*Warning, this post is about as long as a marathon. :)
Well, 2 out of 3 aint bad.
• Get a new PR? Check. I PRed by 17 minutes. Final time 4:20:21. I'm still awaiting official chip time.
• Beat Oprah? Check. I beat her time by 9 minutes. Woo!
• Beat Diddy? Well, not this year. I could have, but it just wasn't in the cards on this day. More on this in a bit.
Jeremy had been feeling a bit better, but after the expo his throat started to really bother him. When we went to sleep he was alright, but after about an hour he woke up to a bad cough. A cough which continued throughout the entire night. A cough which made it impossible for either one of us to sleep. I think we both ended up getting about 2-3 hours, total.
We rolled out of bed at 4:45am, With all the excitement of the race I actually wasn't tired at all. We did our usual routine: coffee, water, bathroom, toast with peanut butter, honey and banana, bathroom, recheck our bags 30 times to make sure we had everything, bathroom, then we were off.
As soon as we stepped out the door and I saw ice on the canal in front of our house, I knew we were in trouble. It was about 24 degrees/feels like 17. Ugh.
We got to our car and saw that the windshield was covered in frost. You'd be amazed at how dumbfounded two people who have lived in the south for the past 8 years were to see frost on a windshield. Totally unprepared. Jeremy was out there with a shopping card trying to scrape it and it took us about 10 minutes to figure out how to defrost the window. Haha! We are relearning a few things.
Once we figured out that little snafu, we headed downtown. We quickly found parking and headed to the start. It was absolutely freezing out but we stayed warm the best we could.
We checked our bags into the busses and wandered around a bit. Instead of standing still in one of the mile long port-o-potty lines, we decided to walk across the street to the woods to go old school. I didn't even care that there were no leaves on the trees to cover my bare ass. It was a marathon and I wasn't going to stress and freeze in a long line for 40 minutes.
After we came out of the woods, we were going to go walk around and search for people, but I looked up at him and noticed he still had his glasses on (he doesn't run with them). He began to freak, but we just ran over to the Back On My Feet tent and left them there with them. Crisis averted, but that basically took up any extra time we had before the start.
We lined up in the corral and listened to the race start and realized we were going to be sent off in waves. This is totally fine and actually made the first few miles a lot more manageable with less people on the course. But the thing is, no one seemed to know about it. Everyone, including us, seemed totally confused by this. To make matters worse, we were in the last wave, so we stood in the freezing cold for 20 minutes after the start of the race before we were finally sent off. It kind of sucked.
But finally the Rocky theme sounded and we were on our way. The air was frigid, but after a mile or two to warm up, our fingers and toes finally defrosted and we were feeling fine.
I really have to say, I loved this course. It was so beautiful and took you throughout some of the best places in the city. The first few miles we ran down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards City Hall. Right at our first walk break I noticed a man in a big, blue coat swinging a cowbell. Just like he promised, it was ShoreTurtle cheering everyone on! It was great to see him out there.
After that we headed down towards Old City where we passed the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center. The sun was starting to shine and there was a lot of crowd support along this area. The race was thinned out nicely due to the wave sendoffs and it wasn't difficult to maneuver around runners at all. We planned on running the first 5 miles at a 10mm pace and then speeding up from there. But of course, we started out a little quickly and after that our splits were all over the place.
The only problem I was having, which has never happened to me in a race before, was I had to pee like a madwoman. The concept of people stopping to use a crowded port-o-potty in a race has always been foreign to me because, well, it's a race. Why take 3-5 minutes off your time? Plus, I have just never had to go that bad once I started. But this was different. Since I wasn't sweating and we stood in the corral for 30 minutes I really had to go. The lines for the port-o-potties were about 10 people deep and I wasn't having that. So every bush we passed I evaluated in my head if it was big enough to cover my booty as I squatted.
Finally, at mile 3 Jeremy told me he had to go and darted behind a bush. That's all I needed to hear and I quickly followed him to take my very first race-time potty break. It only took about a minute and when I was done I felt like I had lost about 20 lbs.
We headed up Chestnut Street, past the Avenue of the Arts and Washington Square. This area was filled with wonderful, supportive crowds and we really felt the love. We were running strong and smiling the whole way. But just as we crossed over the river in West Philly is when things slowly started to change.
In front of Drexel University there was a decent sized hill which wasn't too bad, but afterwards I noticed Jeremy just wasn't talking as much as he was before. With all the training we had done together, I knew when he was starting to fade and I could feel it coming on. It was still pretty early, so I hoped it was a phase and he'd come out of it.
We passed the zoo and went into Fairmount Park. There were way more hills in this area than I thought there was going to be. I felt pretty good on them but I didn't understand why they promote this marathon as flat, some of these hills were pretty intense. Maybe I am just spoiled from living in Florida for so long, but I don't remember Columbus being that hilly either. They also weren't doing anything to help poor Jeremy who was growing more quiet with each passing hill.
We made our way out to MLK Drive which is part of the route that J and I do on our training runs. We were happy to know that for the most part, the rest of the race was on a very familiar route. I mentioned this to Jeremy, trying to break his funk, and he simply replied with a grunt.
Then the poor guy almost broke his neck at a water stop.
