March 25, 2020

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

I finished the marathon in 3:27:53. I won’t lie–it wasn’t the race I wanted, and it was disappointing to have to email my coach to once again say I didn’t race the way I had expected to (especially since my broke ass no longer has the luxury of a coach; talk about going out with a whimper!) That being said, I won’t say it was a bad race, either. Two runners died of apparent heart attacks at the race, which is a reminder that life is short and I’m just grateful I can do this at all. I’m alive, I’m healthy, and I have two legs that have done pretty well by me, even if they haven’t yet given me the race of my dreams. Yesterday was an 11 minute PR and I qualified for Boston under the revised standards. Philadelphia is a great course no matter how you shake it, and chances are good I’ll run it a few more dozen times.

My hotel was about 7/10 of a mile from the start line, so I didn’t have to leave my room until about 6:20ish to get into my corral in plenty of time for the 7am start. I was surprised by how strict they were being about the corrals this year. My expected finish time put me in the third corral, and they were checking every single bib as runners entered the gates to line up. It’s funny because the Marine Corps Marathon runs a pretty tight ship as far as marathons are concerned, but I was able to line up and run 20 miles without a bib–there’s no way someone could have gotten in without a bib yesterday. Security also made sure to clear the spectators from the gates of the corral, which was a little upsetting (I mean, at least let us have one last hug before sending us off on our 26 mile journey!) Of course, security was nowhere to be seen during the first mile when a good chunk of the 60,000 spectators decided to crowd the course Tour de France style (I thought it was fun; a few of the runners around me started bitching about it. It cleared out in no time, though.)

I kept my pace around 7:25ish for the first 6 miles, which is when I saw my awesome spectator for the first time. Actually, I saw multiple awesome spectators. The crowd support at Philadelphia is amazing, and I feel the noise at mile 6 of Philadelphia rivaled the Wellesley Scream Tunnel in Boston! (only without all the kissing.) Yesterday was unusually mild, and I dressed lightly in shorts and a tank top. I had grabbed gloves at the start, but took them off pretty quickly, so I swapped out my gloves for a gel and kept on my way. Because of tummy issues I was only able to take in about half of my gel, but I figured that would be enough to power me through to the half. I kept my pace pretty consistent for the next few miles, and didn’t really start to lag until mile 13. I’m not really quite sure what happened. I was an idiot and decided to not run with my heart rate monitor, so I’m not sure if I had pushed it too fast in the beginning, or maybe I wasn’t taking in enough calories, or what, but I just started to slow down. My knees were talking back to me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain 7:30s for the rest of the race. The next few miles were pretty lonely and quiet. Once you hit mile 13, it’s pretty much all out and back. There are some definite advantages to this–I love being able to watch the elites as they fly by, and that means there are plenty of water stops. For those of us whose friends and family were staying downtown, though, you don’t see them again until you hit the finish, so that’s 13 miles on your own. I never actively felt bad, but I felt pretty low energy and was definitely struggling. When I got to mile 22, I knew I had to suck it up and take it like a man if I wanted to finish in under 3:30. It wasn’t easy, but when I got to mile 25 the support of the crowd definitely pushed me through (I’m not kidding, people–there was an estimated 60,000 spectators yesterday and they were loud. Plus, Philly prints your name on your bibs, so you’ve got people cheering directly for you, which helps a ton at that stage in the game.)

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And then I finished, and life was sweet. I grabbed my medal, found my boyfriend, and hobbled back to the hotel for a super hot shower. Like I said, this marathon is bittersweet, for multiple reasons. It wasn’t the race I wanted, and I really wanted to prove to both myself and my coach that I have a fast marathon in me. Still, though, it was a solid race with a solid PR. I enjoyed the race, as always, despite fatigue–it’s a beautiful course and the weather really made it a fantastic day to run. That being said, my boyfriend saw one of the runners who died yesterday pass out just minutes before I approached the finish (he was barely a tenth of a mile from the finish), and my heart truly goes out to their families and to the spectators and runners who witnessed it. Marathons have always been a positive thing for me regardless of finishing times, but, like everything, they come with a risk. I hope their families can take solace in the fact that those two runners died doing something they loved to do.

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I still have faith that I have a fast marathon in me, and I’ll happily and steadily chisel my way to my goals one milestone at a time. I’m already registered for the 2020 Boston Marathon and the 2020 Marine Corps Marathon, so hopefully next year will be a sub-3:20 for me. Even if it isn’t, I won’t stop running. My knees hurt like hell today and I’m a sight to behold on the stairs, but I wouldn’t trade this in for anything. The marathon is a fickle lover, but I’ll keep her around for a while.

Now pass the pie, people–this runner has some calories to replenish!

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