26 mile splits. One sub-7. Nine sub-8s. Eight sub-9s. Eight sub-10s. One marathon.
Mile 1 – 7:24 –“Alright, here we go! Don’t trip over anyone’s feet. Don’t trip over any haphazardly thrown clothes. Find space to run smoothly.”
Mile 2 – 6:57 –“Alright, too fast. Settle in. Run at a pace that you can sustain for 24 more miles. Use the crowd’s adrenaline, but don’t OVERUSE it.”
Mile 3 – 7:24 –“Alright, feeling good but still a little too fast. Slow down or you’re going to regret this at mile 20.”
Mile 4 – 7:53 –“Getting better. This is a little more realistic but still a little fast. The adrenaline got the best of you but it’s not too late to slow down the pace a little more. Still feeling good!”
Mile 5 – 7:52 – “Staying consistent. Very good. Control how the crowd’s energy is influencing you. Don’t let your pace get out of control.”
Mile 6 – 7:42 –“You let the crowd get the best of you. Control your pace. You’re going to regret this. 20 more miles to go!”
Mile 7 – 7:50 – “Still feeling good. Stay focused, it’s a long race.”
Mile 8 -8:15 – “This is hill is going to slow you down a little bit. Focus on one step at a time. The top of the hill will be here before you know it and then it will flatten out again.”
Mile 9 – 7:53 –“You’re doing good. This downhill will make the mile split faster but you have to use the “free” energy when you can get it.”
Mile 10 – 8:27 – “I have no idea where we are. Where is Fairmont Park? I don’t remember this part of the course from last year.”
Mile 11 – 8:16 –“Feeling a little tired but that’s ok. Focus on getting to the half-way point.”
Mile 12 – 7:55 –“We’re almost half way!!! Take a Shotblok, keep drinking water! Maybe Dad and Josh will be around somewhere.”
Mile 13 – 7:58 –“I still have 13 miles to go. How am I going to run 13 more miles?”
Mile 14 – 8:10 – “Alright, use the crowd’s energy again. There will be huge crowds in this section of the race before we’re back out in the middle of nowhere running towards Manayunk.”
Mile 15 – 8:23 – “This wind is ridiculous. There’s no one to draft off of. Everybody is either 25 feet in front of me or 25 feet behind me. This just plain ‘ol sucks.”
Mile 16 – 8:28 – “A guy is yelling to everyone that we ONLY have 10 miles to go….TEN MILES?!? YOU WANT ME TO RUN 10 MORE MILES?!?! If only he knew how far 10 miles seems when you’ve already ran 16 miles before this point..”
Mile 17 – 8:26 – “This wind is horrible. My legs are completely cramped. I want to walk. Running out to Manayunk is miserable. I’m tired. Why is this wind blowing so hard in my face right now?”
Mile 18 – 8:28 – “You should not have ran so many sub-8 minute miles earlier in the race. You’re stupid for doing that, Lyndsey, absolutely stupid!”
Mile 19 – 9:08 – “The turn around point is coming up. Stop throwing yourself a pity party and start running faster. Chug Gatorade and get your head back into this race”
Mile 20 – 9:20 – “Well, I’ve reached the turn around point. I don’t want to run anymore. Everything hurts.”
Mile 21 – 9:18 – “Must. Chug. Gatorade.”
Mile 22 – 9:28 – “Oh, this is bad. This is really bad. I’m going to cry. I am going to cry. I’m going to cry but I have to keep running because if I don’t keep running I’ll never get to put on warm clothes when I cross the finish line.”
Mile 23 – 9:41 – “You need to get yourself back together and get to that finish line. You’ve trained for 3 months and if you don’t PR you know you’re going to be disappointed in yourself.”
Mile 24 – 9:38 – “Only 2 more miles after this. 2 mile is NOTHING! Come on, keep moving, legs!”
Mile 25 – 9:52 – “One mile and you’re done. Just one more mile. Piece of cake!”
