If you’re all about the numbers, we finished in 4:26:51, hand-in-hand, smiling like fools.
Here’s how we got there.
I arrived in Philly at about 6:00 Friday evening, and Megan and Jeri were scheduled to land just a little bit later. I was waiting at the terminal exit for them and we all jumped around and screamed like prepubescent girls meeting the Backstreet Boys when we first saw each other. (WHAT?! It had been nearly a year. It’s totally allowed).
After wrangling everyone’s bags (they all made it there! Hooray!) we took a cab to the Downtown Marriott, our home for the weekend. Then it was off to the Hard Rock Cafe (starving!) which was conveniently right outside our door.
We were having a grand ol’ time chatting away until some less-than-stellar band got on stage and drowned out the ability to hear your own thoughts. Also? We ordered way too much food. And left an embarrassing amount behind.
And then obviously we stayed up way too late drinking overpriced white wine from the hotel bar and catching up. (See how we adhered to that whole two-nights-before-is-the-most-important-sleep rule? Heh).
And then after not nearly enough sleep it was expo time!
We got our bibs and all that jazz, wandered around, took all sorts of photos, and met our old training program standby author Hal.
Later we headed out for a shake-out run to the start line (we were a little over a mile away…foreshadowing! It seemed a lot farther post-race!)
After that, it was time for our pre-race dinner. We ended up just eating a decent but rather unremarkable meal at the hotel restaurant because Maggiano’s (awesome looking Italian place across the street) was jam-packed booked and had a crazy wait for take-out.
Sometime after dinner Jeri and Megan told me about Get Off My Internets (I’m like a martian now you guys, seriously…I don’t know anything about what the world is watching/listening to/up to) and I proceeded to be entertained for, um, a while. And then we all got hungry again and spent like $20 on hotel gift shop snacks. For the carbs? Soon it was time to get some sleep.
The next morning it was all about oatmeal, coffee and more matching outfits.
So this wouldn’t be a running blog if I didn’t overshare about something bodily function-related, right? Well we were getting ready and I was the only one who couldn’t, um, take care of the business. No amount of coffee seemed to do the trick. I wasn’t panicked though…in fact it had barely entered my mind were were running a race–I was cool as a cucumber. I tried convincing myself I really just didn’t need to go. (Hint: that wasn’t the case). Pretty soon we headed out into the perfect temperatures towards the race start.
We made a super quick porta-potty stop right outside our corral before making our way to the line and congratulated ourselves on the fact that the three of us going in the same one (one at a time) took less time in total than ALL the people in line ahead of us individually.
That’s how it’s done. (<—We maybe yelled that triumphantly as we jogged away…I dunno…it’s hard to recall…)
Our corral inched its way toward the line (they put actual minutes between corrals this year to help the crowding–a good thing) and the horn sounded. And just like that, we were running a marathon.
I don’t have exact splits for you because I forgot my ANT+ stick and thusly haven’t uploaded the run yet, and my Garmin is conveniently packed in one of my checked bags. (But if you’re dying for splits, my bet is that Jeri will post them). Here’s how I remember the race though:
We were going slow. Effortlessly slow. The crowds were pretty packed and we made a decision not to weave and waste energy. The overall race plan was to run smart, run a negative split, and finish together. Our motto was “If one of us poops, we all poop!” (More foreshadowing: I benefited most from this group decision to stay together on unanticipated bathroom stops). We figured we were going to be able to easily land in the 4:20ish range, and nobody flinched at the slow miles. Better to start slow than fast, we told ourselves.
We all carried our shuffles but didn’t have them on. We were chatting away, enjoying the cool temperatures and I was incorrectly recalling everything I thought I remembered from 2009. Everything was peachy.
Sometime after we saw the first set of porta-pottys on the course (around mile 2? I can’t remember and I threw away my race guide) it occurred to me I might need to use one. But it could wait for the next ones, I decided.