At some of the water stops in the shade, the ground would ice over where people dumped their cups. Some of the stops weren't prepared with salt to help this problem and it made it really dangerous. There were people warning us as we came in, but that didn't stop runners from almost busting their ass as they skied through the stops. Luckily we survived.
We passed Waterworks in front of Boathouse Row and ran by the half-marathon finish. Right after that, we ran into our friends Karen and Mark who drove all the way out from South Jersey to come stand out in the freezing cold to cheer us on. It was so great to see them and really gave us a quick confidence boost. Thanks guys!!! Here is a great pic Karen took as we ran by to high-five them.
After that we headed up Kelly Drive but were quickly saddened to realize we were taking a detour up through the park again. We knew a little bit about the park but didn't realize how hilly this part was. There was a serious hill that actually hurt my knees to run down because it was so steep. Did anyone else know about this detour? It wasn't on the course map at all. Stupid hills.
Once we made our way back out around mile 15 we were on Kelly Drive again on our way towards Manayunk. I looked at my watch and realized for the past few miles we had been averaging about a 10 minute mile. Originally our plan had been to speed up at this point. However, every time I tried to go a bit faster, J would pull back. It was typical of our running relationship. On any given run together, one of us will feel fantastic and the other will feel like crap. Today was my day and was totally not his. The poor guy was exhausted from the cold that was still lingering in him.
Finally around mile 16 he told me to go ahead without him. He knew I was feeling great and didn't want to hold me back. I told him I didn't want to leave him, but to be honest with you, I would be lying if I said I didn't consider it. I felt so strong. The weather was perfect, I was warmed up and my legs felt indestructible. I knew I could easily hit 4:15 and if we had been running about a 10 second per mile pace faster throughout the rest of the race, I could have hit 4:10. I said I would run with him to the 20 and we would see how we felt.
We ran into Manayunk which was great. Main Street was packed with people who were handing out pretzels, potato chips, Cliff Shots, brownies, oranges and beer. Lots of beer. I think most of the peeps who were handing it out did more drinking than handing it out, but that's OK. The energy was a great distraction.
Between mile 16 and 20 I thought about what would happen if I did leave J and run for my time. I looked at his face and saw how he was struggling. I may be able to make the time, but I knew if I left him out there he would find an excuse to give up and walk. He slowed down last year to run my first marathon with me in Columbus and he never once thought about leaving me to get a better time when he could have easily gotten a PR. Running with him the past year has made me the stronger runner I am now and I knew I wouldn't have been feeling so great if it hadn't been for him.
I had to repay him. We trained to run together and we had to finish it together.
I rearranged my game plan and focused on coming in at 4:20 instead of 4:15, but to hit it we needed to speed up a bit. I had to find a way to get him to realize he had the strength in him to do it. In other words, I had to nag him into not giving up. Haha.
We headed back out to Kelly Drive for the last 6 miles and I focused all my energy on him. I basically told him all the same things he had told me the year before in Columbus.
"You trained for this. Don't leave it out there."
"We run this all the time."
"You're doing great."
I must have said that last one 200 times.
Every time I heard his breathing labor, I said it. When I heard other people around us struggling, I ran us away from them so he wouldn't pick up their negative vibes. I told him to just move his legs. I told him to start picking people off. When we got to 23 miles, I reminded him all we had was a 5K. When we got to 24 miles, I told him that 2 miles was nothing and no one complains about a 2 mile run.
And during all of this, I slowly sped up. Hoping he would stick with me and hoping he wouldn't notice.
The most surprising thing out of all of it was how great I still felt. At 25 miles I felt better than I had at any of my previous training runs. I wasn't remotely tired, I was smiling, I had no aches at all and I felt like I still had about a half a tank of gas left. I'm sure a lot of this had to do with the weather and the fact we ran a slower pace than what we trained for. Whatever the reason, I knew that no matter what time we hit, I was going to have my strongest finish of any race ever.
The only exception was mile 26. As we rounded the bend to get to the Art Museum the crowd swelled like crazy. Not only that, but they were crowding onto the route and made it so that you could only fit about 3 people wide. It was the last mile and J and I were trying to book it to come in under 4:20, but we couldn't pass the people who were in front of us. Plus, the crowd was surrounding us and screaming. Their excitement was great, but at the same time made me really nervous and overwhelmed. I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. I had to force myself look down and try to block them out.
The path finally widened up right before we crossed the finish and I grabbed J's arm, who was suddenly sprinting, and pulled him along with me. We crossed the finish and he fell into my arms and thanked me. I was so proud of him for pulling through I was crying. The last 6 miles he really picked up the pace again and finished strong. Not bad for a guy with a cold.
Afterwards, we got a much needed mylar blanket (my first ever) and were handed our medals. We hung them around each others necks and thanked each other for the help and support on another successful marathon together. I was so proud of him for pulling through and honestly proud of myself for not getting so caught up in time that I forgot what was important in running this race with Jeremy.
We grabbed our pretzels, bananas and hot chicken broth (The best thing ever!) from the food tent and met up with all of our cheerleaders that came to see us finish.
Here we are with Karen and Mark.
And here we are the Aubrey, Courtenay and the girls.
Even Rocky was cheering for us!
- 11:54 (water and potty break)
- 8:54 (making up for it)
- 10:36 (hill)
- 9:10 (I got yelled at for running too fast here)
- 10:13 (he thought this mile was run too fast, until I told him the split)