Ready for the second half of my marathon recap? I’m not sure if I am yet…but here goes (this is a long one!)…
For the first half, click here.
Let me start off by saying what an absolutely gorgeous day I had. It was about 45 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
After my friends and family said goodbye to me at mile 13, they had a solid two hours to walk around, take some photos and and enjoy the views in Philly. Here are some photos to set the scene…
After I passed my family and friends at mile 13, I watched all the half marathoners sprint off towards the finish line as I made my way to the left towards mile 14. It was then that it hit me – I was running a marathon. This realization made me feel proud, scared, nervous and excited all at once. Basically, every emotion that hadn’t yet hit me that morning, hit me then. But above all else, happiness took over at this point and I took off towards mile 14 with a huge smile on my face.
However, it was mile 14 when I first started to struggle. For some reason, the distance in front of me took me by surprise – 12 more miles. During my training, I successfully ran two 20 milers and one 22 miler (two of which I maintained a 9:30 pace), and so going into the race, I felt 100% prepared for the extra 4.2 miles of uncharted territory. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I did think it would be consistent with my training runs. I now know that it was bold of me to think that I was 100% prepared.I was running a marathon, and there are no guarantees when running 26.2 miles.
With 12 miles left, my lower back started to hurt. It was a dull pain, but it was there and it was constant. My pace quickly started to slow down and I completed mile 14 in 9:59, which was my slowest mile thus far. It only got worse as miles 14-18 crawled by. The pain quickly moved to my hips and I felt my stride shorten and slow with each step. We were running up along Kelly Dr. towards Manayunk, a route I ran many times throughout training, but I couldn’t pay attention to my surroundings at all. I vaguely remember there were people lining the streets and a few people yelled my name (both runners and spectators) from seeing my name on the back of my shirt (which I absolutely loved and I wish I could thank each one of them). I was supposed to see Leslie at mile 17, but I somehow missed her (I did catch her later around mile 22 which was great!). We had planned that she would jump in if I needed her to and run with me for a mile or so. I’m actually glad I didn’t see her then because there is a chance I would have grabbed her and made her run the rest of the race with me! (Leslie – I know you would have done it, too! )
My splits for 14-18 (look at the right column)
After seeing my split for mile 18, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to make my 4:15 goal. I was looking at 8 miles ahead of me and I just knew then that it was no longer within my reach. I felt pretty devastated and there were many thoughts of quitting going through my head. I just couldn’t believe how much my body hurt and how slowly I was moving. This was unlike any training run…ever. And the end seemed so far away.
Then, sometime during mile 18 or 19, I saw one of those emergency golf cart vehicles rushing by with its lights on to get someone. I remember thinking, ‘as long as I can move, I’m finishing this race.’ I know, somewhat dramatic, but every emotion was heightened at this point. See, I realized then that, not only could I move, I could run. Who was I to say that 10 min/miles (or 11 min/miles…just wait, they’re coming…) wasn’t worthy of finishing? No one was judging me, I wasn’t try to beat a PR (I had no PR to beat!)…my friends and family only wanted to see me cross the finish line with a smile on my face. And so I ran…
I wish I could say that after this realization the last 8 miles were a breeze at my 10-11 min/mile pace. They weren’t. Miles 19-22 were absolutely horrible. They were an out and back through Manayunk, an adorable town just outside of Philly that is lined with cute shops and restaurants. The streets were crowded with spectators and I should have been enjoying every cheer. Instead, I was cursing the unexpected hills that seemed to never end. My stomach even started to feel off at this point, but I didn’t think I could eat another Gu packet. Some spectators were handing out oranges, pretzels and brownies, and so I took one of each at various points during this time. I figured I’d either get sick from it, then feel better, or simply feel better. I’m not sure if it was the sugar, or the carbs, but I think they actually helped. My splits continued to get slower and slower as my body refused to move any faster for me, no matter how hard I pushed.
Once I passed the mile marker for 22, every step was a new distance for me. While I’m not sure I ever actually “hit the wall” since I was on a gradual physical decline from mile 14 on, I do remember feeling very different for the last four miles. It felt as though I was on autopilot – I couldn’t speed up, but I couldn’t slow down either. I simply needed to finish the race. I did start to walk at one point, either at 22 or 24 (I can’t remember), but started running 5 seconds later when someone yelled my name and told me to keep running. I remember thinking “What? You want me to run?? Oh right, I’m suppose to finish a marathon right now…”
My back/legs/hips/feet/toes hated me at this point. My wrists and fingers even hurt. I could not focus on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. And while some people chant quotes like “Tough runs make you stronger” or “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” or “You are stronger than you think,” I just kept saying “FINISH.FINISH.FINISH.”
