Yesterday, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon - my first marathon ever. I was feeling OK going into the race. A slight bit nervous, but generally curious to see what it would be like. I was not happy with the weather. It was pretty warm (for a race day in November) when I walked my dog at 5am. This could be a problem, I thought.
I split the race up mentally into three parts:
1. Miles 0 through 13
2. Miles 13 to 21
3. Miles 21 to 26.2
This helped me break up the distance instead of thinking "I need to run 26.2 miles today."
The first seven miles were frantic. Since the half and full marathons start together (which I HATE and wish they would stop doing), there were a lot of people on the course. Those first seven miles are also generally through narrow Philadelphia streets. Police failed to remove some cars that were still parked on those streets, even though they weren't supposed to be there. At one point, I was engulfed in a pace group at the same time the road narrowed down to one lane due to one of those cars. Not fun.
This narrowness stopped me from doing my run/walk/run as planned for this portion of the race. I walked the water stops instead. At the first water stop, I drank one glass of water and dumped a second over my head. I did this at every stop for the entire marathon. It was refreshing, and also soaked my braid, which then acted as a cooling agent on my neck. Good move, Jen.
I didn't stop at all on Chestnut Street, which is packed spectators on either side of the road. They were a great pick me up, but mentally, I was bouncing all over the place.
Plus, I also had to...go. I think I'd had too much Gatorade in the 48 hours before the race, and my stomach was a mess. I didn't want to stop, but I knew I had to. I'd rather lose a few minutes than crap my pants (which someone did - I feel for you, lady). I finally found a port-a-potty at Mile 7, and felt much better. At this point, there was enough space for me to run/walk/run, which I think really helped me get through the race.
I cruised through Fairmount Park - and thank you to the guy who opened my Shot Bloks for me when my fingers didn't want to function. I didn't give too much mental space to losing the half marathoners at Mile 13. I thought this would mess with my head (oh man, they're done and I have to do this distance again?!) Instead, I was glad that the number of people on the road would drop dramatically.
And then it was up Kelly Drive to Manayunk. This is an out and back portion of the race. Because of where I was time wise, I got to see the finishers come in, which was cool.
I had to stop AGAIN to go to the bathroom around Mile 15, but I felt much better after I did.
My hips had started to ache around Mile 9, which I noticed but keep pushing through. Things stated to get hilly at Mile 17 - where you cross Falls Bridge and do a sort of dog leg over to Martin Luther King Drive. Then it's undulating hills through Manayunk. Ow, ow, ow.
I stopped at Mile 21 - the beer stop. A friend working the beer stop had been holding peanut M&Ms for me, which tasted great. But nothing - NOTHING - tasted better during the race than that beer. I can't even describe it. Perfect batch of cool, refreshing carbs. I didn't feel any effects of the alcohol. Just great.
Then it was back to Kelly Drive.
I finished most of my long runs on Kelly Drive while training for the marathon, but everything looked different. I didn't even feel the heat so much anymore. I was focused so much on the pain in my hips. Maybe pain isn't the right word. Weakness. The were hurting. I wasn't worried that I'd collapse, but I had to bear down mentally. I didn't hit the wall, but I did feel pretty fatigued. Between Miles 23 and 24, I also saw two people leaving the race on stretchers (these were not the two people who tragically died at the finish. More on that later).
For Miles 22 to 25, I walked a little more, sometimes switching to run 8/walk 2. Miles 25 and 26 were BRUTAL. I just kept my head down and pushed ahead. I decided to stop to walk when I crossed the Mile 26 marker because I wanted to finish strong. This may sound silly, but I wanted to have my head up and strong when going through the last .2 of the race.
And that's what I did. My friend Katie found me and started screaming her head off as I passed. My boyfriend had finished way ahead of me (sub 4 hour marathon for his first - good job, babe), so he, his mom and sister were there cheering for me too.
And then, suddenly, I crossed the finish line and had a medal around my neck.
As bad as my legs felt in the last 2 miles, they felt even worse when I finished. I limped over to where my boyfriend was waiting for me and gingerly put on that "baked potato wrap" they give you at the end. We then walked to The Bards for food and beers. I was not hungry at all, and barely got a plate of nachos down. The bloody mary was good, though.
Yeah, I look about how I feel in that photo. Very tired.
Took it easy the rest of the day, and made sure to get in walks. I'm doing OK today - much better than I thought I'd be doing.
Horribly, though, yesterday's race ended in tragedy. Two people died - one at the finish line, and one right before it. In reading about it this, morning, I learned that some doctors think caffeine has a role in this. I had no idea.
So if you're going to run, please have a complete physical every year, and read this. It could save your life.