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Posts Tagged ‘26.2 miles’

First things first, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m officially a marathoner.  Still even a week later, it hasn’t fully registered.  

I finished the 19th annual Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th 2012 in 4:49.

Nothing too speedy, but both of my hamstrings are still attached and I can honestly say I enjoyed just about all 26.2 miles of the course. 

The race had a 7am start, meaning an early wake up of 4:30am so we could meet our friends at 5:15 in the lobby for walk the 1 miles to the starting line. 

Waking up in the morning is easier with a little Moose in the background.

As Lisa and I got dressed we had raisin bread smeared with peanut butter and water to hydrate.  I tried hard not to think of the fact that I had to run 26.2 miles.  Just a tab bit overwhelming.  Instead I told myself that in just 8 short hours this would all be over and I’d be a marathoner and focused on my goals for the race:

  1. Enjoy it!
  2. Start off slow and conserve energy
  3. Cross the finish line
  4. Cross the finish line in under 5 hours
  5. Cross the finish line in under 4:45

I also kept reminding myself to run my own race and not worry about how fast other people were running.  If I could do this, I knew I could absolutely achieve goals 1-3.  Goal number 3 could have been achieved without goals 1 and 2, it would be much more difficult and I knew I would be a bitchy mess despite crossing the finish line.

Hydrating and fueling would also be crucial in crossing the finish line so I decided on stopping at each water station and fueling every 5 miles regardless of whether or not I felt as though I it was needed.   

I also promised myself that I wouldn’t think about how far I had left to go.  Can you think of anything more discouraging than “only 25 miles to go”?!

I wrote this little reminder on my hand, just in case I wanted to give up at some point during the 4 plus hours:

It wore off long before the race started, but I knew it was there.

I’m proud to announce that I achieved Goals 1-4 while missing goal 5 by only 4 minutes!  I managed to hydrate and fuel on a consistent basis and saved the countdown for the last few miles.   

Since the mental aspect of running had been so difficult for me, I made every effort possible to remain positive.  Instead of letting my mind wander, I made sure I was present in the run so I could put an quick end to any negative thoughts that entered my mind. 

I tried hard not to focus on time or mile markets and kept telling myself that I felt strong and great.  Luckily it was the truth. 

The first few miles seemed to fly by.  As soon as we crossed the starting line the race broke up quite nicely, there was very little congestion and it was quite easy to establish a pace.  I felt really strong and make a conscious effort to soak in the experience.  I caught the first couple of mile markers and was right on my desired 10 minute mile pace.  I missed the next few and was pleasantly surprised to find myself at mile 6. 

This was the highlight of the race for me, we were cruising down a main street which was lined 3 to 4 people deep with spectators.  Everyone was screaming cheering us on, it was absolutely amazing.  This is the first race that I ran that had a large spectator presence.  I’ve always heard that the crowd can make a difference in a race but never knew how much so until experiencing it myself. 

It was at this point that I realized if you’re going to attend a marathon you should leave sore.  Either because you ran or because you were cheering so loudly that you now have a sore throat, or your hand is sore from doling out high-fives. 

I high-fived everyone who had their hand out, you wouldn’t believe how much energy you get from a high-five as a runner.  Even at the end of the race, when I was dragging, if I saw someone with their hand out I would speed up to give them a high-five.

Seriously, it’s amazing.  I still get a little emotional just thinking about it. 

I just reread that last portion and yes it sounds crazy, but it’s the truth so it’s staying.  And I promise I’m talking about actual high-fives and not getting high off crack.

The crowd absolutely makes the race. 

I took a bathroom break around mile 9, my legs were starting to get tight so I used the couple minute wait to stretch out.  It’s amazing what a little downward dog can do!   When I hit the road again I felt as though I was running on brand new legs.

The half and the full split around mile 13; so if you were running the full you actually had to run by the finish line, so cruel.  

I turned into the second half of the marathon completely surprised by how quick the first half felt, despite taking over 2 hours. 

Right after the split I saw my friend Sarah, who took this fabulous picture, and reminded me to soak it all in and enjoy the experience. 

Excited much?!

The second half of the course was pretty boring, there were few spectators and a long out and back looming.  I distracted myself by watching the runners on the other side, they were speedy and made it look oh so easy!

After a little bit I saw Julie coming down the home stretch (I think her mile 23ish) absolutely crushing the course.  She says she was dying at this point but I think she’s being a little modest; she makes it look so easy. 

Around mile 17/18 my legs started to get really tired and my hamstrings were tightening up.  After seeing a fellow runner on the ground griping at his hamstring I found the first piece of grass and oh so carefully got into the downward dog position. 

