mile 26, where Keith was ready with a Gatorade in case I needed it. I gave him a quick hug, and ran off towards the finish.
Judging by the pace bracelet I got at the expo, I knew by the last few miles that I could make it in under 4:15. I was feeling really strong the last few miles, and I wondered if I could even get in under 4:10. I knew it would be close, but I wanted to give it my all. I hit mile 26 at a 9:09 pace, which was the fastest pace I saw since Mile 12. I broke off at a sprint with .2 miles left, and I wanted to give the spectators what they came to see – nutjob marathoners giving it their all when they had nothing left to give.
And after a roller coaster of a race, I finally crossed that finish line in 4:09:38.
I was beaming, so happy that I finished well. One of my favorite things about this race was the post-finish treats – I became cold really quickly, and they had hot, salty chicken broth ready for the finishers. They also had a short line for the post-race massages, which I gladly waited in to have a brave girl work out the kinks in my legs.
|One happy, sweaty family!|
|The Pub's beautiful decorations.|
|Ralph the Reindeer - Keith's win from the claw|
machine at the Pub.
Still out for debate whether he's a reindeer or a moose.
Final thoughts on the Philly Marathon - It was an awesome race. Doing a really big race was a nice change from last year, because I was always surrounded by other runners and endearing spectators (fan fave was a guy dressed up as a sumo wrestler, holding a sign that said "If you stop running, I will eat you.") The course itself was pretty flat, except for a few hills in the beginning of the race that I didn't really notice. As I said earlier, I didn't love the out-and-back setup. The first 13 miles were really scenic and fun, but the last 13 added on a psychological element of seeing people much faster than you about to finish.
I am really happy with my time - I tried not to think about it too much during training, since my knee injury in the summer definitely set me back a bit. But when it comes down to it, I set a PR by 23 minutes and I couldn't be more proud of that. I have my whole life to beat that dreaded 4:00 mark.
Lastly, I felt so blessed to have been surrounded by my family for this marathon. They were the ones that kept me going when I wanted to give up. I'll be the first to admit that standing in the cold for four hours on a Sunday morning is the opposite of fun, yet the fact that they were so enthusiastic and had so many good things to say about the race made me so happy. What an amazing day.