Why I ran the marathon
Many people are aware that I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. To clarify, this was my first marathon. I have had a few people ask me if I have done other marathons, I have not. I love long runs but for years I swore I would never run a marathon. It seemed like unnecessary torture–I had no desire or interest. So, why did I decide to run a marathon? In effort to keep this post as short as possible my answer will be very simple, IMPULSE. Maybe even fate. Signing up for the marathon was a spontaneous decision I made back in May when I was working with Sparkly Soul at the Broadstreet Run. The Philadelphia Marathon booth was directly behind our booth (fate?) and I was in a rut. I was feeling frustrated with my lack of running and the way 2015 had started out for me. I kept seeing runners walk by wearing marathon apparel. I needed motivation to train and I thought, “If they can run a marathon so can I”. Then I signed up. It was impulsive. If I had thought about what I was doing I would not have signed up. I would have talked myself out of it and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now. Once I spent $119.48 (with a coupon) to sign up for this race there was no way that I wasn’t going to run it. That is a lot of money. At first I only told a few people what I did. I kept it quiet because this was something that I was going to do for myself. I wanted to train my own way and run my own race. I needed to do this to drag myself out of a rut and challenge myself. Signing up for the marathon may have been impulsive but every day after I signed up was filled with a purpose.
The training plan
There was no training plan. I simply woke up each day, went to work, did my assignments for grad school, and ran what I could when I could. If I felt like doing a long run I did. If I didn’t feel like running I didn’t run. If I wanted to do a workout I would find a friend who was doing a workout and copycat. My mileage never went above 54.5 miles, that was a good week. Most weeks I ran between 30-40 miles. I had a series of great long runs between 13 and 20 miles. After my 20 mile long run on October 11th I stopped doing long runs. I didn’t have time, I bruised my foot twice, and I had too much school work.The last few weeks before the marathon I barely ran. My course load and work schedule were hectic this fall and I have been told by several people that I had too much on my plate. Something suffered and it was my running. With that being said, I knew I had to run this race so I did the only thing left that I could do. I BELIEVED I COULD DO IT.
Do I think I can run a marathon faster than 3:29:04? YES! I know that when I decide to run a marathon again I’ll run faster. I will also train appropriately. I will ask for help. I will follow a training plan. I will make marathon training a priority. The only thing that I won’t change is the fact that I believe I can do anything I set my mind to.
Going into the race I was exhausted. I had worked at the expo all day Friday and Saturday and somehow managed to get a ton of stuff done for grad school Friday night. My feet were throbbing when I went to bed on Saturday and I was exhausted. I woke up at 4:30am on Sunday. I had slept in my singlet and shorts so that I could sleep a few extra minutes. I ate some oatmeal even though I wasn’t hungry. Phil and I left the house around 5:30am. He told me he knew a great place to park. He drove us to the race and found a parking spot very quickly.I filled my handheld water bottle with gatorade and shoved gatorade chews into the zipper pocket before getting out of the car. We walked to the start of the race. I started to get stressed out when I looked at the bathroom line. I had to pee and I told Phil that if I couldn’t use the bathroom I wasn’t running the race. He didn’t say anything. I think he knows me well enough by now to know that I say ridiculous things when I am really upset and stressed. I was finally able to use the bathroom and I started to walk to the start. The race was delayed due to an accident somewhere on the course. I had a difficult time getting to my corral. In fact, I couldn’t even get into my corral until a few minutes before the corral started. I was hoping I would have found Lyndsey as I was weaving through the sea of runners at the start, but sadly I didn’t see her. As I was standing in the very back of my corral I retied the pink ribbon onto my ponytail and made sure that my shoes were tied tightly. Then I let my Gramin sync.
The marathon website says that I began running at 7:20am. The first mile felt awesome! It was really crowded so there was no way I would go out too fast. The next two miles flew by and then around mile 4 I found a runner I knew from road races in the northern part of NJ. He and I ran together for quite a while. Mile 6 was entirely too fast. That whole mile was nothing but spectators cheering. It was amazing. The crowd really helped to get my adrenaline going and I eventually caught up to one of my teammates. The only problem with this mile was that I ran it wayyyyy to fast for such a long race.