Mile 26 -9:22 – “Come on, final stretch. Less than a quarter mile until you reach the finish line. You’re so close!!!”
Mile 26.2 – “OH THANK GOODNESS I’M DONE. I DON’T HAVE TO RUN ANYMORE….I think I’m dead.”
Exactly one week ago I was sitting on my couch feeling exhausted, sore, and accomplished. Just one week ago I finished the Philadelphia Marathon for the 2nd consecutive year with a one minute and 17 second improvement. Three months of long runs, speed workouts, group runs, solo runs, happy feet, sore muscles, and mindful eating/drinking resulted in a 26.2 mile race that took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds. But let’s not start at the finish line where this story would end, just like the race did. Let’s start the two days leading up to the race.
Friday I worked at the marathon expo with Angela and Sparkly Soul. Our adventures to Philly and during the expo are always exciting but what I liked most about working at the expo is that I was able to focus on the race without getting stressed about it. I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were running either the half or the full marathon. I enjoyed myself at the expo because I enjoy selling Sparkly Souls!
Then, I went to work on Saturday. The day wasn’t overly horrible, but I had a lot more time on my hands to worry about the race and the race day weather. I wasn’t surrounded by other runners about to embark on a 26.2 mile race like I was at the expo. I was left with my own thoughts, doubts, and fears.
When I got home I went for a quick 3 mile shake-out run. The wind was already picking up speed. I ate pasta for dinner and went to church to pray for serenity and acceptance of whatever weather I was going to face the next day. It was hard for me to keep my doubts at bay. I went to bed more anxious and nervous than I had been for the past 3 months. I could hear the wind outside my window and I was worried my chances of PR’ing at the race the next day would be literally blown away (no pun intended). My alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I went to bed early.
I woke up and the wind was still whipping. My weather app showed temperatures would reach 48 degrees but the wind chill would be in the mid-30s. For my race outfit, I opted for long leggings, a long sleeve light Under Armour, my Sneakers and Spokes jersey, my gloves that convert to mittens, and my standard Nike ear warmer. I bundled up in extra layers as I walked out the door with my parents and Josh at 4:45 AM because I knew waiting around the corrals would be brisk.
I planned to get to the city by 5:30 AM which would leave plenty of time to find parking, get through security, and use the port-a-potties (ew!). We arrived early so we sat in my dad’s truck for 15-20 minutes to stay warm. When we arrived at the security gates, they told my dad and Josh bikes were prohibited so they locked them up outside of the secure zone and we continued on our way to the starting area.
I was completely disoriented due to the crowds and because the sun still wasn’t up past the horizon yet. I had no idea where the starting line was or in which direction I would be running. I eventually found the green corral and waited with my parents and Josh until closer to the start time. My mom took a few candid pictures and I tried figuring out where the front of the green corral was.
I hesitantly started taking off layers and the chill in the air became evident. I left my sweatpants, 3/4 zip, and sweatshirt with my parents/Josh which left me with a tshirt and a long sleeve over top of my race outfit. I just wanted to be warm.
I’m not sure if I started in the correct corral. All I do know is that I started in the middle of a corral on the right side of the street. After the national anthem, the wheel chair and elite athletes started the race. I began taking off my last two layers on top of my race outfit and tried finding a nice spot to start the race so I wasn’t tripping over clothes that had been haphazardly tossed on the sides of the corral.
Before I knew it, the corral I was in was at the starting line. I double and triple checked to make sure my Garmin had signal as we inched closer toward the starting line. I was happily adorning my Altra Torins and unlike last year, I wasn’t worried about my toes bleeding half way through the race. The wide toe box of Altras is my favorite! We inched closer to the 26.2 miles ahead of us and everyone’s watches around me simultaneously beeped as we crossed the starting strip. The race had begun.
