There aren’t too many more refreshing ways to spend a weekend than doing something you love with friends who love it too.
Spoiler Alert: Went to Philly. Ran a half marathon. Didn’t PR. Loved every second of it.
This little Philly race recap is a little less about the actual race and a little more about the “running weekend experience” as a whole. As “they” say, it really is more about the journey than the destination sometimes. It’s the miles in between that matter and all that jazz. Cliche but true…as cliches always are.
I’ll start from the beginning. Ashley and I drove straight to the expo on Saturday…but not before getting lost in New Jersey and taking ALL the back roads and getting stuck behind a tractor. However, what we lost in time, I
lost in money to iTunes gained in new songs for my Philly playlist, because Ashley played all her super pump-up-esque music as we drove so I could find some music to download that night.
We finally made it, found Ritsa, and wandered around the expo. I practiced self-control for once and didn’t buy anything. I also finally met Jocelyn (check out her fantastic blog, Enthusiastic Runner!) who ran an amazing PR-setting race, by the way!
Eventually we headed to Shannon’s house about an hour away. Our car ride may have involved singing songs by Celine Dion and a band who was NOT Meatloaf (still don’t know who it was) and learning stories about Ashley and Ritsa’s childhood duets (poor Ritsa wasn’t even in our car to defend herself).
We made it to Shannon’s (AKA the cutest house ever) and she was pretty much the best hostess in the entire world. Her and Ashley were roommates at the Healthy Living Summit, but I had never met her. She still welcomed the three of us into her beautiful home, made us a fabulous carb-y dinner, coffee in the morning, and set us up with a comfy place to sleep…on top of just giving us a warm, convenient-to-the-race place to stay out of the kindness of her heart. Not to mention, Philly was her FIRST MARATHON – so obviously she had more important things to worry about than entertaining some random guests. Did I tell you she’s on the Paleo diet so she doesn’t even eat pasta? She just made it for us. Such a wonderful person and a gracious host. Reason #1 this weekend went so well.
After an early wake-up call (3:30AM) we drove into Philly and eventually made it to the starting line. It was still dark out. It was freezing. I was with my friends. They calmed my nerves and made me laugh. I loved it. Ritsa and I lined up together at the starting line as the sun came up, and off we went through the City of Brotherly Love.
One drawback of this race: it was PACKED for a solid portion…very hard to get moving in the first few miles. I was still dodging people through mile 9.
Ritsa and I stayed together for a couple miles, but eventually she darted ahead as I got trapped in a pack of people; I didn’t see her again until the end. From miles 1-7ish, I felt great. I felt like I was running much faster and much stronger than I actually was (as evidenced by my sad Garmin splits.) I was smiling and loving the crowd support and laughing out loud at the signs like “Where are you going?!” and “Hurry up, it’s cold out here!” Around mile 7.5, I hit a wall. My quads felt like bricks and I just felt tired. Basically your classic case of “going out too fast and not doing enough speedwork in training.” Oops. As the lactic acid built up, my mental stability decreased.
As soon as I saw the second hill looming in front of me around mile 9, a steady stream of obscenities began flowing through my head. I was cursing everyone who ever stressed that Philly is a “fast and flat” course. My definition of flat is NOT THIS. There were definitely a few too many rolling hills on the half marathon course to call it “flat”. Sigh. (On reflection, they weren’t that bad; I think it’s just the fact that I wasn’t expecting them. Perhaps I should have studied the course more in depth. Next time?)
I tore down the downhills in my rage, which is most likely why my quads continue to feel like bricks today. If you were to watch me walk down stairs, you would think I ran the full marathon. But whatever.
By mile 8 I wanted it to be over and was wondering how I could ever keep going. I wanted to rip my pace band off and stomp on it.
I hadn’t seen any of my friends yet and knew I wouldn’t see them after this point. Can you tell I crashed by my extremely positive splits? (You would think that’s a good thing but IT’S NOT.) I’m not as much concerned about the times; although I would obviously like to be faster. I wanted to PR, and this is about 4 minutes past that for me. I’m concerned about the fact that I mismanaged my racing strategy so much so that I suddenly started running 30 seconds to a full minute slower in every mile after mile 7. Pretty sure at the starting line I even said out loud to Ritsa that I’m really good at starting out slow and running negative splits. Apparently I jinxed myself.
I’m living and learning.
I kicked it in to the finish and was awarded with a lovely medal, a high five from the mayor, and some hilarious commentary by the announcer, who continued to entertain us for the entire afternoon as Ashley, Beth, Erica and I cheered for the marathoners at mile 26. This is where I had the most fun; we saw a lot of fellow bloggers leaving it all out there and finishing the race strong (and with PRs for many of them!): Jocelyn, Abby, Shannon, Melissa, Kristin and Ashley among others. (Also, a big congrats to Lora who ran the Brooklyn Marathon this weekend with one of her top 3 best times ever!)
This blogging/running community is one of the best things to happen to me if only for the reason that I’ve made so many great friends and I’m never at a loss for inspiration. I didn’t know any of these wonderful ladies at the beginning of this year. 11 months later, I have some pretty amazing friends who honestly make me a better person; not to mention a much stronger runner.
Going back to why this weekend was so amazing – not only is marathon spectating one of the most inspirational experiences ever, but being with good friends makes everything wonderful. We had a champion cheering squad and my voice is pretty much gone today. I was basically crying on about 2,342 separate occasions. Old people, people with kids, people holding hands, fist pumping, sobbing, laughing, people who fundraised for a charity (Go TNT!), people smiling ear to ear…everything makes me cry when it comes to running. They played New York, New York and Empire State of Mind over the loudspeakers. They praised the displaced NYC Marathon runners and gave them what they came for: an amazing marathon. It’s all so emotional. It shows me that there’s still good in humanity; something that’s hard to find these days.
*By the way – head on over to visit Beth’s blog and remind her she CAN run a marathon and should DEFINITELY sign up! After cheering for awhile (she’s the best cheerer), she voiced aloud that she’s considering signing up for one herself. She’s amazing and strong and I know she can do it – but I think she maybe just needs a little encouragement and help picking the perfect race! I’m gunning for one in Iowa
Ashley and I ended up staying until about the 6.5 hour mark where it was even more uplifting to see the smiles on everyone’s faces – you could see how much appreciation the runners had and my heart was full. Case in point: we were standing next to a family of 4 or 5 kids waiting for their Dad – they were carrying sticks with cutout pictures of just his head pasted on top, and it was pretty much the cutest thing in the world. He finally came running by and they all jumped and screamed and ran alongside him. I’m tearing up just writing about it. That’s love.
Now, I just need a weekend to recover from my weekend. (Good thing it’s a short week with Thankgiving!) It was worth it.
Do you like to cheer at marathons? What are your favorite signs? Any favorite inspirational stories?