Posted: November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Here I am at the finish of the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. I could hardly stand because my legs hurt so much, but I didn’t want to sit for fear of instantly cramping up. I am smiling though because I finished and Brisa was there to take my picture.

Originally I was bummed about having to run the Philly Marathon for several reasons, but it worked out well in the end. First- I had hoped to run the NYC marathon, but I didn’t get selected during the lottery, so I had to sign up for Philly. I spent the past few years in Philly though, so even though it wasn’t NYC, it was nice to be back and be able to see friends. Plus I did miss running on Kelly Drive, so it was good to be back. Second- I was concerned about the weather. Being so late in the year (Nov 20th) I was scared that the temperature was going to be in the low 30’s, which I could have handled, but wouldn’t have been terribly comfortable. In the end, it turned out that we had gorgeous weather in the 50’s and it was perfect running weather.

As far as the actual race, it went pretty well overall. When I first signed up for this race about 8 months ago, I was projecting & hoping for a 4 hour 20 minute finish (about 10-minute miles). As I trained over the summer, I started to realize I could break 4 hours, and by the late fall, a 3hr 30 minute finish became a possibility. I knew for this to happen though, I couldn’t let the adrenaline get the best of me and go out too fast. I was able to resist for about 6 to 7 miles, but eventually the cheering crowds on Broad Street and my excitement took over and I began running faster than planned- way too fast. I glanced at my watch periodically and would be surprised to see I was running at a 6 or 7 minute-mile pace, and at one point was actually running a 5-something! I really had to pull back and save my legs so I didn’t crash at the end.

Things went well until around the half-marathon mark. I started to feel fatigued at that point, and it was hard to watch about half of the field (some 25,000 runners) peel off at the Art Museum and head for the 1/2 marathon finish. Also by this point I was beginning to regret not bringing my fuel belt with me. I had reasoned between the water stations and “Cliff Shot” locations, I wouldn’t need it. Unfortunately it turned out the Cliff Shots were energy gels, not energy chews, and that was a major challenge. The main difference are that you can chew or suck on the chews over a period of time, versus the gels, which have the unappealing consistency of toothpaste and must be washed down with a drink.

What I wanted- Cliff Shot Blocks (Chews)

What I got- Cliff Shots (Gel)

In any case I made do, and continued down Kelly Drive. Around mile 15, I saw the race leaders on their way back to Philly. The winner (who finished in an amazing 2 hrs 19 min) didn’t even looked fatigued as he sprinted by. The next several runners though, definitely looked like they had just run a marathon. Even though we were all tired, as these impressive runners passed us by, we cheered and clapped for them. Around mile 17, in Manayunk, although I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised that some people on the side of the road were offering beer in cups. It was funny, but hardly what we needed at that point. More helpful were the M&Ms and gummie bears (which I helped myself too), that other fans offered as we ran by.

Once we got to the end of Main Street in Manayunk, we did a U-turn and even though we were already more than 1/2 way done, it felt like were finally on our way home since up until this point we had been running away from the finish. Having lived in Philly for several years, I was familiar with all the roads we ran on, and I’m not sure if it was a benefit or not to know how far we had left to go once we turned around. On one hand, being able to visualize the remaining route let me know what still lay ahead, but on the other hand, I knew what still lay ahead- many long miles!

Around mile 20, almost on cue with the infamous “wall” runners hit, I began to feel my left quad begin to cramp up. I also began to see lots of people walking. Out of fear that my leg would seize up if I stopped moving, I continued to run as best I could, and stopped looking at my watch. Although I really wanted to finish in under 3hr30, by mile 21, 22, I just wanted to finish, and didn’t care what time I had. My earlier reckless pacing was finally catching up to me in a major way, and I probably was running 9 minute miles for a couple in a row. The longer I ran, the further the finish seemed to be, and the the home stretch I swore I knew was just up the road kept refusing to materialize. By the time we reached mile 25, there were lots of “causalities”- folks that just couldn’t run anymore and were walking, some hobbled, towards the finish.

I charged on, and let the runners ahead of me pull me along. One of the benefits of overestimating how long it would take me to finish is that I started alongside runners that were slower than I. That mean for the vast majority of the race I was passing runners, versus being passed, which is a huge physiological boost. I used this energy to chase down as many runners as I could in the last mile, and with about 1/4 of a mile left, I went into an all out sprint- I wanted to finish having given all I could. I raised my arms as I crossed the timing mat, hit the timer on my watch at 03:28:25, and slowed to a walk.

Almost instantly, all of the pain that must of been suppressed by adrenaline began coursing through my legs, and I didn’t know what to do. I must have looked dazed walking around- I desperately wanted to get off my feet and sit, but I knew my legs would lock up if I stopped moving and sat. So I tried to join the food line (which was incredibly long and my only complaint about the race), but I couldn’t stand still so I left the line. I kept walking and eventually found Brisa, and even managed to smile for this picture:

Right after this, we went to grab some delicious chocolate milk, and I chugged about 1/4 of a gallon on the spot. Pretty much nothing beats chocolate milk after a hard run. At this point, its been exactly a week since I ran my first marathon, and I’m ready to get back into training for  next season. First up will be some triathlons, so I’ll be hitting the pool pretty soon. Until then, I’m going to dial back the running and focus on weight training (and shedding all that thanksgiving turkey! lol)



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