Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 2008 Philadelphia Marathon

*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're strong."

"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!


  1. 10:05
  2. 9:38
  3. 9:38
  4. 11:54  (water and potty break)
  5. 8:54   (making up for it)
  6. 9:17
  7. 10:36 (hill)
  8. 9:48
  9. 9:43
  10. 10:19
  11. 10:33
  12. 9:10  (I got yelled at for running too fast here)
  13. 10:04
  14. 9:50
  15. 10:07
  16. 10:13 (he thought this mile was run too fast, until I told him the split)
  17. 10:11
  18. 10:00
  19. 9:41
  20. 10:43
  21. 9:30
  22. 9:48
  23. 9:40
  24. 9:53
  25. 9:58
  26. 10:56 
The splits were all over the place, but with the walk breaks and walking through water stops we couldn't avoid it.

After the race we went to a greasy spoon for breakfast with Karen and Mark and spent the rest of the day snuggling on the couch to keep warm. It was pretty great. 

All in all it was a wonderful (although cold) day for a marathon. The race was fantastic  with a few minor things that need to be fixed. I would still highly recommend this race to people. It's a great time to train because the temperatures get nice and cool for your longer runs and the course really takes you through some beautiful and fun parts of the city. It was a great time. I'll definitely do it as often as I can while I live here. I really enjoyed seeing my new home through the eyes of a runner.

And next year Diddy, your ass is mine!


Sonia said...

Great report!! I teared up a little at the finish line!

You are a great team =) You have become such a strong runner Laurel, I'm so happy for you! Finishing 26 miles and thinking it is a piece of cake has never happen to me! LOL That's something to celebrate!

Congrats to J for sticking with you, when you've been sick and it'S not your day, it's hard to push through, he had a good coach!!

So happy for you guys!! And what a FRAEAKIN AMAZING PB!!!! 17 mins is totally insane!!!!!!!!! =)

Progman2000 said...

Wow, congrats - look at that last 10k - woohoo!

ShoreTurtle said...

Congratulations to you both! I'm happy for you. Kudos to Jeremy--I can't imagine running a marathon with a cold. Great race recap. I like the photo of you two at the finish--you really were sprinting! I agree with Progman. The splits for the last 10K are impressive.

Denise said...

GREAT report and congrats on the PR!! I got tears in my eyes reading about your finish. I agree with you, the meaning behind the race is so much more important than the time. Congrats to BOTH of you and tell J to rest up!!

We'll have to plan a run at Forbidden drive some time to share our marathon stories!

BeachRunner said...

Congrats to you guys. Awesome post, great pics. The PR is terrific. I was tracking you all the way and couldn't be happier for you. Way to go. I wish I could give you homies a great big hug - we will have to settle for virtual high fives. Well done!!!

Aron said...

WOW laurel... i am totally tearing up from your report :) what an AMAZING team you guys are!!! way to stay strong and keep the positive energy and push J along with you. you ran such an amazing race and a 17 min PR!!! so freaking awesome! CONGRATS!!!

Chic Runner said...

Congrats on so many things, a PR, a great race and a happy finish! :) I loved reading your report! I felt like I was there and you make me want to run a marathon. Way, way, way to go!

Runner Leana said...

Laurel, congratulations on your PR! It sounds like you made the right decision to stay with Jeremy and run a strong race together. The fact that you did all 26.2 miles together means a lot more than a few minutes or seconds shaved off. It sounds like a fantastic race despite the cold. Great job!

FLYERS26 said...

Great job!
It's great that the 2 of you finished together.

Awesome report, it was like I was there... oh yea, I was..
Those water stops where scary.. lots of ice.

CA said...

Congratulations on your PR!

I'm new to your blog.

Did you do most of your training on asphalt or what type of surface?

Kristin said...

Congrats Laurel!!!! confession: I think I saw you and jeremy at the expo..and I chickened out saying hello.... and after seeing your picture on your post I know I saw you! Next time I'll say hi!!! WOW you kicked asphalt... hahaha. You are so good to run with Jeremy like that. It feels great to know you are motivating someone on doesn't it?!? I cried too, and where the heck did that hill on river drive come from... that was so sneaky! Anyways, thanks for your support the few days before the marathon! I think I'll stick around this blog thing. How long are you going to wait to run?

Unknown said...

Great run and report. I loved how you two finished together. That would be awesome.

Kaytie said...

Congrats on your race! I'm a regular reader and fellow running blogger. I don't normally leave comments, but I was one of the people handing out beer at mile 19. I just wanted to take a second and say that I'm glad we could offer some distraction and encouragement. We're all so proud of the marathoners. It's a great accomplishment!

