Just over a day ago, I finished my biggest race to date, my first marathon. That’s incredible for me to say, since it’s been such a distant dream of mine, even since I signed up for the race back in June. I never thought that yesterday would actually come and be a reality, but it did and I’m still alive to tell the tale!
My mom and I left the house before 10 on Saturday morning and picked up Luke around quarter after. We got onto the road and I managed to stay awake until we got on the Turnpike. From there, I was basically out like a light. I dozed on and off until we got to Philly, where we got parked and checked into the hotel and up to our room. We unpacked the air mattress for Luke and laid it out, then the two of us walked a few blocks to the race expo to pick up our stuff.
It was pretty crowded so we just wound up grabbing our bibs and bags with t-shirts in them. There were a ton of people there, so it was making me pretty anxious. We walked back to the hotel and just laid around watching TV and napping for a few hours. 48 Hours: Hard Evidence was our TV viewing of choice on Saturday evening. The three of us went to the Ruby Tuesday right by our hotel and I had some chicken tenders and fries since I knew they wouldn’t upset my stomach. When we went back to the room, I changed into PJs and just watched TV until around 10. We left it on and I tried to sleep, but it took me a while. I wound up waking up around 2:30 in the morning, then fell back asleep until our alarms went off at 5.
When we woke up, the outside temperature was 49 degrees. I wanted to start shouting from the rooftops, I was so excited. I decided to not wear the long-sleeve CuddlDud shirt that I had brought since it probably would have been too warm. Instead, I wore my yellow tech shirt and threw on an old pair of socks to use as arm warmers until the race. I also wore compression capris and my New Balance running shoes. I was ready to go fairly early, with my GU’s all tucked securely into my race belt and my phone in place in my arm band.
Luke and I left the room right at 6 and got to the security lines about ten minutes later. It took us until just after 7 to get through the lines and that made me super-nervous; I was also kind of irritated since we had no bags to check at all and walked right through when we actually got up to the security checkpoint. Either way, we warmed up by power-walking back to the Blue Corral but we were situated by the time the race even started. It took us what felt like forever to actually get to the starting line, but we probably had about a half an hour’s wait.
When we were starting out, I told Luke straight-up that I would run the first 3 miles with him and then start with my run-walk intervals. I felt like we were pretty crowded for that first mile or so, maybe even a little past that. Those first few miles still went pretty quickly for me – there was a slight downhill to the river that I took fully advantage of, and I didn’t discard my old socks/arm warmers until just past mile 3. I wound up staying on a running kick until mile 4, where I took my first energy gel of the race. I started doing my full run-walk intervals at that point.
Luke was basically my ping-pong pacer for miles 4-6. During my run intervals, I would always catch up to him and sometimes pass him a little bit. Then on my walk breaks I would fall back a little bit. Mile 6, I was feeling great and wound up seeing my mom as she stood on the end of the block by our hotel. After that point, I lost Luke. Just as I had done my training, I was alone – except now surrounded by thousands of people.
I hit the 10k split in 1:10:21, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was hauling ass for how my training had gone, but I felt great. I knew that I needed to slow down in the next few miles to save energy for the back half, so I tried letting off the gas. I got to go down a pretty nice straightaway in the city past Drexel and then up and over a bridge towards the zoo. I crushed that downhill as well, right past the big balloon at the zoo. From there was the big hill that everyone bitched about when it came to both the half and the full – I really didn’t think it was all that bad. The same hill was used the on the Love Run course, and it wasn’t nearly as steep as the hill for the DC half. I wound up running the whole thing just to say that I could, but you have to remember that my run isn’t all that fast.
Ran up around the Please Touch Museum at around Mile 10, I think? Went down another lovely hill and on a short out-and-back on MLK, then headed back towards the Art Museum. It was so weird for me, since I was feeling so much better than I had been feeling at the Love Run Half my freshman year of college around the same point in the race in around the same location. I still felt amazingly strong and was so happy to be going for the full.
When I crossed under the arch that divide the half from the full, I just wanted to start screaming out of happiness. I took it all in as much as I could as I ran past the Art Museum and around the bend behind it. I wound up looking at my watch and saw that I had managed to set a half PR in the middle of my marathon!! I started to slow down on both my run intervals and my walk breaks but kept pushing as much as I could. It felt like forever until I got to the out-and-back portion across the bridge just past mile 17. It was killing me to see everyone coming back and seeing pacers with signs that had 3’s at the front, since I knew at that point I was holding at least my dream 5:30 pace.