I told myself to start comfortably – don’t go out too hard, pace yourself, don’t do what you did last year. Easier said than done. I ran my first mile in 7:24….not exactly what I set out to do but I consciously told myself to settle in to a more reasonable pace for 26.2 miles. Just like last year I planned to look at my watch every 3 miles so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy looking at my watch 26 times.
For the first 5 miles of the race I was searching through the crowds to find my dad and Josh on their bikes. They had planned to ride parts of the course to cheer me on. I kept searching and searching but I just couldn’t seem to find them. Worst case scenarios started running through my head…maybe someone stole their bikes after they locked them outside the secure zone or maybe they couldn’t get out of the secure zone for some reason. But my thoughts were soon replaced by the overall sensory overload of the race – the noises, the weather, all the people – I was plenty distracted, but still curious as to where my biggest supporters were.
The run down South Street reminded me somewhat of trail running. The road was completely uneven with ruts and holes down the entire length we ran. Not nearly as tough as trail running, but I needed to find humor in something to get me through the next 20 miles.
At mile 6, I distracted myself by searching for a friend who told me she would be at mile 6.5. I kept searching and when I finally found her I threw my hands up in some silly way and gave her a wave and a “hello”. I was still very much happy at this point so doing that required little to no energy.
The race continued toward the zoo and I remember my dad saying he didn’t have any plans on heading toward the zoo so I knew I’d be running the next 5 or so miles without seeing them. Where could they be?!?! There were musicians playing huge drums near the zoo which set a nice beat leading up to the biggest hill of the course. I remember feeling like I was slowing down but I told myself to keep powering through the hill. There were more musicians after the top of the hill who were playing drums. The course took some weird turns that I didn’t remember running last year but all I could do was keeping running forward.
After a long down hill which I took advantage of, we began running next to the path for Fairmount Park. We were approaching the half way point and that’s when I finally got to see my dad and Josh. It was about time they showed up to cheer me on! My dad yelled out that I was right on pace and I couldn’t help but think “right on pace for what?”. I knew I was running fast. I knew I was running too fast but I needed to just keep going.
13.1 miles in 1:44:55. Simple calculations made me realize I was running for a sub-3:30 finish…what kind of torture had I set up for myself in the last 13.1? There was no turning back – what was done was done. I had 13.1 miles to go and I needed to hold on. I was running to PR. That was my only goal – I needed to PR.
The race rounded the front of the art museum. The wind picked up significantly once we were headed in the direction of Manayunk. I tried using the crowd’s energy to augment my adrenaline. I needed to channel their energy into my legs, my body, my mind, my anything.
The 30 MPH wind gusts made me feel like I wasn’t moving forward any more. My feet weren’t landing underneath my body anymore; rather, they were landing slightly to the right of my body. I started cursing in my head. Then out of frustration, I started cursing out loud. I tried latching on to so many people in attempt to draft off of them. I wanted them to block the wind for me. Yet, every person I tried to draft off of was either running too fast or too slow. Nobody around me was running my pace and I became frustrated by that.
I didn’t remember how far away Manayunk was until I was running against 30+ MPH winds. It was so far away. The wind made my hands cold. I was using a lot more energy during my run out to Manayunk than I did in the cumulative 14 miles that came before this point. A guy cheering on the side of the road said “only 10 more miles to go!”…“only”. I wanted to be done.
I knew that I would also be without cheering from my dad and Josh from mile 15 on out because last year my dad didn’t go out towards Manayunk so he could make it back through security and to the finish area in time to see me finish. My new goal was to find Angela. My legs were cramping up, my handheld was empty of water, and I desperately needed a Shot Blok. Without water, I couldn’t eat a Shot Blok so I reached a very low point in the race. I was running with my hands on my quads because they weren’t functioning right. I was getting more and more frustrated at my body for shutting down and I was getting even MORE frustrated at the wind. I needed to find Angela.
