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.
Ask mostly anyone that knows me as a runner and they’ll reassure you that I hate speed workouts. Work out days are the days I’ve never looked forward to in all of my running life. I’d rather run 12+ miles than run six 1/2 mile repeats at a fast pace. Yesterday however has left me on a speed workout high. I felt strong yesterday, I felt in control of my pace, and my legs didn’t feel sore. After finishing the workout I felt confident for my race and happy that the workout went so well.
I told Josh on Tuesday that I needed to do a speed workout. I needed to either do a 6 mile tempo run or a 6 mile progression run, either with a mile warm-up and a mile cool down. I was leaning more towards the progression run and Josh seconded my choice. He even told me that he loved doing progression runs at his local park. So it was decided, I would be doing a 6 mile progression run.
Since Josh is recovering from his marathon in the Cat Skills, he would accompany me during the workout on his bike. It was a brisk fall evening and I was worried he wouldn’t be warm enough through the next 8 miles. Turns out, I should have also worried for myself not being warm enough. I ran .75 miles to the park and reached the mile mark in 8:49. That warm-up mile set my pace for the rest of the run – all my miles had to be faster than 8:49.
My first progression run mile was an 8:02. It didn’t seem like an 8:02 and I was still having a full conversation with Josh at this point. It didn’t even seem like I picked up the pace 47 seconds from my warm-up mile. I had no choice but to pick it up once again into the 2nd progression mile.
I clocked the 2nd one in 7:49. Once again, I never felt like I picked it up THAT much. I was honestly only expecting to pick it up about 5 seconds faster per mile. I was still talking to Josh every so often at this point as he told me a few stories from his work week.
3rd progression mile was in 7:40. Another 9 second drop. I still felt strong and I tried to limit myself to a 5 second drop for the next mile so that I could actually finish all 6 miles in some sort of progressive pace. Josh’s hands were numb from the cold air coming off the river. I wanted to run faster so we could get back into his warm house faster. But 3 miles was still a long way to go.
4th mile: 7:29. An 11 second drop. I told myself I only had 2 more loops to do in the park. Only 2 more times that I would have to push the pace. Only 2 more times until we could run home and get warm. I wanted Josh to be warm.
5th mile: 7:16. A 13 second drop. Well, shoot. This was the mile Josh told me to catch up the another girl that was running around the park. I knew I could catch her so I focused on doing so, and I did. That resulted in the 7:16. This is also the mile I thought about the huge Reese’s peanut butter cookie I had bought us from my visit to Smithville earlier in the day. That cookie would taste so good once I got done this workout.
One final mile. Josh told me to push the pace hard. It was only one more mile. I told myself I could try my hardest to get a sub-7. That would be INSANE. Josh knew a sub-7 mile was within my reach. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. Knowing my luck, I had this feeling I would run a 7:01. Close, but not close enough. This loop Josh told me to catch up to a guy that was running around the park. This made me mad because I was tired. He seemed so far away. But I caught him. I went by him with my strained breathing and he probably thought I was having an asthma attacked. I forced out a “hello” and a smile. Josh told me once we crossed the park’s driveway that I had to pick it up. Only .25 miles to go. He told me that I have a marathon to PR. He was right so I had no choice but to listen to him. My watch beeped to tell me the mile was complete.
6:55. My watch flashed a 6:55 up on the screen. I yelled out “DONE!”, threw my hands up in the air, and laughed. A 6:55. How did I manage a sub-7 mile, 7 miles in to my 8 mile run after clocking an 8:02, 7:49, 7:40, 7:29, AND a 7:16? I couldn’t stop laughing. A mix of happiness, relief, shock, love, exhaustion, and strength flooded down on me.
And then I realized that my arms were completely numb from my fingertips all the way up past my wrists. My fingers could barely push the buttons on my Garmin Forerunner. My hands and wrists hurt more than my legs. Josh and I were both excited but freezing. We needed to make our way a mile back home. He was shivering, I was shivering, we needed warmth.
I finished my mile cool down in absolute ecstasy. For most of my cool down I was still in absolute shock that I had finished with a 6:55. For some people, a 6:55 isn’t a big deal. That might be their norm. Speed is relative. I haven’t ran a sub-7 mile since 4th of July when I ran a 6:45 as the 1st mile of a 4 mile race. Some people run 6:55 miles during marathons. Some people run faster than 6:55 miles during marathons. But for me, I push myself to get to a 6:55 and I couldn’t be happier with achieving that.
