If you read my last post then you might be wondering what I decided to do the morning of the marathon. Having never visited Philadelphia and staying about 15 minutes outside of the city I was concerned about finding somewhere to park. The marathon website had some information about road closings and parking options. I found out that the train stop closest to the hotel didn’t begin operating until 8 a.m. – no good. The woman at the hotel desk suggested maybe calling a taxi which would have cost a small fortune. With about 30,000 runners set to descend on the city I didn’t know what to expect the morning of the race so I decided to err on the side of caution. I set my alarm for 3 a.m. and drifted off to sleep.
All too soon I was up, showered (yes I shower before races) and ready to go. I checked out of the hotel and hit the road Philly bound. I was armed with 3 sets of directions to various parking lots just in case. There were few cars on the road so I made it into the city in no time. After a couple of missed turns I finally found one of the parking lots. The woman at the gate welcomed me with her raspy good morning as she blew cigarette smoke in the cold air. She said I could park all day as long as I had exactly $8 because she had no change. For someone who never carries cash I had thought ahead and lo and behold I had $9 in cash in my wallet. I paid up and pulled into a parking spot.
Soon other cars began to follow suit. We all stayed in our cars to keep warm. I ate my pre-race bagel, banana and peanut butter while listening to comedy on Sirius radio. Around 5:20 I decided to walk over to the starting area to find a port-a-potty. A perk of getting to the race early is still unused port-a-potties. Thanks to the flashlight app on my iPhone I did not have to pee in the dark.
I walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where many runners were stretching and warming up. I climbed the famed “Rocky Steps” and took in the early morning view from the top. Sadly I have no photos as it was still too dusky to capture the scenery. I found a secluded spot to do some stretching and tried to channel my own inner Rocky. I told myself to just enjoy the day, do my best and smile along the way.
Around 6:30 I called home to say good morning to Orlando and Carlos. Wow I missed them so much. Carlos is a bit (understatement of the year) of a mama’s boy. He was happy and sad to talk to me. He told me to hurry up and get home because he missed me too much. Orlando wished me good luck. I hung up and walked around the starting area in search of my corral. I was in the orange corral, second to last corral to start. I found a spot and waited. I listened to lots of stories around me. There were a few first time marathoners and two women who were supposed to run the NYC marathon a couple of weeks ago before the destruction of Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the marathon. Philadelphia opened up a lottery to welcome 3000 runners registered to run the NYC marathon. All throughout the race it was great to see the outpouring of support for those runners most of whom were wearing their orange ING race shirts making them easy to spot.
At 7 a.m. the race began…for some. It took nearly 30 minutes before I crossed the starting line. We moved in slow motion it seemed. The sheer volume of runners was massive. As we left the starting chute the road swelled from side to side with people trying to run. It was difficult to get any sort of momentum because of the crowd. Eventually I was able to get into my groove. As always the supporters along the course especially in the beginning and at the end make me smile from ear to ear. I get such a kick out of the signs along the way. Here are a few that I remember and enjoyed:
“WTF, Worst Parade Ever”
“You’re a better running mate than Sarah Palin.”
“If you were Paul Ryan you’d be done by now.” (somewhere not too far from the beginning)
The miles began ticking by and I was feeling great. The weather was perfect. I was comfortable in my pace. I knew I was holding around a 10 minute mile. Suddenly I saw the 4:30 pacer not too far in front of me. I know the pacers are out there, but I’d never actually seen them. I managed to catch up to the runner holding the balloons with the 4:30 sign which meant he would finish the marathon in exactly that time, 4 hours and 30 minutes. Hmmm I thought if I stay ahead of him I might actually beat Oprah’s time of 4:29:15 from her one and only marathon the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994. It’s all in good fun to try to beat celebrity times. I’ve already surpassed Katie Holmes, Al Gore and Kate Gosselin (of John & Kate Plus 8).
At mile 13 we bid the half marathoners adieu as they turned to the right to finish their race. The marathoners veered to the left and enjoyed a bit more open space on the road. Let’s do it all over again I thought as we headed into mile 14. I couldn’t believe how great I felt though. I think one of the best parts about doing a new race in a new place is that the course is a total surprise. I never get bored because I’m not sure what’s coming up. We passed Penn and Drexel universities. We ran past the Philadelphia Zoo and down Landsdowne Drive, through the Manayunk District and alongside the Schuylkill River. There were historical landmarks, a park, a bridge, shops, cafes and skyscrapers.
Somewhere around mile 17 my legs began to ache. I stopped for a Clif Shot and water. I walked through the hydration station and as I started up again I saw the 4:30 pacer ahead. Damn it! I stayed at a steady pace waiting for my legs to ease up in hopes that I could manage a fast spurt to catch up to the pacer once again. It never happened. He was gone, lost in the crowd and out of my view. OK I thought move on and keep moving.
From mile 18-26 the name of my game was just keep running no matter how fast or how slow. And just like that my marathon went from the best race of my life to a mental challenge. Oh how those last miles dragged on by, each one seemed longer than the last. Finally I was at mile 24. I kept telling myself to run and if a hill came I could walk it. I’m not sure why I thought there would be a hill ahead, but there wasn’t. No hill appeared so I kept running…slowly. My legs were sore and my feet hurt. Despite the pain never once did I contemplate quitting. Then in the distance waved the Mile 25 flag. I smiled knowing it would be over soon. As I passed the mile marker my pace kicked up a notch.
For the previous 6 miles or so fan support was thin but I could hear the crowds cheering as I got closer to mile 26. As I rounded the bend and the Museum of Art came into my view along with the last mile marker I felt a force surge through my body. My legs started to move like I was running my very first mile. The emotions welled up and I fought back the tears as I sprinted the last half of a mile to the finish line. I was by myself. People cheered for me by name reading it off my race bib as I passed by. I crossed the finish line and blinked back the tears as I wrapped the foil blanket around my shoulders. When the medal was placed over my head I could no longer hold back and I cried tears of joy, disbelief and awe.
As I walked through the crowd I was overwhelmed by the way I felt. I didn’t even know my time yet. It didn’t really matter because I knew I did exactly what I had set out to do…run MY best race.
In 2012 I have:
- Run 2 full marathons
- Run 2 half marathons
- Run 2 – 10Ks
- Successfully lost 12 pounds and counting (more on this soon I promise)
- Spent 3 days roaming around Atlantis in the Bahamas in nothing but my bathing suit (a skirt tankini mind you but can I get a holla for improved body image!)
- Applied and was accepted into Graduate School
- Attended a Zumbathon
- Took ice skating lessons
- Traveled to new places
The Philadelphia Marathon’s slogan Redefine Possible couldn’t be more fitting to describe my year and what this race meant to me. However, I almost think redefine impossible would be more applicable. In this year alone I have truly redefined what I always believed was impossible for me.
My official time for the Philadelphia Marathon was 4:38:52. This is almost 10 minutes better than my Disney Marathon time of 4:48:19.
I set running goals this year such as running a 10K in under and hour and for fun to beat Oprah’s marathon time. I haven’t accomplished either goal yet, but you better believe I will.
Thanks for reading this crazy long post. Now go redefine your possible!