I told myself to stop throwing myself a pity party and get myself together. I found Angela and told her she looked great and to keep going (something along those lines). I wished in that moment as she was running back towards the finish line that we were running together so that I could be around someone I knew. I needed someone to distract me from my soreness. But, she was ahead of me and she was running her own race so I had to find a way to get through it myself.
Because my handheld was empty, I switched to chugging Gatorade at every water stop. Gatorade never tasted so good. I was spilling it all over myself because I can’t run and drink from a paper cup simultaneously and I worried that it would make me colder. To my knowledge, it didn’t really make me colder.
Finally I reached the turn around point in Manayunk. My legs were still cramped. My body was exhausted. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream at the wind for making these miles miserable. I started calculating how much time I have versus the miles I had left to run to see if I was still within PR zone. Luckily, I was. As long as I didn’t slow down to 12-13 minute mile pace, I would make it. I told myself that’s completely possible.
There were hills in Manayunk. There were people handing out beer outside of Manayunk. There were runners cramping up on the side of the course in Manayunk. There was wind in Manayunk. I don’t understand how one little town throughout this course could suck so much energy out of me….but it did.
With 4 miles to go, I heard my dad and Josh cheering me on. I was mentally distraught at this point. I threw my hands up in the air after hearing them and covered my eyes trying to fight back tears. I was getting myself all worked up and I wasn’t breathing properly. I needed to compose myself. I had about 45 minutes to run these last 4 miles and still PR. I was racing the clock. I couldn’t break down and cry right here 4 miles away from being done, from being wrapped in a warm heat blanket, or from finding my family and wonderful boyfriend and going home. It’s only 4 more miles.
I switched to playing a little game in my head that Josh used to motivate me with during speed workouts at the local park. He would pick someone anywhere from 200 meters to 1/4 mile away from me and tell me to go catch them. I started doing that to keep my mind distracted from the pain in my legs but only a few people were getting closer to me – everyone else seemed to be getting farther away.
The finish line seemed close but not close enough with only 1.2 miles to go. I told myself that’s only like 10-11 minutes more of running (because my pace was pretty slow at this point). Finally, I could see the starting line. My ears were attentive in attempt to hear one of my three supporters cheering for me. I didn’t hear any of them but figured I’d just somehow missed hearing them with the thousands of other people in the crowd cheering too.
I crossed the finish line and every muscle in my body hurt. My watch read 3:45. I knew I had PR’d and I was extremely happy on the inside despite probably looking unhappy to all the race volunteers. My hands were numb. A running acquaintance of mine wrapped the heat blanket around me. When she asked me how I was, I said “I think I’m dead”. Those are the only 4 words I could fathom saying at that point.
After receiving my finisher’s medal, I walked to the end of the finishing chute. I grabbed a few snacks and a water bottle. I was done. I was done running. My legs didn’t have to run anymore. I could rest. But first, I needed to find my family.
Last year I couldn’t find them so this year we had planned to meet up in the family meet-up area at letter “F” for my last name. There was no family meet-up area this year. I was delusional and completely out of it so my best reasoning was to stand in one spot until one of them saw me. So I waited 5 minutes and I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd. I was shivering uncontrollably. I took it upon myself to ask to borrow a stranger’s cell phone to call my mom. I told my mom where I was and she eventually found me but the police officer wouldn’t let her through to help me. I hobbled over to my mom, past the stubborn police officer, and immediately questioned where dad and Josh were. My mom said they didn’t get through security in time to see the finish so we still needed to find them.
We eventually all found each other and my dad and Josh congratulated me on a great race. I was tired but still happy I ran faster than last year. After Josh and my family helped me put on warm layers, my mom took a picture of my with my medal. I tried to look happier than last year because last year’s picture I looked grumpy.
We started the long, slow, cold walk back to my dad’s truck. I couldn’t stop shivering and stepping off of curbs hurt every muscle in my body. It seemed like the walk took 30 minutes. But I got to tell Josh a little bit about my race which I was happy about.