The weird little out and back on the bridge actually reenergized me a bit, since it had a downhill stretch I ran entirely and the uphill on the way back I pushed myself a lot. Going down the hill into Manayunk was pretty exciting, and it was cracking me up; people were trying to hand out cups of beer, and I was getting kind of delirious and started screaming “I’m not twenty-one!” and everyone else just started yelling “Then you’re even crazier and deserve one of these even more!”
The energy in the town of Manayunk proper was pretty contagious and I really loved it. People were screaming and partying and I thought it was great. Every recap I’ve read has talked about how quiet the back half is, but I didn’t really see it – I mean, the first half of the full is much more active than the second half, but it’s still not at all what I would call ‘quiet’. If these people want to see a quiet race, they should hit up the Ghost Town Half. Anyway, I didn’t even wind up using my podcasts or headphones that I brought because I never really felt like I needed it.
The slog from Manayunk back to the Art Museum was a little weird for me. Every step was a personal distance record so I was excited over that, but I also was starting to feel all the time on my feet. There was one point where I was kind of swerving all over the road because my brain was getting a little foggy. It was the weirdest thing, but there were super-nice people handing out Jolly Ranchers and gummy bears along that stretch of the course – thanks Jolly Rancher and gummy bear people, you da best. That helped get my sugar steadied or at least gave me that illusion, so I wound up running a little straighter.
It was getting a little harder to keep my run intervals strong, and I started walking a little longer than I had before. I was trying to keep the times fast or at least bargaining with myself to run slowly but for the whole interval. I distinctly remember thinking at mile 23: “Okay, you only have another mile until you can take your last GU, and then you’ll only have like 2 more miles after that”. I was starting to count down the miles in the weirdest ways possible.
The last uphill to the Art Museum was totally killer – that was the hill on the course that sucked the most. Everyone complained about the first hill, but I didn’t feel it. I’ve also heard complaining about ‘rolling hills’ on the back half of the course, but once you got out of Manayunk, everything seemed pretty steady to me. It may just be because my training hills out here closer to Pittsburgh are definitely hillier or whatever.
Anyway, that last uphill was killer. I made the mistake of taking a Chips Ahoy cookie from a lady along that last stretch, but it was too dry for me to even swallow. I didn’t even have enough spit in my mouth to spit the damn thing out, I had to like scrape off my tongue to remove it.
Once I passed the Art Museum, it was all downhill to the finish. I really felt the phrase ‘second wind’ since my last .2 miles came in at a time of just under 2 minutes… aka under a 10-minute mile. I was just flying past the crowd and soaking up the energy and just felt this big happiness in my chest that I couldn’t shake. When I crossed the line, I couldn’t stop smiling and barely had enough function to shut off my watch. I walked pretty clearly to get my medal, then a nice lovely warming bag.
I thought I heard someone yelling my name, and I finally came to enough to see that my mom had limped her way up to the finish line area. She yelled for me to meet her at the end of the finishing area. I helped myself to water and the food station (where I may have taken like 3 soft pretzels but they’re sooo goooood). I skipped the finisher’s photo station cause I knew I would appreciate any pictures my mom took even more. Made my way past the gear check trucks since I hadn’t dropped anything off that morning, and finally met up with my mom.
She took my picture and I finally stole her phone to check what my final finishing time had been. I knew it had been far under my goal of 5:30, and I wasn’t mistaken. 5:20:21. 5:20:21!! That’s almost a full 10 minutes faster than how I thought the race would go for me, and I was ecstatic. The timing had Luke’s ETA around 10 minutes later, so I walked around the post-race area. The two biggest disappointments of the day (other than the stressful security line) were that the massage tent had been shut down at 12:30 (just barely 5 hours after the race finally started) and the merch tent had run out of 26.2 car magnets. Boooo.
Anyway, I meandered back to where my mom was sitting on a bench, and I was chatting on my phone with people for a while. We finally got the notification that Luke had finished in around 5:52, so I went to the end of the finishing chute to catch him. My mom took a few pictures of us, then we all made our way back to the hotel.
I took the first shower to find only a little bit of chafing on my arm where my arm band had been, then changed and laid down for a while. We left Philly around 3 or so. The car ride home was okay, other than the rest stop 2 hours in where Luke and I started screaming when we tried to get out of the car.
I didn’t sleep the whole way home because I was so hyped up, but I definitely slept like a rock last night. It was kind of difficult to roll out of bed this morning and I’ve been pretty achy all day, but I still feel absolutely amazing. I’m so glad that I got experience a marathon, and I’m really pleased that it was a race as great as Philly.