That 6:55 mile left me feeling strong, confident, and more ready than ever to take on this Philadelphia Marathon in 23 days. Although I don’t plan on running anywhere close to 6:55 pace, knowing I can progressively push my body even when it’s tired or cold is powerful in itself. I’m still on a high from yesterday’s workout. The workout showed me that hard work pays off, sometimes you just have to be patient.
You might not be able to run a 6:55 at first, but over time as more and more miles are ran, you might just progressively reach that 6:55 – even if it takes many miles into your workout.
This past Sunday I raced the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This was the culminating race of the Runner’s World Half Marathon Festival after a weekend of various races.
Because I had to work a 12 hour shift on Saturday, this race weekend was slightly different than most race weekends for me. I wasn’t able to visit the 2-day expo hosted by Runner’s World as I was forced to pick-up my bib on race morning due to other “adult responsibilities”. I also wasn’t able to run the day before the race which was a huge mental barrier for me. Because I worked 6:45 AM until 7 PM, I had little to no choice than to skip a pre-race shake-out run. I didn’t want to wake up at 5 AM and go for a shake-out run because I feared running by myself so early in the morning and I didn’t want to run at 8 PM after work because that would cut in to my sleep the night before the race – after all, we had to leave for the race at 3:30 AM.
I consumed my carbo-loading pasta dinner after getting done my 12 hour shift, packed up some last minute things for race morning, and was in bed by 9:30 PM. My alarm was set for 3 AM which would leave me with 30 minutes to get my race outfit on and get out the door.
I was grateful to have my mom with me on race day as my dad and Josh were racing an adventure race at Brandywine the same day. We left the house around 3:35 AM and started out towards Bethlehem with the full moon shining high in the sky. We passed about 7 total cars within the 30 minute drive to the highway we needed to get on. The roads were dark and the rest of the world was still fast asleep.
Half way to Bethlehem, I realized I forgot my red Gatorade in the fridge so we stopped at a Wawa off the Turnpike since we knew we would have plenty of time to spare once we arrived to the race location. I opted for a blue Gatorade and continued on our way.
We arrived at the designated race parking lots around 5:25 AM and nobody was around. The parking lots were dark and empty, and I actually questioned whether I had the right date for the race. We asked a security guard where to park and he directed us to a different lot. Still the only ones parked in a huge parking lot, we gathered our belongings and I double and triple checked that I had everything I needed.
All of the pre-race emails designated these particular lots as the only lots available for parking, so my mom and I had no choice but to walk 1.5 miles to the Arts Quest building for bib pick-up. Here we were, at 5:30 AM walking down Daly Ave in the dark past the start, Sands Casino, and the outlets both layered with warm clothes.
We finally arrived to the Arts Quest building and I was able to pick up my race bib and race shirt. I am quite disappointed with the size of the long sleeve shirt I received. Usually I fit comfortably into a small, but the volunteers at the shirt pick-up warned me the sizes were running small. So, heeding to their warning, I opted for a medium. When I got home and actually put on the medium, the sleeves were about 2 inches too short, and the shirt just didn’t fit right. Believe me, I don’t do these races for the race shirts or the medals, but if Runner’s World expected me to wear this shirt around to advertise their race, they’re going to be quite disappointed in me.
Regardless, my mom and I hung out in the Arts Quest building until about 7 AM to stay warm before walking 3/4 of a mile back to the starting line. I used the bathroom two more times (my nerves were really getting to me!). We started our walk back to the starting line and by this time, Josh was awake so I was able to update him on safely making it to the race with ample time to spare! While we were walking my mom and I also got to talk to one of the pacers for the race who was pacing the 8:25 goal-pace runners. I told him I hoped to be ahead of his pace group the entire time and I hope I didn’t offend him. He didn’t seem offended and he wished me luck as he continued down a different road to a warmer place to wait out the remaining time until the start.