I got up and walked for a few to avoid any dizzy spells. 

At one point slightly after this break we crested a small hill and could see all the runners in front of us, it was just a sea of people that seemed to stretch out in front of us.   I knew the turn-around was between mile 19 and 20, but not being able to see it was a little discouraging. 

I trudged on reminding myself that in recaps that I read this was one of the more exciting parts of the course.  For the first time during the race I started calculating out my splits and determined that if I kept up this pace I could easily finish in the 4:30’s. 

I debated whether or not I should push it and reach for 4:30. 

After seeing another runner down, I took another stretching break.  I remember being so grateful that my legs had held up so well, and thought about how lucky I am that I can run.  I got a little choked up.   

Which lead to a little more walking so I could calm myself down. 

I quickly decided that my focus was going to be on crossing the finish line and I wasn’t going to push it to finish within a certain time.  It’s quite possible that I was already pushing my luck asking so much of my hamstrings. 

Mile 20 is often where runners encounter the dreaded wall.  While coming up around miles 18 and 19, I kept looking at the runners on the other side of the road but they all seemed to be doing quite well.

I told myself that this race didn’t have a wall and kept moving. 

Coming into the turn-around was exciting there were people everywhere cheering and handing out food.  I grabbed and orange and a small piece of a brownie, which tasted so amazing.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was. 

One group had set up a table and was handing out small cups of beer.  While the extra calories were extremely tempting  (Beer > Gu) with only 6 miles to go I didn’t want to risk my chances of finishing. 

Only 6 miles to go!

At this point I allowed myself to start counting down the miles. 

I LOVED seeing the signs that said “Marathon Inbound”! 

These miles seemed to go on forever, there were a few downward dogs involved, hoping that I could somehow get the feeling of new legs once again and float along to the finish line. 

This of course never happened, but it didn’t stop me from repeatedly trying.

Though I never hit the infamous wall, I did start taking more and more walking breaks.  I knew I was going to cross the finish line, I just wanted it to be now.  I was so bored of running.

I tried turning on my ipod, but I couldn’t find a song I really wanted to run to, there were a bunch I wouldn’t have minded dancing too, I just didn’t want to run any longer.  I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I closed my eyes to take a deep breath and being startled by the fact that “I could take a nap right now”.

Around mile 22/23 the 4:30 pace group passed me, this gave me a little burst as I tried to keep up with them while trying to calculate how it was possible that I could still run a 4:30. 

It wasn’t.

Regardless, it was impossible for me to keep the pace they were running, my legs couldn’t move that fast. 

I watched the pace group fade off into the distance and focused on keeping my mood positive.

I got myself choked up again as I kept telling myself that I was going to be a marathoner.  I actually got choked up a couple of times in the last few miles of the race, each time having to stop and walk to calm myself down before it turned into an all-out waterworks show. 

Since this was an out and back you could see the mile markers on both sides (they were staggered), while everyone I talked to hated this, I loved it as it seemed to break up the run a little bit more.

Plus it offer reassurance that I was in fact making forward progress.

I kept telling myself to look strong for the runners on the other side of the road. 

Around mile 24/25 I found Cara running up the other side of the road, I flagged her down and she ran with me for a little bit.  This was Cara’s 5th marathon this year, unfortunately the race wasn’t going quite the way she hoped so she dropped down to the half and instead of celebrating she headed up to the second half of the course and ran with friends between miles 22 and 25. 

She distracted me by having me pose for pictures:

I need to work on running with my mouth close and my heel strike.

Despite what it looks like I’m actually not skipping, due to the tight hamstrings my stride was really short.  Also I need to work on that heel strike. 

In total she ended up running over 27 miles! 

She was an absolute rock star. 

When we separated, I had less than a mile to go. (I wasn’t thinking clearly as it took me a little bit to realize that it was less than a mile, I kept going back and forth as to whether or not I had to run to mile 27 before hitting the .2)

I remember hitting the 26 mile marker and then seeing the finish line up ahead of me (which confirm that I didn’t have another mile plus to go) at that point I let myself get excited. 

It was happening. 

I picked it up as much as I could reminding myself to soak it all in.  I remember seeing the announcer as I came into view, hoping that he’d be able to read my name on the bid and announce it.  Hearing him say my name out loud as I crossed the finish line would obviously mean that it happened. 

And then I heard my name. 

I crossed feeling strong, making sure I hit the sensors so my time was recorded.

And it was over.

After 18 weeks of training I had achieved my goal. 

Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t take 18 weeks for it to fully sink in.

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