After returning home and refueling with pizza, I was able to reflect some more about my 2nd official marathon. Despite wanting to improve my time by more than just 1 minute and 17 seconds, considering the windy conditions I am very content with my improvement. Three stressful months of training for 1 minute and 17 seconds of improvement. It’s an unbalanced outcome but it’s an outcome I can be happy with nonetheless.
I don’t plan on running the Philadelphia Marathon again anytime soon because next year and beyond I plan on primarily trail racing. My time with the Philadelphia Marathon has ended and a new chapter of racing for me will begin in April 2017. I obviously didn’t learn last year not to go out too fast because once again I paid for my own stupidity in the second half of the race. My 3:45:07 will stand as my Philadelphia Marathon personal record for many years to come.
The wind didn’t blow my attempt at a personal record away from me; instead, it blew me right in the direction to the type of racing I want to do from here on out.
This past Sunday I ran my first ever marathon – the Philadelphia Marathon. I finished in 3:46:24. Of course I was ecstatic to finish under 4 hours, but I was more excited that I could officially call myself a marathoner. I could now proudly display a 26.2 magnet on the back of my car and I could stop posting on social media about my marathon training (which people may or may not have been getting annoyed at..I’m not really sure). So instead of posting about training for a marathon, I filled social media with posts, tweets, pictures, and videos about the marathon. I’m sure the excitement will dissipate over time, but I still have plenty of people to tell about my 26.2 miles. So here’s a blog post about it to share with the rest of the Internet world my marathon journey.
On Friday, I went to the expo to pick up my race bib, stop by the SparklySoul table and see Angela, pick up some free giveaways, and meet the elite marathoner, Bill Rogers. After picking up my race bib, I was ready to race but the race wasn’t for another 36 hours! So I distracted myself at my dad’s bike/running business by decorating it for Christmas and prepared my race outfit instead. My weather app said the start of the race would be in the high 40s so I opted for a t-shirt and arm sleeves, three-quarter length spandex, gloves, and my “Run Philadelphia” SparklySoul. I was ready to go!
Sunday my alarm went off at 3:39 AM – it was race day! My parents, brother, mommom, and I planned to leave by 4:15 AM. The security gates were scheduled to open at 5 AM so that gave us plenty of time to drive to Philadelphia, find parking, and walk to the security checkpoints. My biggest fear leading up to the race was not getting to the start line in time so I opted to get there extra early to avoid any lines that might start forming for the security checkpoints. We were at my corral by 5:15 AM so I sat on a curb nearby and tried to maintain my body heat in the chilly morning air. I had 3 layers overtop of my race outfit that I planned on tossing to the side right before my corral started (which would be gathered later on by volunteers to donate to homeless shelters). During the 2 hours leading up to the race time, I used the port-a-potties three times, saw people from the local running club I’m a part of, and patiently waited in my corral with an older woman I knew from local races who was also in my corral.
I knew that Angela was in the corral in front of me and that a running friend was in the same corral as me but because of the immense amount of people in each corral, I didn’t get to see either of my fellow running friends prior to the start of the race. Apparently there was a delay due to a car accident on the course so the race started 5-10 minutes late. I completely lost track of time once I was standing in the corral though and I have no idea what time the race actually started. I tossed my clothes to the side and found myself 3 rows back from the front of my corral.
Angela’s corral was sent off and next thing I knew my corral was waiting for the airhorn to signal the start of our race. I vividly remember a huge gust of wind that rushed through the crowd which caused a billowing sigh of surprise to echo throughout the racers. The airhorn sounded when nine minutes showed up on the clock. This basically meant that the elite runners were almost already two miles into the race. I settled into a pace nicely with a comfortable amount of space in front of, to my sides, and behind me. Nobody was tripping over each other’s feet which I was relieved about.