At 7:25 AM I decided to go on a 15 minute warm-up run to get the blood flowing. I ran back to the bathrooms at the Art Quest building since no bathrooms were available at the start line but was appalled by the line and couldn’t afford to wait in line. I located another bathroom which was just as bad of a wait so I decided to do some exploring on my own and located a much less popular bathroom in the outlets at Sands Casino. Turns out, there were about one hundred runners in this building waiting inside to stay warm until the race started – it wasn’t even that cold out!
After locating and using the bathroom for the third time that morning, I ran back to the start to meet my mom before the race started. At this time, I opted to run in my spandex shorts, my Sneakers and Spokes singlet, and arm sleeves. I had been debating all morning whether to run in my shorts or 3/4 length tights but running in shorts was definitely a good choice! I striped off my layers one by one as the starting time quickly approached. I told my mom to head down the street a ways as she would have a better chance of seeing me in the mass of people further down the street.
At this time, I also found Tiffany, our previous Altra tech rep for Sneakers and Spokes, and I was so excited to see her! She had won the 3.8 mile trail run on Friday, and also raced the 5k and 10k Saturday, and here she was ready to take on the 13.1 mile race as well (click here to read her race recap!). We were both very excited that we found each other in the mass of people. We wished each other good luck and by that time it was just about time to start.
I found myself towards the front of the crowd as nobody seemed too ambitious to start towards the front. After the national anthem, the gun was shot off and the mass of runners started their way down Daly Ave. The start was on a downhill so it seemed that everyone was moving pretty quickly. I knew it was going to be a fast mile but I felt comfortable and knew once it flattened out that I could settle in to a pace. We made a few turns and crossed a bridge, then the uphills started.
My goal for this race was to run a 1/2 marathon PR of sub-1:41 but I didn’t expect the course to be nearly as hilly as it was. It seemed that every half mile was either an uphill or a downhill. The uphills got my heart rate up, and the downhills destroyed by quads. After every downhill, it would take me nearly a quarter of a mile to regain a consistent pace and by that time we were going back uphill. It was a vicious cycle and I remember thinking numerous times that I just wanted the race to be over and done with already….we were only 3 miles into the race.
The course weaved us through some streets of Bethlehem – the main street in Bethlehem which was lined with about 100 or so spectators, and back neighborhood streets of Bethlehem that got me questioning where I was. I had no idea where I was the entire race and the neighborhoods we ran through were quaint and quiet. The course wasn’t lined with spectators like big city races and I was actually somewhat disappointed that not more spectators were out and about – I was under the assumption that this was a big event for Bethlehem. I guess I was wrong.
Mile 6 brought a huge uphill that seemed to go on forever. I knew at the 10k mark that a text would be sent to my family and friends tracking me so that motivated me to get to that point but I still felt tired and ready for the race to be done. I knew how much the uphills were slowing down my pace so I tried to make up as much time on the downhills as my legs would permit. Other racers kept passing me – I actually don’t think there was a single person that I personally passed from mile 2-11. Everyone seemed to be passing me. I kept thinking that I must really be slowing down and I had a feeling that 8:25 pacer we met earlier was going to also pass me (he never did).
At the 10 mile mark the clock read 1:18. After some quick calculations, I realized a PR was out of reach but I could try my best to run under 1:45. That became my new goal. We crossed the bridge again to get back to the finishing area and a fellow racer was alternating between running and walking. I figured he probably just was cramped up or maybe pulled a muscle. When I eventually did pass him I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine. I kept running hoping he was indeed fine.
We passed the finishing area and looped back around for an additional 1/2 mile until the finish. At this time, I saw a fellow South Jersey runner that I know by association (check out her race recap here). She told me I was doing a great job but at this point I felt absolutely horrible and I was sure I was running very very slow. In the last 1/2 mile I got a painful stitch right below my rib cage that pulled with every step. It hurt but I had no choice but to keep moving forward.
The finishing stretch included a local high school band playing pep songs, and spectators lining the last 200m of the race. I tried my best to look strong and to finish strong but my legs weren’t moving very fast. People kept passing me. I just wanted to be done. I crossed the finish line next to a man carrying an American flag. My finishing time was 1:43.
I was handed a medal and a heat blanket. It didn’t feel nearly as warm as the one after the Philadelphia Marathon but I was grateful for it. I walked over to grab from an array of snacks. I picked up some veggie straws, granola bars, and a chocolate bar (mmm chocolate!). I met my mom at our designated meeting spot and she congratulated me. We walked over to a sculpture and she took a few pictures of me. I tried my best to look happy even though I felt physically drained.
