For whatever reason, running a marathon is something that has been on my to-do list for years – even before I started running. There’s something elusive about the marathon, and being a marathoner, that intrigued me enough to pick up running with that as my end goal. I always knew that training for a marathon required a lot of work, but I figured I was up for the challenge.
After running the Disney Half Marathon, even though I was injured, I knew we wanted to run a marathon later in the year. I first set our sights on the Pittsburgh Marathon in May, but soon realized I wouldn’t be healed in time, and a rush training job for our very first marathon would be a recipe for disaster. So, I decided on Philadelphia – there weren’t any pace requirements, it was a relatively cheap race ($65), and was close enough. Unfortunately I never got to the all important 20 mile long run – I only made it to 18, and it was a struggle. Needless to say I was extra nervous on race day.
After a carbo-loading dinner on Saturday, it was early to bed for our 4:30a wake-up call. My usual pre-race meal was a little more difficult for me to get down because of nerves, but we were ready to go by 5:45, and made my way to the starting corrals about a mile from our hotel. Since I was hoping to run between 4:30 and 5 hours, I was in the 7th of 8 corrals. It took my coral about 22 minutes from the official start of the race to get going, which was definitely a shorter wait than I had anticipated. It was chilly, but as soon as I started moving I was thankful for my short and t-shirt combo, with homemade arm warmers (hello tube socks) and cheap gloves.
As soon as we crossed the mat, people took off. Since the half and full start together, we were a mixed crowd which I had to remind myself of. One guy near me joked “everyone’s gotta be a hero!” and it was then that I realized I needed to make sure not to be one of those people – I had a long morning ahead of me. There wasn’t really any point during the first miles where I felt great. I usually start off feeling strong with fresh legs and then slowly get tired, but my legs didn’t feel all that great from the beginning. I wasn’t worried, though, and I kept my pace just around 10 minutes, which was a little too fast. I wanted to keep an even 10:20, but my legs just wouldn’t go that slow. They sure went that slow later!
The first half was really crowded. I didn’t even stop for water at the first two stations for fear of getting trampled. Towards the end of the first half, a woman cut right in front of me, and literally bent down to the ground to pick something up. I didn’t have enough time to move, and wound up slamming into her. All I could think was “seriously?” and was glad I didn’t hurt myself. As we were nearing the halfway mark, it was hard to hear people screaming “Alright, this is it! Just a little more!” knowing that I was only half way there. As we rounded the corner, though, I got a glimpse of some elites coming in which was awesome.
I would be lying if I didn’t say the second half was a struggle. The real struggle didn’t start until we were in Manayunk. First, it was just me wanting things to be over, but then my legs got in on the party too. I saw some college friends right before and after mile 20, which helped push me a bit more, but then the legs just didn’t want to go. It really was a 20 mile race, followed by 6.2 miles of struggle. These miles were anywhere from about a 10:30 to 12:30 pace, give or take. I had been walking through the water stations from when I started taking water/Gatorade, but this time each stop had a little bit longer of a walk, as my knees were starting to hurt. Miles 22 to 23 were combinations of running and walking (very brief), until finally at mile 23 it was time to suck it up and run the last 3.2. The course was pretty bare of spectators, so I had no shame in walking. In all honesty if there were more people watching, I probably wouldn’t have stopped running at all.
Either way, I pushed it to the end and somehow got myself to a low 9 pace for the last half mile or so. Having people cheer my name was awesome – and I have every intention on wearing a shirt with my name on it for every long race I run that doesn’t have named bibs moving forward. I came in at just 5 hours, (having started about 23 minutes after the first wave), for an official time of 4:37:34! I had hoped to come in under 4:45, with my ultimate happy goal of 4:30, so I was right in the middle.
The reward was a hot shower followed by Chipotle, and lounging on the couch all night and the next day (with a few errands). It’s now been 3 days, and I think I’m ready to get my Turkey Trot on Thursday. Considering I could barely walk right after the race, I am so amazed at the human body.
The training for this race was far from perfect, and it was my very first one. I’m hoping that next go around I can get closer to 4:15 with adequate training and no injuries! Unfortunately, that go-around isn’t going to be my next marathon, which happens to be the Disney Marathon in December. Why, you may ask? Because I am insane, and I’m doing the Goofy Challenge (half marathon Saturday, marathon Sunday). That race is just going to be about having fun, accomplishing 39.3 miles in 2 days, and scoring 3 medals and hopefully a lot of pictures with characters!
It feels so great to finally be able to call myself a marathoner. I have so much more respect for people that do marathons (or ultras) than I did even before I ran the race. It sounds mush, and I’m far from it, but its an honor to be in that group (even if I just squeezed in).