Going into the race, I planned on looking at my watch every 3 miles to ensure I wasn’t running too fast or too slow. At the one mile mark though I opted to check my mile split to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. I ran my first mile in 7:26. Way. Too. Fast. I consciously told myself to slow down and settle into a more reasonable pace that I could sustain for the 25.2 miles that still laid ahead of me.
I saw my dad and my brother on their bikes at about the 3rd or 4th or 5th mile mark (I don’t actually remember what mile it was). I saw a lot of men peeing off to the side of the race course. Not just like one or two. Like 10 people peeing at once. I have never seen something like that ever in my life and, honestly, I never want to see something like that ever again.
I remember seeing a sign that said “four mile frenzy” and then later down the road seeing a sign that said “Run like you’re in the Hunger Games” and it even had the Mockingjay symbol drawn on the side. This made me happy.
I remember passing a house that I assumed was a frat house because there was a bunch of loud and obnoxious college students drinking and yelling up on the porch. It wasn’t even 8 AM at this point in the race. Talk about day drinking.
I remember running down a crowded street in center city and feeling energized by the crowd. The billowing of the cheers and the music made me run faster and I was still feeling the adrenaline of just being in the race itself. I probably should’ve slowed down but my pace felt comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was breathing heavy and my legs felt fine.
I remember seeing a visually impaired runner who was running with his guide. His guide was telling him what was directly ahead of him on the course. I was intrigued by this. I also remember seeing an athlete in a wheel chair. I made sure to encourage him when I passed by with a simple “great job, keep it up”. This inspired me.
I also remember someone say how she always hit a wall as she passed the zoo. I wasn’t even aware that the course ran near the zoo. This was exciting. Next thing I knew we were crossing a very steep but quick bridge and there were spectators banging on huge drums. This made me smile and gave me another burst of energy.
Then there was a hill. The hill didn’t look too long at first but then it kept winding upwards. I told myself that every uphill has a downhill so I would be rewarded at the top with a downhill. There wasn’t a downhill at the top though. Instead, the course leveled off, made 2 quick right turns, and passed another band playing guitars and a drum set. I also remember hearing what I thought was a radio show host talking about runners passing by but I don’t have a clear memory of this.
The course also went around a random circle too. I remember thinking “how silly we must look going around this circle right now”. There’s a lot of random thoughts that go through your head during a race – especially during long races when you have hours to think.
Then the course went down a steep downhill. Finally the downhill I was waiting to be rewarded with. It was a long one and I remember hoping that my quads weren’t being destroyed by the forces being exerted on my feet and legs (thanks, kinesiology class, for instilling this fear in me). Then we were on the outskirts of Fairmount Park and headed back towards the Ben Franklin Parkway. I saw a runner I recognized from local running races and focused on catching up to him. I caught up to him and passed him. Also, across the river I could see marathoners who were probably already 2 miles ahead of me. I was impressed by the fact that these runners were already at that point on the course but I just kept running forward. This all happened right before the half-marathon turn off. I made sure I stayed to the left so that I didn’t accidentally go the wrong way. Once again I was re-energized by the crowd who were cheering on the half-marathoners who were almost done the race. How nice it must be to be almost done. I was only half-way done: 13.1 miles to go.
I was waiting for the 13.1 mile marker to see my half-way split. I think I remember seeing 1:45. My watch was also 0.3 miles off from every mile marker they had on the course. Even for the first mile marker, my watch beeped waaaaay before I passed the mile marker. This upset me continuously throughout the race but I just kept running.
At the half-way point I had looked down at my right shoe and noticed blood seeping through my shoe fabric. My toe was bleeding. Did I lose a toenail? I thought I lost a toenail. I yelled over to my dad that my toe was bleeding. He told me I had plenty of blood to spare and to keep running. So I did. But then my left ankle started to cramp up. Pain radiated down my foot. I started to run with a slight hobble. It hurt. I figured the pain would disappear if I kept running. So I kept running.