My feet felt great in my Altra Torins. I didn’t get any blisters and I was happy to have raced in my Torins as the race was sponsored by Altra – this was actually one of the main reasons I signed up to run this race!
My mom informed me that there was a platform that ran along the steel stacks if I wanted to go up there and check it. This required me to climb 3 flights of stairs but I made it to the top. I got an awesome view of the finishing area and the rest of the runners finishing.
After that, we made our way back to the car which was yet another 1.5 miles away. This was a much slower walk than earlier in the morning. Luckily when we arrived back to the parking area there were actually cars parked in the lots from other races. That made us feel better about our choice to park so far away – after all, we were only following the instructions listed specifically in the race emails.
I changed into warmer clothes and we started our drive back home. My legs ached and I was exhausted. Although I didn’t run a 1/2 marathon PR like I intended too, I was happy with the fact that I got in a solid training run for my marathon. The marathon is my bigger goal and this 1/2 was just conveniently at the mid-point of my training. My splits weren’t as consistent as I would have liked them to be, but due to the rolling hills throughout the course I have accepted them for what they are. Now I know that the next 2 weeks of marathon training before tapering need to be solid training weeks. My body needs to be ready for 26.2 miles.
Organization – I would give this race an “A” for organization. Offering race day bib pick-up was convenient and the race was very well organized. There are two things keeping me from giving this race an A+ – the inconvenience of parking and not having bathrooms available at the start line.
Swag – I would give this race a “B-” for swag. Knowing how big of a company Runner’s World is, I expected quality swag. I am very disappointed in the situation with the race shirts. However, I do like the medals that were handed out for the race – it also functions as a bottle opener!
Course – I would give this race a “B” for the course. I wasn’t overly impressed with where the course brought the runners, as there were very many desolate and quiet sections of the course (“how the heck did we get here?!”). If you’re looking for a more challenging half marathon this is the race for you! Do not expect a PR, but do expect a nice challenge for both your quads and your calf muscles!
Spectator-friendly – I would give this race a “B-” in regards to how spectator friendly it was. My mom was only able to see me at the start and the finish. There weren’t very many spectators throughout the course, however most of the spectators congregated around the start/finish area. If you’re looking for a race that will keep your adrenaline flowing for the entire course, you may want to look for a different race.
Would I do this race again?
Simply, the answer is no. This was a one and done race for me. I wasn’t impressed with the course and I’d rather find a 1/2 marathon closer than a 2-hour drive. It was fun while it lasted, and I’m happy with such a great training run leading up my marathon but I wouldn’t go back to this race time and time again.
I am 100% looking forward to my goal race – the Philadelphia Marathon! Time to put in some solid work this next 2 weeks before I start tapering!!
I started officially training for my marathon 17 days ago. I haven’t felt like I’ve been training for a marathon. To be honest, I haven’t even felt like I’m training for anything. My runs have been sub-par, I have little to no motivation to go out and train for this marathon, and my left foot has had nagging pain for 14 of the 17 days I’ve started my training. To anybody who understands running injuries or the psychology behind running, you might think I’m struggling with burnout. I don’t feel physically or mentally burnt out because I haven’t pushed my body since my ultra in May and I’ve eased back into “serious runner training”. I’m hoping that by writing this blog post and talking with close friends about my current circumstance that I will put things into perspective so that I can refocus on my ultimate goal.
The 1st three days of training: I felt strong. I was excited. I was highly focused on my goal of PR’ing at the marathon in November. I shared with social media that I was ready to get back in the swing of training to complete the 26.2 mile course for the second consecutive year.
The pain in my left heel: The pain became evident of the 4th day of training. I tried to ignore it. I wanted to ignore it. The pain wasn’t because I was amping up my mileage too fast (the first 3 days of training even included an active rest day). The pain appeared out of nowhere. I ran through the pain and I hid the pain because I didn’t want to over-exaggerate and make people worry. Maybe it would disappear in a day or two. Wrong. Two or three more days went by and the pain was still lingering. First, I fessed up to my boyfriend that my heel was hurting. He told me how to handle it and to take a rest day. I took a rest day and then finished the week off with an easy 3 mile run to test the heel out. I skipped my long run for the week. I already felt behind in my training. Yesterday I tested my luck by doing a speed workout and today I did an easy 6 mile recovery. Although I’m still able to run and usually ignore the pain, it’s a constant lingering thought in my head as I try to determine what caused it and how to fix it. I stretch the muscles in my foot daily and I try to ice it every day to help heal it. I want to be able to train strong. I want the pain gone.
