2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, I certainly let this blogging thing fall to the wayside (shocker).  But on Sunday November 18th I ran (well, mostly ran) in the 19th annual Philadelphia Marathon and would feel terrible if I didn’t write a race recap to at least have some sort of document of the day.

As noted here, I had been training for this race since the summer – sort of.  Life and admittedly poor prioritizing got in the way a bit toward the end and my mileage in the last several weeks were nowhere near what they should have been.  Therefore I wasn’t nearly as excited for the marathon as I had thought I would be, in fact I was somewhat dreading it.  While I was confident I could finish the race based on my 20-miler I had fears that it wouldn’t be so pretty.

But marathon weekend came. I attended the expo on Friday and of course I suddenly got into the spirit of things again!  I was going to be a marathoner!  I had a bib with my name on it and all!   This was really happening!

Sunday morning I woke up on the early side, had a lunch of some Van’s waffles, blueberry syrup, and a banana since that was about all I could scrounge up at home that would be ok for my stomach (the bread I had planned on eating had spots of mold, which gives you a small glimpse of my lack of preparation), got myself ready, and took the trolley down near the start.  It was neat to see other runners walking down there before dawn in the cold.  Gave me a chance to think about how crazy (in a good way) we all are.  I checked my bag and made my way into the porta potty line, where I stood until after the race actually started.  While this made me a bit anxious, I knew I was ok since my corral would have some time before it was sent off.

My A goal when I initially signed up was to come in under 4:45 and my B goal was to come in under 5 hours.  But as time went by I was becoming a faster and more efficient runner and my times for previous races/runs and my slight obsession with the McMillan Running Calculator indicated that a sub 4:30 marathon was a total possibility.  Of course the McMillan Calculator works on the notion that you do all of the training in a best case scenario.  While deep down I knew that a sub 4:30 was unlikely, I still wanted it.  So I started off with that in mind.  Probably not the greatest idea.

Miles 1-7: These were pretty great.  I was excited, keeping my pace, and crowd support is great during these miles.  You basically run into Old City, down into a bit of South Philly (didn’t realize we’d be so close to Beer Heaven at mile 3!) and then back west through parts of South Street and Chestnut Street.  I saw my friend Jenn around mile 6 which was a pleasant surprise during such a big race.

Miles 8-13: I had to pee urgently so I stopped at a porta-potty somewhere during mile 8, which takes you into West Philly.  Took forever.  Next time I’m just going to be more brazen because I lost at least 4 minutes there and thus it seemed like I was now a bit off the 4:30 pace.  I actually saw the 4:30 pace team a few feet ahead of me when I began running again, but I had no idea if their start time was before or after mine.  I had hoped maybe I could pick some of that up, but it never happened.  I enjoyed running these miles because I was still feeling rather strong, though my legs were honestly already starting to show a bit of fatigue.  Around mile 10 there is a hill in the otherwise fairly flat course, though it really didn’t bother me much.  I just slowed down slightly and it was fine.  I also must admit that I didn’t even know this hill was there until about a week before the race.  I saw another friend Greg around this time, which again was nice.  The Philadelphia Marathon has a half marathon component which mentally can be a good or bad thing if you are running the full marathon.  Since I knew this wouldn’t be my greatest effort I had initially feared that the split where the half marathoners were sent off would mess with my head.  I had figured that a big part of me would have wished I were headed their way.  However, my viewpoint totally changed during the marathon, possibly because it was my first, and suddenly I was excited to split.  “This is where the real race begins” I thought to myself.  When we split near the Philadelphia Museum of Art there were many cheers as it was now a course full of marathoners and there is a certain camaraderie to be had there.

Miles 14-16: I was feeling better than I had anticipated, though my legs were definitely fading.  My pace wasn’t too horrible, but a sub 4:30 was not in sight at this point.  A sub 4:45 or even something in the 4:30’s still was however and I felt ok with that.  I made another porta-potty as my stomach was rumbling and to be honest I’m not sure if I 100% needed this one or not.  My stomach kept rumbling on and off and everything is such a blur at this point.  I think I might have been more afraid to risk it than anything.  But again I lost about 4 minutes.  However, part of me relished the break instead of being angered over it like I was during mile 8.

Mile 17: This is THE WORST PART OF THE COURSE.  Ok, I obviously figured I knew the entire course being that I live here and therefore run here so I didn’t really analyze the course map much.  I knew that we went up Kelly Drive and into Manayunk, which I was looking forward to due to what I have heard about the crowds up there.  What I did not realize was that we do a goofy out-and-back loop down Falls Bridge and part of West River Drive before heading into Manayunk.  For some reason I thought we just ran past the bridge.  So initially I was confused, but figured it was just out over the bridge and back.  When I realized we had to go out down West River Drive I was all up in my head.  This really affected me mentally.   I had no idea where the turn-around was.  I knew it couldn’t be far, but I hated not knowing.  I was so angry at whoever designed this course.  This was really the last thing I needed while struggling.