First, the wheelchair marathoners started to pass in the opposite direction. They were headed back towards the finish line. Then the elite runners started passing in the opposite direction. Dang, they were fast. I kept looking for the lead woman. She eventually passed by and the runners around me shouted over to her. It was an awesome moment to see the leaders. I had only ever seen lead marathoners on TV. And here they were in person! One word recap for this moment as the running nerd that I am: AWESOME!
I passed the medical tent with a medic who was holding up a thumbs up and a thumbs down. I didn’t need a medic and nobody around me needed a medic so we kept going. I started to look for Angela at this point because I needed some mid-race motivation. A familiar face would surely make me happier. We turned onto a bridge and ran down a hill that I knew we would have to run back up soon. There were a lot of negative thoughts in my head at this moment. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Every step seemed like a nuisance. The course made an extremely sharp turn that killed my momentum, screwed up my stride, and made my feet and legs hurt. We started running back up the hill and back over the bridge. I was hoping that Angela hadn’t already gone back past this part of the course. I really needed to see a familiar face.
We weren’t even in Manayunk yet. How much further until the turn-around-point? It felt like an eternity. The course took a weird turn. I was hoping that I would still see Angela. We were almost in Manayunk. Finally I saw Angela! FINALLY! I think I said “Go, Angela!” (I don’t really remember to make the direct quote) and she replied with a quick “heyyy!” And we kept running.
I knew that two of my parents’ friends were waiting in Manayunk to cheer me on. I was hoping to see them soon too. Then I heard their excited cheers. I wished I was running faster but my legs weren’t moving. My left ankle was cramping up again and I thought I kept feeling my toenail in my shoe. I was running weirdly again. I hadn’t looked at my watch since mile 18 and I didn’t want to check it again until the race was over. I knew I would be disappointed in my slower pace so I refused to look at my watch when it beeped. I also had ran out of water in my hand-held water bottle at this point so I could no longer eat the Shot Bloks I had been eating throughout the race. I needed water to wash them down. So I switched over to taking Gatorade at the hydration stations. Yellow Gatorade, which I usually refuse to drink on any normal day, never tasted so good during this race. I drank every last drop in every cup I grabbed.
Finally we were running back towards the art museum. Only 5ish more miles to. I told myself that 5 miles was basically nothing. I ran 5 miles for an easy run during training. Five. More. Miles. And let me tell you: those 5 miles were the longest 5 miles of my life. My feet weren’t moving. My legs were heavy. I was pretty sure I lost a toenail. I was tired. No…I was exhausted.
At miles 20 and 23 there were people handing out cups of beer. It smelled like beer. I hate the smell of beer.
The finish line seemed like an eternity away. Where the heck was the art museum? Where the heck were the crowds? The only thing I wanted was to sit down and to get the emergency blanket that someone would wrap around me at the finish line. I completely forgot that I would get a medal. I just wanted that blanket. I wanted to be warm.
Then I heard my parents yelling and I finally saw the finish line. My feet definitely weren’t lifting off the ground. Every muscle in my legs were telling me to stop and walk. I just wanted to be done.
Then I saw the mayor of Philadelphia with his hand outstretched for a high five. I think I tried high-fiving him but I ended up hitting some guy that was sprinting towards the finish line. My feet stopped once I crossed that finish line. I’m not sure how my legs didn’t crumble from underneath me. It surely felt like they didn’t want to hold me up anymore.
I was given a medal from a kind volunteer. I also heard someone yell my name and turned to see that it was a runner I knew from the running club I am a member of. I tried my best to muster up energy to acknowledge her excitement and I don’t really remember how I responded. I was definitely delusional at this point. That’s when I remembered I didn’t turn off my watch. So I stopped my watch and saved my run. The race was over.