Lack of motivation: Today I had no motivation to run. I knew I needed to run, I just felt like I didn’t have the energy to get out on the nice smooth trail. Monday I had no motivation to run. Every time I remind myself how great it will feel if I PR, I feel a twinge of motivation lurking somewhere in my heart. Luckily, my boyfriend willingly holds me accountable for my runs and even came to run some mid-week miles with me today (usually we just have way too much going on to run together on weekdays) just so I would get out and train (plus it’s always easier to run with someone than alone). I hope that I can find some motivation soon because I want nothing more than to feel excited about my training and to have something to look forward to on a daily basis.
Cross-training: With my foot in pain, I’ve bumped up my road cycling miles significantly. Last week alone I rode 65.5 miles over the course of 3 separate days. I’ve come to enjoy cross-training a lot these past few months. Now, I’ve been enjoying cross-training because (since I have no motivation to run) I don’t have to run. I enjoy heading out on my bike for some active rest day miles. I’m hoping that these active rests days will reap benefits for my cardiorespiratory system so that my running ability can improve!
Nutrition: Last year at this time, I felt healthier. I felt like I was eating healthier. I felt like everything I put in my body was fueling my body the way it needed to be fueled. Although I still eat extremely healthy, I still feel like I could do way better. I’m doing my best now to cut out unnecessary sweets and processed foods. I’m not interested in indulgences like cookies or cakes. My body just craves fruits and veggies. I just want to be healthier, look healthier, and feel healthier.
Everyday life stress: In the past month I’ve transitioned to a new job. I feel like I’ve had little to no downtime. I’ve been spending most of my free time either studying for my health coach certification, running, eating, or sleeping. I am stressed about paying off my student loans. I’m stressed about continuing to make a smooth transition to my new job. I’m stressed about getting enough sleep. I’m stressed about things that shouldn’t even be worth stressing about. But that’s my personality and always has been. I stress over silly, petty things and when I think back in retrospect none of it was worth stressing over. Worry less, smile more – I wish I could just drill that into my head.
I have my half-marathon race in one month and 8 days. I would like to go in to this race and run a 1/2-marathon PR. I want to continue to get in speed workouts and long runs in preparation for both my 1/2-marathon and marathon. I want to feel strong. I want to be confident.
I want to train like I want a PR. I want to train and feel the changes in my physical and mental strength. I want to enjoy the process as much as the destination on race day!!
April has been one of the most hectic, stressful, most beautiful, wonderful, and amazing months of the year. April for me has brought high mileage leading up to my 1st ultra in the beginning of May, new adventures with friends, and new beginnings as my internship concluded. In one word, April has been crazy.
Through all the chaos though, April has made me a stronger runner and a more mindful individual. I’ve come to appreciate the people who make me who I am today and who I want to continue to spend time with in the future. These are the people that understand my stressors, who can relate to my own little mind games, and who can push me to become the best possible person I can be. And I am forever grateful for these people.
These note-worthy runs are runs that has left an imprint on my mind and will come creeping into my mind during the rough parts of my upcoming ultras. I will have to remind myself of these runs to fight through the pain in order to get one step closer to that finish line:
April 1st – This was a night run that I did with Angela. We had gotten back from a long second day representing SparklySoul at the Hot Chocolate Philly 15k expo. Meteorologists had warned people of potential thunderstorms but we needed to get a run in. So we started on our run at around 8:30 PM with thunder booming in the distance. We wanted to run at least 5 miles but ended up only doing 3 at tempo pace because the storm was moving faster than we were. Although we ran negative splits during this run, we were literally sprinting around Angela’s block at sub-7:30 pace trying to avoid bolts of lightening. In a nutshell, this was a fun and comical start to April.
