First and foremost, Thank you. All of you. You guys have been the biggest motivation and my best supporters throughout my training. This community is so amazing. I can’t thank you enough!
Race Recap: 2013 Philadelphia Marathon
I chose to run this race simply because of how awesome it was last year. I didn’t think it could’ve been outdone. I was wrong. Philadelphia knows how to treat their runners and I’ll be running this race every year until they prove it otherwise! A+++
I got to the race early enough to get all of the essentials done and waited in my corral with the rest of the crazies. I chatted it up with a new friend, Anne Marie, who was running her first marathon. She was surprisingly calm and collected, unusual for a first time marathoner. We both had a goal of sub-4 hours so we both started near the 4 hour pacer. As the corrals moved towards the start line we began to lose the pacer. Once the horn sounded for our wave we took off in an attempt to catch the guy with the 4:00 stick and balloons. We caught up and I settled in. Anne Marie decided she’d go at her own pace and took off on her own. I knew that it took patience in the marathon so I was hesitant to push it and stayed with the pacer.
After a few miles I realized that the pacer was blazing a much faster than 4:00 pace, 9:07, and I pulled it back. Some other people in the group were mumbling the same thing so I knew it wasn’t just me. The early pace had me covered in sweat and I realized that my shirt was not wicking it away as I would have hoped. I’m glad it was a little chilly but I’m sure it didn’t help my body cool properly. I was taking a salt pill, every 3 miles, and gel, every 3.5, as planned and I locked into a nice groove. Before I knew it I was caught up with the pacer. From mile 5-10 I was his shadow. The miles were effortless. Right around the 10 mile mark there was a downhill and I let gravity take me away. I remembered that there was a crazy cheer zone a little after mile 10 last year and was hoping that the same people were there this year. They were and they rocked! Loud music, crazy costumes and so much energy! At that point I was on my own for a few miles and was approaching the split for the half marathon finish. It’s always disheartening watching the runners branch off when you know you have another 13.1 to go.
I passed the split and stayed in a cluster with a few other runners. A girl that was in the 4 hour pace group branched off, probably around the same time as me, and started pushing ahead. She had no hydration belt or gels, she mentioned it while we were with the pacer. She was much thinner than me so I figured she could get away with it. Nonetheless, I was impressed. It was around the 15 mile mark that I realized a sub 4 hour finish would be rough. I had a few minutes banked, according to my garmin pace time feature, so I kept charging along. I started hearing a lot of talking behind me around mile 16, the 4 hour pacer caught me. I tried hanging with him but decided to let him go.
I was still feeling strong but it was starting to become a head game. There was a small out and back around mile 17 and I ran into a familiar face. I managed to catch Anne Marie and made sure she was OK. She said she was struggling but it wasn’t enough to warrant any outside help. I bid her adieu and kept going, the fact that I caught her gave me a second wind. I’m a VERY competitive person and passing her helped my psyche at that point in the race. I kept moving and found myself on the final out and back, the 20 mile turnaround, heading into Manayunk. This section had one of the biggest cheer zones. I can’t even remember what was going on in my head besides “can’t stop, won’t stop”. It was all a blur. I hit the 30k mark, just prior to the turnaround, and realized I was 40 minutes ahead of my marathon PR. I was also right on pace for a 4 hour marathon. Could I actually do it?? I let the crowds carry me to the 21 mile mark and then it happened.
I had to walk.
Not because of muscle cramps or any severe pain. I was simply exhausted. My 200 pound frame finally caught up with me. I don’t like to use it as an excuse but being larger, either because of muscle mass or adipose, requires more caloric intake over the longer distance (I burned a few calories short of 4000 during the run). I could’ve also chalked it up to poor training but at the time I was ahead of my PR by 40 minutes. 40 FUCKING MINUTES! So i kept it moving.
I spent the final miles doing a walk/run combo, knowing that I was well ahead of my PR and just tried to make sure I made it to the finish. I made it to mile 22 and, while I was walking, I hear someone say “you got this Chris, keep going!”. It was Anne Marie. She’s an animal. I started running with her but had to walk after a half mile. PR was still very much attainable. I kept doing my walk/run combo and encountered another familiar face. As I was walking at mile 24 I hear someone say “You’re doing great, Chris, don’t give up!”. I get a pat on the back and realize it was a fellow Shoreline Shark (triathlon team teammate)! It was so awesome seeing a fellow shark. I ran with him for a bit and had to walk again.
At this point in the race it was becoming common to see people doubled over in pain, stretching their leg muscles and/or walking. I was playing leap frog with a few people, as they did the same walk/run combo as I was, while making sure I was still going to PR and make it to the finish. One of the most upsetting things I saw on course was the medical cart at mile 25. The girl who I was running with in the 4 hour pace group, the one who had no fuel belt or gels, was being put on a stretcher. My heart hurt for her. Seeing that made me respect the marathon so much more. No longer was I upset that I was exhausted.
I made sure I stayed within my means to finish and let the final crowds carry me down the homestretch. My adrenaline was pumping and I had a smile from ear to ear. Only crazy people are smiling at mile 26, remember that. I could hear Kanye West’s song “Stronger” playing over the loud speakers and I sang the chorus as I sprinted (at least that’s what it felt like) down the final two tenths. The finish line awaited. I high-fived the Mayor of Philadelphia and crossed the finish. 4:18:03. 20 minute PR!
I got my space blanket and waddled over to the people with the medals. Sidenote: I saw the medals prior to race day while I was walking around the expo and originally thought that they were incredibly obnoxious. I started comparing it to last year’s medal and wasn’t sure if I liked it as much. Fast forward to the moment where this beauty was being put around my neck and my opinion had completely changed. It’s not about what it looks like, it’s about the story it tells. This one has one hell of a story. Although I didn’t break 4 hours, I am extremely happy about my time. 20 minutes is a large chunk of time for a PR! It just gives me more motivation to come back to Philadelphia and try to run sub-4 all over again next year! Philly rocks!
(I still hate the Philadelphia Eagles, that will never change. Go Giants.)