I tried to regain control over my pace but ended up running entirely too fast again for miles 12 and 13 because the half marathoners began to pick up the pace as they neared their finish line. My body naturally responded. Those miles were under 7 minutes. As I saw the half marathon runners turn off it finally hit me that I was running a marathon. Up until that moment the whole thing didn’t feel real. As soon as I got beyond mile 13 things settled down. The race was quieter and much more painful but the real pain didn’t begin until mile 18. Mile 18 was the mile when I first realized how much pain I was in. I remember telling myself that all I had to do was get to mile 20 and then a few steps beyond. I don’t know why I was so fixated on mile 20 but I was. My watch was 1K off the whole race so mile 20 didn’t come as quickly as I had hoped. I distinctly remember stepping on the 30K mat and then moving to the side to drink gatorade from my almost empty bottle. At that point I really slowed down and I began taking water and gatorade from every station along with a 15-30 second break because I was so tired I couldn’t drink and run at that same time. I also couldn’t eat anymore of my gatorade chews. My mouth was so dry and I was so thirsty that I couldn’t swallow them without almost throwing them up. I also rationalized that chewing was wasting energy. A nice volunteer offered to refill my bottle around mile 22 but I did not want to delay getting to the finish line anymore. I said no thanks and kept running. I immediately regretted not taking the refill. I don’t think I have ever been so thirsty in my life. I FINALLY saw Lyndsey somewhere in Manayunk. I don’t even know how far away from the end I was when I saw her but I know it was after I went around a sharp turn around. She seemed energetic and I barely had enough energy to say “Hey”. Seeing Lyndsey helped me keep going. As long as she was still running I felt like I had to keep running, so I did. There were a few times between miles 23-26 where I just had to walk a few feet. The thirst was really getting to me and the water stops seemed to be disappearing. I began telling myself that all I had to do was get to mile 25 and then it was over and I could have water. I knew there would still be another 1.2 miles, but whats 1.2 miles when you’ve already run 25? Mile 25 finally appeared and I told myself I was so close to getting water. One of my teammates jumped into the races for a few minutes and tried to encourage me. I don’t know how receptive I actually was but I kept moving forward. Then I saw the finish line. I couldn’t sprint. I could barely get there but I did, and I just stopped.
I was given a bottle of water, which I guzzled. Then someone put a medal over my neck and another person wrapped me in one of those silver blankets.
The chute to exit the finish was so long I should have just walked back to NJ. It probably took me over 10 minutes to get to the end. I wasn’t moving fast at all. I also didn’t see Phil. I saw him at mile 7 and at mile 13 but we didn’t plan on how to find each other at the end. I didn’t check my gear because I consider that to be a hassle so I had no extra clothes and no phone. I walked over to the family reunion area and sat under the sign marked D-F hoping Phil would eventually show up there. He did not. I began shivering so a woman who was waiting for her family let me use her phone to call him. There was extremely loud music playing and we couldn’t hear each other. I kept explaining where I was and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I thanked the woman for letting me borrow her phone and I got up off the ground and walked back toward the chute. Then I saw Phil walking around, probably looking for me. Because the chute was so long and everyone began to look the same with the blankets, he couldn’t find me. He didn’t see me leave the chute. Luckily, I saw him looking around and he had one of my shirts.
The walk back to the car felt like another marathon. I have tried to block that out of my mind. The car ride home was overwhelming I had so many text messages I couldn’t focus. I think I was in shock. I don’t think I processed what I just did. I was so tired. I talked to my mom for a while on the way home and then responded to all of my friends who had sent me text messages. Phil ordered me a pizza and we stopped to pick it up on the way home. Even though my stomach hurt I ate the pizza. Then I got a shower and went to bed. It was 1:30 in the afternoon but I thought it was bedtime. I took a gatorade to bed with me and periodically woke up to drink that. SOOOO THIRSTY. I finally crawled out of bed around 7:30pm to do an assignment for grad school and then immediately went back to bed.
Monday I had to go to work. Ha, that was fun. I was so sore and I developed a sore throat. By Monday night I had used both cold eeze tablets that came in my race bag. By Tuesday afternoon I had used the emergen-C samples I got from the Bridge Run. Tuesday night I had to stop and buy more of both of these on my way home from work. I finally stopped feeling thirsty Wednesday afternoon.
The experience was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am glad I spontaneously signed up for a marathon. I think this is just the kind of challenge I needed. I learned more about my own strength during that 3:29:04 than I have during any other experience in my life. All pain and struggling aside, I really enjoyed the marathon. I managed to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon. This wasn’t something I was trying to do. It just happened. I wasn’t really sure what would qualify me for the Boston Marathon but I needed to run 3:35:00 or faster, which I did. I don’t know if I will apply for an entry or not. I can’t answer that question right now. I will run another marathon eventually though, but I don’t know when.
What did I learn?
I learned that I should never ever doubt my ability. For the first time in my life I think I am a “good” runner. It may seem crazy to some people that I did not think this before, but I have to believe that I am “good” at running to have run that time the first time I ran a marathon and to have done it with haphazard training. I knew I wasn’t in great shape going into this race despite what my friends and family kept saying. I know my body and I know my fitness level more than anyone else ever could. I knew I could have been more prepared and I knew my fitness level was far from ideal. I also knew that if I believed in myself I could do well with haphazard training and that makes me a “good” runner, not talent, and certainly not a training plan.