Mile 26 was my fastest mile since mile 17. Clearly I wanted the race to end. Once my watch beeped at 26, I knew I still had 0.45 miles to go (I had picked up an extra 0.25 during my first half of the race). Out of nowhere, I pulled an 8:30 pace for that last half mile. It may have been the crowds lining the streets or the site of the finish line up ahead, but I’m pretty sure it was the promise of seeing all of these faces at the finish line…
Here is my Mom waiting for the perfect shot at the finish line (and saying “where’s Melissa?!”)…
FINALLY I came flying by!
I crossed the finish line in 4:25:03 and immediately tears came pouring out. My brother ran up ahead of everyone to greet me and expected to see me smiling and proud, but instead got a face full of tears.
In typical brotherly fashion, he yelled “why are you crying?!” and I’m pretty sure another marathoner snapped at him, saying “she just ran a marathon!” Ha. I guess only those who have done it can really understand? To try to explain – I had such a whirlwind of emotions for four hours and twenty five minutes. From excited, to determined, to proud, to happy, to disappointed, to frustrated, and everything inbetween. There were points when I felt so good I felt like I was flying and others when I just wanted to curl up on the side of the road and go to sleep. Seriously, if you want to feel something, just go for a long run and get back to me.
However, the crying didn’t last long. Not with all of these people around
Once my emotions leveled off, I got my official race photo taken…
and we all headed back to my apartment where we feasted on bagels, mimosas, cake and cupcakes.
Once everyone left, and after a long deserved nap and a beer run…
Mike and I made our way to my favorite restaurant, Audrey Claire, where I feasted on this amazing flat bread pizza with truffle oil (and certainly had my fare share of the leftover bagels, cupcakes and cake over the next few days!)
Some final thoughts: Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back on the race, I believe I went out too fast during the first half. I was so focused on keeping on pace, or below pace, that I didn’t consider what the speed and hills would do to me during the second half. I remember feeling flustered in the beginning from being surrounded by so many people and trying to get around everyone to a more open area (which I now realize was silly – there were 20,000+ people in front of me). I should have slowed down and stopped racing. I got so caught up in my number and the crowds and my time goal that I forgot to just enjoy the run.
Before the race, I actually said I have experience in races. With three half marathons and a few smaller races under my belt, I thought I was. I remember when I said this, Mike looked at me with a smile and said something along the lines of “well you’re not inexperienced, but I’m not entirely sure you’re experienced.” I just laughed it off. Now I know what he means. Racing is so different from training and a marathon is so different from any other race. Do all of the long training runs really prepare you for race day? They definitely prepare you physically, and certainly a little mentally. However, they don’t necessarily prepare you with how to race. Races prepare you to race.
After writing all of this, I’m now beaming with the pride I wish I had when I crossed the finish line. I was proud that day, but simply for finishing. Now I’m proud of myself for the four+ months of training, for every long run I conquered, for pushing through the pain and disappointment I felt on race day and for finishing in 4:25:03.
What’s next? Since it’s cold out and I don’t have a gym membership until I start at Drexel in January, I decided to sign up for a month of unlimited yoga at Philly Power Yoga. I am a complete beginner with yoga, so I’m very interested to see what a month will do. I plan on taking 3-4 classes a week depending on my schedule and I’ll keep the blog up to date with my progress (so far I can finally do a few full chaturangas in a row, although I’m pretty sure I don’t do them very gracefully).
What about running? Running will return to a regular basis soon. I’m taking a short hiatus while I focus on yoga, finals and transitioning to grad school. You’ll continue to see healthy recipes, meals out, lessons learned during grad school and my life in Philly on the blog.
And racing? Well, now I have a PR to beat…
THANK YOU to Mom, Dad, Jason, Mike, Perri, Lindsay, Keith, Alana, Julie, Natasha, Marci, Alexis, Joe, Becky, Greg, and Grant for being there. And to every other person who sent me texts/emails/wall posts before and after the race!
And special thanks to Mom, Natasha, Perri and Julie for being the best photographers!