Miles 18-21: These are mostly in Manayunk, which is rather good in terms of support.  And I have actually never been to Manayunk before so the scenery was brand new.  At this point in my life there are few parts of Philadelphia I have not seen already, even a few of the worst.  I knew my friend Dev would be up here handing out small cups of beer, as is apparently tradition, so I also looked forward to seeing at least one familiar face.  The beer stops (which are of course unofficial and illegal) are at miles 18 and 21 which are across from each other and Dev was at 21 which is the one I wanted to stop at anyway.  At the turn around during mile 20 there was a man with the best smelling brownies who I wanted to stab because there is no way my stomach could have handled that.  I got to mile 21, got my beer and a few words of encouragement, took a couple sips, and ran off into the homestretch down Kelly Drive again.

Miles 22-24:  These were brutal.  I tried hard to keep telling myself that I was almost there, but really I was just in a horrible mood.  My legs hurt, I was not going to get a time anywhere near the 4:30’s, and thus just felt like I let myself down.  I hated myself for not making race training a priority.  I wanted a great first marathon experience and this was just not it.  I saw my friend Jenn again somewhere along here and she was struggling but determined as well.  We parted ways after a little bit and I sort of did a walk/run to the end (I walked some in Manayunk too).  None of my walking periods were long at all because stopping to walk and then trying to run was painful just too painful for me.  So basically, I think I waddled my way to the finish area.

Miles 25-26.2:  Once I finally hit mile 25 (that marker seemed to take FOREVER to come) I tried to pull it together, though I think this was actually my slowest mile excluding the miles where I stopped for the porta-potties.  As I mentioned earlier the Philadelphia Marathon issues personalized race bibs and I couldn’t appreciate them more for doing this than during the last mile.  Crowds of course finally start to pick up again and random strangers will start cheering for all of the marathoners by name.  This definitely raised my spirits somewhat and made me feel a bit less disappointed in myself.  While approaching the finish line I saw my friend Jess cheering for me, which was a great surprise.  As we crossed the announcer called out our names and I got my first ever space blanket!  Also, to my surprise my sister was to the side right after I crossed.  It turns out she went all the way up into Manayunk to surprise me and must have been right past the beer stop at mile 21.  Since I didn’t know to look for her I didn’t see her.  Admittedly I’m not the most observant runner, but yeah.  My final time was 4:47:39 which gave my an average pace of just under 11 minutes.

I didn’t really feel much emotion after the race.  I was happy to be done running, but that is about it.  In retrospect I wish I weren’t so hard in myself and actually spent some time in the moment.  But the finish didn’t feel triumphant.  Instead I just felt lucky to have made it through.  I am not even sure that I fully comprehend the fact that I ran 26.2 miles over a week later.  I was so down about not following my training plan well enough that I didn’t really care about much else.  I read an article recently that said training for a marathon was the real accomplishment, not simply finishing one, and I hate that I let myself down in that area.  I know the experience would have been much more enjoyable had I been better trained.   Lesson obviously learned.

Afterward I eventually made my way to Johnny Brenda’s for some brunch and drinks with some friends who were a mix of both participants and spectators.  It was a great time and I started feeling a bit better about things.  After a couple of hours there a few of us headed over to Fette Sau for another drink and a bit more food.  I mean why not?  Even though I wasn’t all that hungry I figured I might as well get as much in as I could while it was acceptable.  Though really I’m not even sure I even consumed close to the calories I burned.   I saved that for the next day (hello Federal Donuts!).

I felt sore after the race, but after a day I was pretty much back to normal.  Or at least close to it.  I still have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have before, but I am surprised that my body actually recovered as well as it did considering how inactive I felt I was the month before.

So now that I have my first marathon experience behind me, I get to decide what to do next.  I am 95% sure I am going to sign up for the 2013 Key Bank Vermont City Marathon before the year is over.  I absolutely love Vermont and have had my sights set on this being my spring marathon for 2013 not long after I began training for Philly and read about the race (representatives were also at the Philly Expo).  This would mean that training for marathon #2 begins in the second-to-last week in January with the marathon taking place Memorial Day Weekend in Burlington.  I am very determined to make this marathon experience enjoyable and I would also love to get that sub 4:30 marathon while doing so.  I am also determined to actually document the process and everything else along the way.  Stay tuned…

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