“I owned every second that this world could give, I saw so many places, the things that I did, With every broken bone, I swear I lived” – One Republic, I Lived
I lived both figuratively and literally. It was an amazing experience and, yes, I am going to run another marathon. First, I want redemption from the time my miserable IT band cost me. Second, I want to be there for Sissy and Heather to get to the finish of their first marathon. If you run long distances, I think you should run a marathon. There is no way to describe what it feels like. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. On Friday, the family got up and headed to the Expo at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. They had a kids’ zone, which was a great idea and the first Expo I have attended where the organizers thought of it. Mike stayed with Colin and he got balloon animals and did arts and crafts.Great thing. Carly and I went to get my bib.
When the man handed me my bib, it sunk in that I really had to run this thing. I mentioned that we were treating this like a vacation (which it was) so I was not focused on why we were actually here until that moment. I bought some race gear and, of course, some more headbands. If you see me every day, you know I have a ton of them and I buy more at each Expo. I stopped by the AMR booth, which was being manned by Sarah, to say hi. We ate at the Reading Terminal Market, which I highly recommend. Saturday was filled with more sight seeing. Colin was angry that he could not touch the Liberty Bell. I think, judging by his behavior on this trip, it must be hard to be three. We returned to the Expo and Carly and I hung out at the AMR booth with Dimity and Denise. I met Jo and Adrienne (my awesome pacers) in person for the first time. I ran in an anti-gravity treadmill and, if I ever win the lottery, one of those will be one of the first items I purchase! The effect was running at only 60% of my body weight and it felt amazing. So, basically, if I weighed the same as Carly, running would be easier!
All day Saturday I was feeling really nervous. Saturday night, we had an AMR dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Center City. I met many of the women who are a part of AMR. I also met Nicole, who I had been talking to on social media, who also runs for Oiselle. When I got back to the hotel on Saturday night, I felt very calm. For some reason the nerves were gone and I was really ready to run the race. I laid out all of my gear and pinned on my bib. We all fell asleep pretty early and, before I knew it, my alarm was sounding at 5:15 AM. Carly woke right up (a rarity) to head down to the lobby with her bike. The plan was for Carly and Dimity to ride the course on bikes to pop up along the route for support. Dimity and Carly had made signs on Friday night and I was looking forward to seeing them.
Sarah, Adrienne and I left the other folks in the lobby and headed over to the start. There were so many runners! I have never run a race this large – even the Disney Princess was not this big. It took a while for us to get back to the Blue Corral since it was the last one. We met up with mother runner, Laura, who had loaned Dimity her husband’s bike to ride during the race. We started right by the Rocky statue at the art museum, a nice touch. The corrals were well organized and the waves started right on time. Mayor Nutter released all the corrals except our corral, which was released by the Governor-elect, who told us we were “the best people in America”. We all laughed at that and it became a joke we reused many times during the first half of the race.
The start was exciting, right in the middle of the city. Near mile 1, I saw Carly, Dimity and Denise. The first 10 miles were amazing, running through the city. There was good crowd support and lots of things to look at to distract from running (funny signs). Adrienne was an amazing pacer, reminding me to reel it in. We stuck to our intervals and stayed right on pace except for the 6 minute bathroom break (I hate stopping to use the bathroom during a race). I felt great and nothing hurt once my soleus warmed up. South Philly wins the neighborhood award because they really brought the party atmosphere at 8 AM on a Sunday!
The plan was for Adrienne to peal off at the half finish and for Jo to meet me at mile 13.5. When we were running through Fairmont Park, though, there was a sign that said that the half marathoners needed to turn right but we were only at mile 11. Adrienne pealed off at that point and I kept running by myself. Once I was out of the park and down by the river, I decided to take an extra walk break to take off my arm warmers, which required removing my Garmin and Road ID, not an easy feat while moving forward. It is a good thing I slowed because Adrienne was able to catch me – it turns out the signage was wrong and it was not time to peal off!
We ran and chatted until we got back near the start and the sign came for marathoners to turn left and half marathoners to turn right. I said goodbye to Adrienne and turned left. I was expecting this to be mentally tough but it really was not. I just turned left and told myself “half marathon #2”.