I wrote a quick post about what the day was like for us spectators. If you want to see it from the beer check's point of view, read


Bert said...

Congrats Laurel! You deserve a second medal for staying with Jeremy! Nice to see a good strong finish over the last few miles.

joyRuN said...

Awesome race report! Now I know what all I missed staring at the asphalt in front of me ;)

I know Jeremy appreciated having you stay with him. I'm forever thankful to the girl who ran with me the last few miles, because if it weren't for her, I would've been a crumpled heap at mile 23.

Unknown said...

Awesome post race report. You gave me a lot of goose bumps !!! Your description of the race was exactly what I went through. I know it was freaking weird to go through every water station as if it was like a small ice rink. Just come to think of this... I was 5 minutes behind you. We must have crossed path!!

CONGRATS to you and Jeremy for getting the job done!

Now, this will be my last "frozen" marathon. I am looking for "warmer" marathon to sign up.

N.D. said...

Awww, I got all butterflies in my stomach and teary!!! I think you made the right choice sticking with your partner the whole time. You'll never forget it and you supported each other. Great job! You had a great time and what is better - you know you could have gone faster if you weren't a super WIFE!! I thought I was the only one that peed in a bush, some lady noticed me with her kid and I felt so dumb. It was great reading your report and I know it was a hard decision and finish going slower than you had to, but you did great and had a GREAT PR!!! Great job!
That relay thing sounds fun so keep me updated on that!

P.O.M. said...

Yeah! I loved this report. Congrats on your PR and sticking with your hubby. You're awesome!

We're trying to figure out our next fall marathon... thoughts?? Where will it be that you will kick Diddy's ass?

Before I'm 35 said...

Congratulations Laurel! And an awesome race report. Sounds like it was rough there for most of the race, but kudos to the both of you :)

SuperDave said...

That was such a wonderful race report that I even read through it twice. You are such a good woman for your man and that is very cool and sweet. You concentrating on him probably kept your mind off of your pain.
Great job on your race. With all the energy you had for this one, you will be shattering any records for your next! Watch out Diddy, here come Laurel!
Very cool medal! I want one!!

Irish Blue said... have got to share your training secrets with me! That is an awesome PR and you never left your guy...that's so darn sweet.

The pics are fab. You look great!!

Unknown said...

Good job and nice post. It's nice that you finished together. That's often worth more than hitting your goal time. Besides, you still did really well. :-)

Christie said...

That was a great race report. You were in the zone. And yes, I think you will kick Diddy's ass. I never cared for him anyway.

Marci said...

Awesome job, wow 17 minutes is huge and it sounds like it was effortless for you!! Way to kick asphalt! Thanks for the pics too!

Anonymous said...

Awesome!! What a wonderufl race report. I love that you stuck with Jeremy. I am sure it meant so much to him to cross the finish line with you.

You will have plenty of chances to PR and it will be sweeter than if you PR'd at Philly. Great pictures too.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

P.O.M. said...

PS: Check out runners lounge this week:

X-Country2 said...

Okay, that race report totally made me tear up. What a great way to run a race!

Jolene said...

Congrats on the PR, but even better- that you did it together with your husband! How awesome!!! You guys look so happy together. And I LOVE the race tagline, very catchy/edgy! I'm gonna start ripping it off! Great job! Diddy will be your bitch next time!

Shoe Running said...

Awe! I got tears in my eyes reading about your pep talk for j and staying back with him :) Definitely more important to help a friend than to beat diddy anyway...I think :) But beat'n diddy will for sure happen!

Great work Laurel

Casey said...

I am such a softie, I totally teared up. You guys did flippin awesome! You are my hero for peeing in bushes. I mean that; I'll have to store that in my memory next time I'm in a big race and have to GO!

Unknown said...

Trust me, my wife reads my blog and agrees with almost everything that I write. She is still not admitting to poisoning me however.

Marcy said...

CONGRATS CHICA!!! What an awesome race report! You both did fabulous! ;D ;D You're such a loving wife. I would've ditched Mr McG right at the start HAHA (I'm kidding!)

Ooooo girl, you and me both with the Diddy. Next year will will do it FO SHO!

Jess said...

For some reason, this post didn't show up in my reader until today. So, very belated congrats! Excellent report.

Frayed Laces said...

Way to go! The most important thing? You beat Oprah!

zanne said...

Great report! So so so awesome! Totally teared up - congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Great report! I have tears in my eyes. What a great running team you two are, for sticking together through thick and thin.

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