April 3rd – This was my first run ever at a place in Delaware called White Clay. I was accompanied by my best trail running buddy, Josh, who runs this trail system at least twice a week. He knew the trails inside and out, and could probably run the trails with his eyes closed. Sundays are typically our long run days so we aimed to do at least 16 miles. This day was also extremely windy with wind gusts approaching 50 MPH (another comical start to April, right?). We ended up doing 18 miles, averaging 10:15 pace. Considering the rolling hills, the weather conditions, and my 1st time ever running on these trails, I was quite pleased. It was a great run with great company!
April 10th – Josh and I went back to White Clay and the weather was much better than the week before! I started liking White Clay more and more this second time because the trails are slow, rolling hills instead of the steep inclines like Brandywine. We ran 16 miles, averaging 10:09 pace. This day we also planned to meet up with my parents and mountain bike at Brandywine. I’m not nearly as strong on two wheels as I am on two feet, but I was rather impressed by how I managed to pedal up the steep sections and maneuver the downhills. Our group mountain bike ride ended up being 12 miles. Josh and I had ran 16 miles, then biked 12, so we rewarded ourselves with a pizza. This was an awesome day!
April 13th – Every week in April I’ve tried to incorporate at least one longer run. Today’s run was an easy 10 miles. I was feeling anxious to run fast and had every intention of making this 10 mile run a progression run. But due to the warmer temps, my four-legged running buddy, Gwin, couldn’t maintain a fast pace for the first 6.2 miles. After I dropped her off, I set a new goal to run at least one of the next 4 miles under 8 minutes. Turns out, all four miles were sub-8 (7:50, 7:33, 7:33, 7:38). This run left me feeling more confident than ever. I was so shocked to see consecutive 7:33s on my watch – especially for miles 8 and 9. I was hitting my stride and my ultra was in a little over a month!
April 15th – A few weeks before, I had signed up for a 1-mile fun race hosted by a nearby running club I am a part of. The mile race was on the track with a laid-back group of runners. I was nervous though because I hadn’t ran a race since my marathon in November and I didn’t particularly like running fast (especially an all out sprint for one mile). I was nervous all day but luckily when I got to the race, Angela calmed my nerves during our warm-up and I was surrounded by people I knew and felt comfortable around. My parents, granny, and Josh were the only 4 spectators and everyone else there was in the race. I ended up running a 6:24 which I am extremely happy with. I was the 2nd overall female (Angela won! – read about it here!) and 6th place overall. Considering I haven’t ran a race in 6 months, haven’t done any speed workouts in about 7 months, and have been training specifically for this ultra, I was more than thrilled by my time. It hurt but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad that I did it!
April 17th – Another long run Sunday with Josh! We opted to go to Batsto in the Pine Barrens for a nice soft and flat 20 mile run. I felt awesome during this run and ended up pushing the pace for the 2nd half of the run. We averaged 9:40 pace which I am more than pleased with. This was an absolutely beautiful and warm day! Another great run with great company! I was loving everything about ultra training on this day!
April 21st – This was yet another 20 mile run because Hyner weekend was coming up and I had to re-organize my normal weekly training schedule. I opted to do my long run on a Thursday. I ran consistent 9 minute miles for the first 11.6 miles and then Angela tagged along for the last 8.4 miles in which we started averaging closer to 8:45 pace. This was an awesome training run that left me feeling extremely confident in my training thus far. I was excited to be accompanied by Angela for the last 8 miles – she kept my focus away from any fatigue I may have been feeling which I greatly appreciated. 20 miles, averaging 9:00/mile.
April 23rd – aka #Hyner weekend. I travelled up to Hyner, PA to cheer on my dad and some fellow trail friends during their respective 25k or 50ks. I was told to go to the top of Hyner View to cheer everyone on which included traversing up the infamous Humble Hill. I left the starting area at 7 AM, one hour before starting time, in order to give myself time to get to the top which was 3.5 miles up a mountain. Turns out, I needed that full hour to get to the top. It took me 57 minutes to get to the top. My elevation gain read a little over 1500 feet. This race was going to be no joke for these guys and I felt lucky that I wasn’t torturing myself on the course that day. I waited at the top to see all the guys come through with my cowbell in hand! I traversed down another trail called Huff’s Run Trail to get back to the bottom of the mountain – another 3.5 miles with 1500 feet of descent again. I liked the descent way better than I liked ascending. I tacked on another 2.5 miles at the end of my run to reach my goal mileage for the day of 20 miles. The rest of my day was spent cheering on Josh, Aaron, Chad, and my dad as they finished their races. Our night was spent celebrating with some drinks, good food, and a bonfire. And we ended the night stargazing into the crystal clear sky surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges. This was just an all-around great day – I love spending time with trail runners!