Another kind volunteer wrapped that emergency blanket around me. It was so warm. I just wanted to sit down and huddle underneath this blanket. But I had to walk through the end of the finish line chute. There was food – I grabbed 3 packets of peanut butter, a random bag of chips, and an apple juice. This is all I could muster up the energy to grab. The finishing chute was at least a half mile long. And even if it wasn’t a half mile, it felt like it. I passed like 10 UPS trucks that had runners’ gear bags in them. I just kept walking at a turtle’s pace. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
I had no idea how I was going to find my family. We didn’t make any plans to meet up anywhere. I just needed to sit. Finally I got to the end of the chute. I kept walking delusionally. I had no idea where to go. I dropped my food that I had grabbed to the ground and resisted sitting down. My family would never find me if I sat. Luckily I saw my mom within 2 minutes and tried calling over to her. She eventually heard me – thank goodness because there was no way I could go chasing after her. She came over and helped me sit down. I was shivering, I was exhausted, and I wanted to sit forever. My dad then found us but stood on the opposite side of the guardrail. My parents forced me to put on a pull-over running sweatshirt. I just wanted to sit forever but I was shivering. Within 4 minutes they told me to stand up so we could go back to our car. A woman who was passing by helped my mom lift me up. My mom took a picture of me with my medal, emergency blanket, and sign that she made. I tried smiling and I thought I was smiling but the picture looks like I’m miserable. You can decide.
Luckily the car was only one block away from where we were. I hobbled slowly towards the car. It probably took me 10 minutes to walk a quarter mile. But then I got in the car and it was warm because the heat was blasting. I didn’t complain. I tried to eat some peanut butter crackers but I wasn’t even hungry.
When I got home I just wanted to take a hot shower. I finally took my shoes and socks off. I expected to only have 9 toenails. Luckily, and thankfully, I still had all 10. My toes just rubbed against each other which had caused them to bleed. I got in the shower. It was so warm.
My stomach started to hurt. I didn’t want food. I also didn’t want to throw up. I ate 4 Ritz crackers and drank some hot chocolate. I wanted to sleep. So I curled up in bed and tried answering the 15 texts that were on my phone from various friends and family members who had tracked my race. Then I fell asleep for 2.5 hours. I woke up and still felt tired and I had a horrible headache. I diagnosed myself with dehydration. Luckily, my mommom had given my a bottle of chocolate milk 2 days before my race so I drank the entire thing to refuel and rehydrate. I then forced myself to drink water. I watched TV and started to fall asleep again. Then my mom made pancakes. I still wasn’t hungry. I ate 3 pancakes. I watched more TV and posted the half-smiling picture of myself on Facebook. Then I talked to John for an hour to tell him all about my day. I had planned on going to bed by 9 but we ended up talking until almost 10. Then I went to bed.
Looking back on this race, it doesn’t seem like I even ran for a continuous 3 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds. It doesn’t seem like I ran 26.2 miles. It just seems like a bunch of back-to-back-to-back 5ks. It’s still hard for me to grasp that I am indeed a marathoner now. Maybe I’m in shock or maybe I’m delusional. Whatever it may be, on the results sheet, I am a marathoner.
The overwhelming amount of support from friends and family, near and far, has made me extremely grateful for the life I am living. I honestly believe that without all the support, I would’ve gone insane. During the race I knew that by getting to certain miles a text would be sent to people who were tracking me. I wanted to make them proud. There were some people that tracked me and I didn’t even know it. So thank you, friends. Thank you, family. You’re the best!
So here I am 3 days later. The pain in my quads is manageable. I ran 2 miles today. This is a continued process of recovering. Will I do a marathon in the future? The answer: HECK YES. I will sign up for another one when my body forgets the pain that it’s been through. But for now, I will continue to be proud that I am a marathoner. I will continue to be proud that I am a runner.
Yes, you can learn a lot about yourself in 26.2 miles. But you can learn a lot more about yourself when you test your limits. Never put a limit on how fast, how far, or how long you can run for. I promise you, you can go the distance when you believe.