The 2008 Philadelphia Marathon started out COLD. It was about 25 degrees when we woke up and probably still hadn’t gotten above 30 when the race started.
We had quite a crew running that day. My dad came in to run the half marathon. Jen ran the 8K. Our college friend, Roz, and her two roommates also ran the marathon. So we all froze our butts off together waiting for the race to finally start.
My game place was roughly to run 6:40s in the first half, which would put me around 1:27. This would give me some cushion for the slowdown that I now know will happen after mile 20. I also felt like this was a pace that would be a bit challenging but wouldn’t totally kill me.
The gun went off, and I took started at a pretty comfortable pace. I’ve done enough marathons now to avoid the tendency to get excited and start too fast. I didn’t see the first mile marker, so I had to just hope I was running the right pace. I came through 2 miles in 13:00, which was a little bit faster than I expected but not by too much.
Then I basically started churning out a bunch of miles between 6:10 and 6:30. It was faster than I had planned for, but I really was feeling surprisingly good and relaxed. I ran into a guy from the DC RoadRunners, Kevin, who I train with pretty frequently around mile 4. He typically finishes in the low to mid 2:50s, so I knew I was moving pretty fast to have caught him. I ran with him until about mile 9, and it was nice to have the company.
My only low point came somewhere in mile 9. Kevin was quickly pulling away, so I was worried that I was slowing down. I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing the pace anymore though, so I let him charge ahead (he went on to finish in 2:49 – amazing!). I must have also missed a mile marker, which made me even more nervous that I might be slowing down.
Around this time I got a weird cramp in my side too. It was definitely too early for that to be happening. I was pretty worried, but figured all I could do was keeping running and hope it would get better. Well, luckily it did. When I came to the next mile marker I discovered I actually rant the last 2 miles in 6:25s. Game on.
Mile 9 has the biggest hill on the course. The nice thing about running ultras in the mountains is that hills just don’t seem so scary anymore. This hill was like a bump in the road compared to Agony Hill or Suicide Six in Vermont.
I came through 10 miles in 6:27 pace and the half at about 6:30, which put me just under 1:25. My legs were definitely starting to get tired, but I was pretty I sure I could manage faster than 1:35 in the second half.
I kept charging hard for the next 4 or 5 miles and managed to stay in the 6:40s. But I started to really hurt between 17 and 18. I was struggling to stay on pace and keep focused. Mile 19 to 20 was another low point. This is right before your turn around at mile 20, so you’re really tired at this point and still running away from the finish, which is very mentally difficult.
I finally turned around at mile 20 and between heading back to the finish and the boom box blaring the Rocky Soundtrack, I had nice boost that carried my through the next mile (hearts on fire, baby). My legs were screaming by mile 21, though. I was fighting with all I had to hold on. I was still managing to hold 6:55 to 7:00, but I was fading fast. I was also starting to feel like I was going to throw up.
By Mile 23 I had the stop drinking at aid station to keep from vomiting. My legs were also hurting badly. It was worse than I had felt in previous marathons, and similar only the pain towards the end of the 100. I think my ultra training really paid off though, because I was able to push through the pain much better than in previous marathons. I don’t think I ever went slower than 7:20.
I keep charging with all I had towards the finish. I went by Roz and her friend somewhere around this point as they headed in the other direction. They both looked great and shouted encouragement for me. I was unable to speak at the time and managed only a vague point/wave. They both went on to great finishes, so congratulations to them! Roz's other roommate, Stacy, also went on to finish her first marathon. Welcome to the club, and congrats Stacy!
By 24 I knew I was going to make it under 3 hours, but I really wanted it to be over. As much as I hurt and as delirious as I was getting, I was able to feel excited that I was finally going to do it.
I hit the 25 mile marker and tried to push with all I had to get to the finish line. I was struggling mightily and on the limit of how much I could handle. After the 26 mile marker I had something vaguely resembling a kick and pushed it over the finish line in 2:55:43.
I could barely stand up let alone walk, but I was thrilled. I made it! After training so hard and so long, I finally went under 3 hours (and with room to spare). I teetered over to Jen and Dad who were right there to congratulate me and take care of me. I also forgot to grab a finisher’s medal, but luckily they reminded me to grab one.
Dad had ended up with a great half marathon finish. My parents are moving soon, so he’s been running around like crazy. It wasn’t his fastest half marathon, but it was still a great time, particularly given how tired he was going into it. Jen also had fun running the 8K despite a brief battle with frostbite 2 miles in. She is the only person I know to have stopped in the middle of a race to massage feeling back into her feet.
Well it was definitely emotional to have achieved a goal I worked so long towards. I was elated and totally spent. It took me 45 minutes to slowly hobble to the car that was only a few blocks away. After a short nap, I actually felt a lot better. The day after I felt surprisingly good too. I seem to be able to recover much more quickly from marathons now.
This was a memorable experience and a big milestone for me. That being said, I’m already excited about what’s next. I’d love hear plans that any of you have as well. Hopefully I can join you all for some races. Keep on running, keep on making it happen.