Although there is still a week left in April, I felt due for a blog post updating on my ultra training. This blog post has allowed me to reflect on the great runs of April that have left me feeling stronger and more confident on the trails. I’m happy with how my training has been going and I am looking forward to one last week of quality training before I start tapering for my ultra!
This week has been my highest weekly mileage of my ultra training thus far. The weather was absolutely BEAUTIFUL which made me happier, more motivated, and more energetic. The week ended with day light savings which I am extremely excited about because now it will be lighter out later in the day. This instantly makes me happier. We survived winter! As for training, I had a great week of running, biking, and spending time outside with my dogs. Here we go:
Monday: Today I ran 5 easy miles with Gwin (my dog). No watch, just running.
Tuesday: Tuesdays are usually my rest days but because I took a rest day on Sunday due to a schedule conflict, I opted to take an easy day of mileage instead of resting again. I ran 4 miles with one of my best friends at an average of 8:37 pace. I then walked the dogs to the post office which was 0.75 miles total. It was a beautiful day outside so I wanted to stay outside as long as possible before going to work.
Wednesday: I ran early this day because my internship and work schedule overlapped and left me with no time in between to get home and run a reasonable distance. So I ran 6.2 miles in the early morning with my dad. It was warm and I was content. I also walked 3 miles in the afternoon and discovered new trails and a scenic lake!
Thursday: This was the group run night at my dad’s running/biking store. I decided to ride my bike to the group run – it’s 12 miles away from my house. It was a very windy day but I was happy to have my mom biking alongside me. The group run was 6.2 miles. I was the only female in the group and all the guys are faster than me so it turned into a tempo run for me. We averaged 7:51 pace (8:10, 7:41, 7:44, 7:40, 7:54, 8:00). The last two miles were slower because I can’t run at 7:40 pace and have a conversation with someone simultaneously. Overall, it was a great run with great company! Running with fast people will only make me faster! Also, this night felt like summer and I loved it! I had to run to the nearby elementary school after the run to meet my dad who was teaching children the importance of bike helmets so I tacked on a mile cool-down at the end of the night. Today’s bike total: 12 miles. Today’s running total: 7.2 miles.
Friday: Today I ran 7 miles with Angela. Our pace varied throughout our run because we got slightly lost on the trails. My legs felt dead by the end of the run which I blame on the biking and tempo run from the day before. It was a good run nonetheless and the weather was PERFECT!
Saturday: This morning I biked 19 miles during our group ride that leaves from my dad’s running/bike store. Although we probably averaged 14-15mph pace, I enjoyed the bike ride and it was nice to spend a morning outside cross-training. Immediately after finishing the bike ride, I went for a quick three miles. My legs felt like they wanted to continue spinning in circles as if I were on a bike but they needed to run! I didn’t look at my watch during the run so I was completely shocked at the end of my run when my Garmin Forerunner 10 told me that I averaged 8:18 pace. And the funniest part of this whole situation is that it also turned into an unintentional three mile progression run (8:28, 8:17, 8:06). Considering how crappy I felt during the entire run, I was utterly appalled at how quick my splits were – especially since I physically felt like I was running at 10-minute pace. It was yet another great day of training!
Sunday: Sundays are my favorite because it’s long run day! Angela and I followed my dad and our trail-running friend through the ups and downs of Brandywine. We were at Brandywine one month ago and it was only 8 degrees out. Today, it was a cool 53 degrees which made it perfect for two hours out on the trails. Because my dad and our friend are training for the Hyner View Challenge that is in a month and a half they wanted to run as many hills as possible today. Angela and I basically just had to suffer through the torture; however, the hills will make us stronger runners too! We ran 11.5 miles with 1500 feet of elevation – this is significant elevation for a run in Delaware! It was a great morning out on the trails and it was an awesome ending to this week.
This week was jam-packed with running, cross-training, and pure enjoyment of the great outdoors! There’s one more week of winter and then I’m hoping the earth will bless us with a warm and perfect spring!