And then less than a mile later, my stomach made that horrible dropping feeling where you just KNOW it’s time to find a bathroom STAT. I ran ahead of Jeri and Megan craning my neck for one, and they kept on the lookout too. And here’s my only complaint about this race: there aren’t enough bathroom stops on the course. Nowhere near enough.
After several miles of feeling like I might have a Very Embarrassing Thing happen to me, we came to a water stop where I practically screamed at the nice people handing out water “Where’s the next bathroom?!?!” They said it was right around the corner.
Thankfully about half a mile later Jeri suggested we duck into this Starbucks. That girl is brilliant. Jeri came in with me while Megan documented it for posterity’s sake
I don’t remember anything remarkable about these miles–I kept my Garmin on the current lap screen so all I could see was how far I was into this mile (do you do this Susan? are you who I stole this idea from? Thanks!) and it really helped keep from being all “OMG SO MANY MILES LEFT!” and instead every time I happened to look at my wrist I’d congratulate myself on being .xx into a mile instead of dwelling on what was left. For a while later in the race I even managed to lose track of which mile we were on and it was actually really great.
Not many miles later my stomach let me know it wasn’t done with me yet. Luckily, we came up on one of the very very few bathroom stops and I hollered that I was stopping. Obviously we took a photo while I waited in line.
After that one I actually felt 100% good to go, so that was nice, but I cost us some minutes. Normally in a race stopping is a mental game-ruiner for me, but this didn’t phase me so much. I had to stop, so I stopped. And then we kept running. Simple as that.
The only other memory that stands out prior to the half was the hill at mile 9 which was a little sudden and then became gradual and took foreverrrrr to get to the top of. Somewhere in there though we remembered that this was the worst hill in the course and started (between gasps) encouraging ourselves with this little nugget. It’ll never be worse than this!
Then we split from the half marathoners and began our trek out to Manayunk.
Somewhere after is the only time I distinctly recall struggling. My legs were just sort of achy–I assume because they were used to the treadmill and not pavement-pounding. Megan and Jeri took the lead and I fell in right behind them. I didn’t say out loud that I was hurting–I figured if I did it made it real. Instead I said this:
“If I start to complain, remind me that 48 hours form now I’d KILL to be right here.”
(It was what I was telling myself, after all. And if you’re wondering, YES, being in mid-marathon pain is SO MUCH BETTER than living in PNG. SO. MUCH.)
It wasn’t until 18ish that I snapped out of my funk–by then we had gone by some awesome cheer zones and were getting to some heavier crowds. Once we hit 20ish and made the turnaround in Manyunk something clicked–I just knew I was going to be okay. We were going to do this.
Not much after Jeri suddenly declared it was bathroom time NOW. Having experienced the same horrible feeling only miles earlier, I started frantically scanning the road for bathrooms–none. Then Megan spotted a CVS across the road. Done. Jeri conveniently had her stop right by a sign great for photos (and someone even offered to take one for us!)
Jeri’s totally in there…
(Somewhere around here we all drank some beer that spectators were handing out. It was amazing).
After this we just kept trucking back towards the art museum, and soon we all stuck our headphones in to zone out to our respective power jams. (For me, Lady Gaga does the trick). Jeri and I were stride for stride in these miles, and Megan tucked in just behind. I can’t even type how awesome these final miles felt without getting all teary-eyed–we must have passed HUNDREDS of people, and were just in the zone. We moved swiftly as a pack down Kelly Drive, silently in our own heads. No one needed to say it. We had this.
We decided to give it hell around 25, and Jeri and I started to push harder. For a split second Megan seemed like she was hurting, and then suddenly she was right there, busting her ass and staying right with us. I kept one earphone in and let Lady Gaga scream in my ear while I kept the other one open for the crowds I knew were coming.