Carly, Jo and Dimity were waiting at mile 13.5 and Jo jumped in with me. We did our intervals and moved right along. These miles were kind of a blur. We ran past the river on the beautiful course. This was my first marathon but I have run a lot of races and I have to say, this was an amazing course. Flat, beautiful views, great crowds. I highly recommend it. I cannot describe the feeling of being in the second half of a marathon. At around mile 15, my left IT band and knee started to get a little stiff. I am really not surprised it decided to give me trouble. I was expecting it. Ever since my speedy Raleigh City of Oaks relay race on November 1, my ITB has been unhappy. Out on that course, at the end of my 5 mile run, it seized up, something that had never happened before – every run after that over 10 miles it got really cranky. I knew I was kind of wounded going into this race with the tendonitis in my left soleus, my cranky left ITB and my right SI joint discomfort. These nagging things, though, were not enough to make me not do this. I just figured they would make the last miles of the marathon more painful than I would want them to be. I was right. What I did not expect is that they would make me have to walk so much.
At mile 18, my IT band decided to become really, really stiff. Have you ever left a rubber band on a stack of papers and found it years later and it has lost all of its elasticity? That was my ITB. It did not want to bend where it met my knee. Jo and I shortened our intervals so there was still some running. By mile 20, it was obvious that running was not going to happen. My ITB and knee were so stiff they would not bend. The only way I could go in a forward motion was to keep my left leg straight and sort of drag it along. My feet were covered in blisters. I looked around me and realized I was in the crowd with the walking wounded. Everyone around me was hobbled. Everyone was, clearly, in pain. We did not let it stop us and most of us did not lose our spirits. We talked to each other, we encouraged each other, we commiserated together. There were lots of comments about never doing this again but I did not think that. Even with the pain and the fact that I had to walk, I never doubted that I would do this, again. Jo was amazing. She kept me talking and walking. She congratulated me on getting this done. I loved her for it.
We saw Dimity and Carly a lot out there during the walking part. Carly was so sweet. I think she saw I was suffering and she kept asking if I was OK. I was OK. I was in pain but I was OK. At one point, around mile 22, I apologized to Dimity for my ITB and my walking. I think I felt like I was letting her down but she said for me not to worry about it.
Right before the chute, Jo pealed off to be with Dimity and Carly. At that point, with a little over 0.3 miles to go, I started running, again. At least I thought I was running. To the crowd, it probably looked like some kind of strange lurching! It was seriously painful but I did not stop and when I heard Mike and Colin calling out “mommy” on my left and saw them at the barricade, I started to cry. I kept my eyes up at the finisher clock, with tears streaming down my face, smiling at the same time, and crossed the line. I stopped, bent over and looked at my Garmin. There was still a 5 at the front of my time so I was happy, given all that had happened. It was important to me to finish in under 6 hours and I did it, 43 year old ITB and all. I also was not last although not too far from it. Whoever came in last, you are a real hero in this race. A nice young policeman asked me if I was OK. I said yes and hobbled down to get my space blanket and a cup of Gatorade. The volunteers were handing out warm soft pretzels. Best post-race food ever!
I stopped for a post-race picture, clutching my pretzel and my space blanket. I don’t know why I did not take it off. At the next picture spot, I had the forethought to take off the blanket and lay down the pretzel but then I had to bend over to pick them up. Ugh. I managed to hobble down the rest of the incredibly long chute and make it over to the family meeting area. No family was there. Apparently, Colin walks slower than people who just finished a marathon. Carly was the first to reach me. She threw down her bike and ran to give me a hug. She was proud, which meant a lot to me. Colin was next and really all he did was give me a hug and tell me he was hungry because he is three and that is how it goes. Mike gave me a big hug and said congratulations. We slowly headed over to the hotel and straight to the bar, which was the same idea all the other finisher’s had! I managed to snag a table but I had to lift my left leg with both hands to get it up onto the barstool. It would not bend.
This morning, my leg will once again bend. It hurts but it bends. My feet are covered in Band-Aids, which are covering my numerous blisters. I’ve only worn flip-flops around the hotel. I am sore but not as badly as I thought I would be. The first few steps out of the bed were hard but once I get moving, it gets better. I have a PT appointment tomorrow but Smruti is out on maternity leave so I will be seeing Kyle for the first time. I hope he has his Graston tools ready to go because this IT band needs some work.
I don’t think I have done this race justice with this post because I can’t put into words how it feels to run a marathon. It hurts and, I think that is obvious but, the emotions defy description. I never once gave up, mentally. Quitting, no matter what happened, was never an option. Am I disappointed with my time? Yes and no. I am disappointed my body decided to quit so I could not stick to my desired 11:30-12:00 per mile pace but I am not disappointed I finished in under 6 hours. In all honesty, my A Goal was to finish this race, in an upright position, with a smile on my face, willing to do this, again, because running, to me, is all about having fun and experiencing life. I met that goal. I also learned some lessons for next time because there will be a next time.