Not many strides later I shut my music off and pulled out my headphones so I could take it all in. THIS was the finish line experience I so badly wanted back in 2009, and dammit we were getting it. Tons of people were calling out our names and cheering for us (we stood out in those shirts!) and we just kept passing people left and right. So this is what finishing a marathon is supposed to feel like, huh?
Just before we got to the point where we could see the finish line I hollered to Megan to come up to my side so we could position ourselves for the finish line photo (<—basically the underlying goal of this whole weekend) and I think she said she was sorry or something–I think she was hurting–and Jeri and I just started yelling our heads off with all sorts of stuff. I remember her saying “This is so freaking cool!” and I recall blurting out “This is why we run!” It was truly the coolest damn feeling to know I had 26 miles on my legs and I was hauling. And all these people were there to cheer us in.
Whatever it was Megan said, she was right there, and as the line came into view we positioned ourselves between a few finishers so we could make sure our photo was amazing. We grabbed each others’ hands right before we hit the line, raised them in the air and hit that final timing mat.
(Also, Megan ran an 11-minute PR. Off of a 6-week training cycle. BOOM).
We all immediately bent over and grabbed our knees and the volunteers questioned us vigorously as to whether or not we were okay (which we later learned was sadly because two runners had collapsed earlier in the day) while we caught our breath. I had the dopiest smile on my face and assured him I was fine–I was just a little tired. Excellent volunteers though. Gold stars for them.
We slowly started to make our way through the chute, get our blankets and medals, and pose for a few more pictures. The stiffness started to set in and we moved slowly, but not without finding some nice person to snap this photo:
We got some chicken broth (which I’ve never had after a race and was like the nectar of the Gods!) and made the slow, slow trek back to the hotel. I was feeling the miles, but Jeri definitely had it the worst of all of us. I won’t steal her thunder and try to tell her story, but that girl is a badass who must have run many many miles with a jank foot. The whole way back we marveled at how well-executed it was–so that’s what it feels like to finish a marathon the right way? To run a kick-ass negative split? Awesome.
(Note more for me than anyone else: GU Roctane at miles 5, 10, 15, 20, sipped Gatorade at the final water stops with water as well. Worked perfectly).
It must have taken us hours to get back to the hotel (I actually have no idea…but seriously, it was a while) and we got to showering the stank off ourselves. It was while Megan was in the shower that Jeri said something to me I couldn’t agree with more:
“I’m more proud of this than I would be if I had PR’d.”
Me too. We ran smart, we stuck to our plan, and we gave it hell at the end. That’s how it’s done.
Being the type-A nutjobs we are, we obviously recognized that simply not having to make SO MANY poop stops alone would have put us under 4:20, and we definitely took it very slow in those early miles–but who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t? No regrets on this one. And that’s never happened to me before.
Also, having three of us stay together was just perfect–we all had our moments where we needed a little help. Megan said she felt like she might have given up towards the end if we hadn’t been there–I felt the exact same way around 15-16. Teamwork for the win! And running 26.2 miles with two of your best friends is just indescribably awesome.
Later we hobbled to a cab to to take us to the traditional post-race Mexican, picked up cupcakes from the Flying Monkey in Reading Terminal Market (I had a pumpkin spice one! So good!) and then laid around the hotel for a while. Obviously we got hungry again not long after and headed out for sushi, followed by beers at an Irish pub.
When we walked into the pub there was a group of people who had obviously run as well and they all started clapping for us (we had our medals on) and I couldn’t help but smile like a fool. This is the first time I’ve ever run a marathon I was truly proud of.
We spent a couple glorious hours between the sushi joint and the pub just chatting away, reliving the best parts of the day, and assuring ourselves two and a half weeks isn’t that long at all (<–when I’m back in the states for Christmas vacation!)
I couldn’t possibly be happier with how everything went–it was nuts in the first place to try to run a marathon off such a short training cycle, plus I had the added monkey wrench of not being able to train outside, and Megan and Jeri have always been injury prone when their mileage gets high–and yet, we all came through it with flying colors.
Hand in hand.