After the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon, I pushed myself through the celebratory lunch at the Penrose Diner with my parents and friends, and then promptly went home to lay on the sofa. I sat under the blankets while the dehydration shivers and muscle soreness set in. As my roommate, Kelli, got up to get me yet another round of Gatorade and water, she asked, “Well, do you think you’ll ever do this again?” Short answer: absolutely not.
Hi, my name is Annie, and I’ve never been a fast runner. I frequently finished last in my high school cross country races and have been a “back of the pack” runner ever since. Back then, I got frustrated and discouraged as my friends continued to improve while was still finishing behind everyone else. I tried to ignore the disappointment and just kept trying, but it wasn’t easy. I never really felt like a runner.
Then I came across “The Penguin Chronicles” in Runner’s World magazine. Written by John “The Penguin” Bingham, the column shared the author’s story of what it’s like to be a slow runner whose speed most closely resembled a snail’s pace; fittingly, his tag line was “Waddle On.” Finally! A runner I could identify with. He helped me see that putting on some sneakers and hitting the pavement was the only thing that makes a runner a runner. While speed is nice, it isn’t necessary. It was the encouragement I needed to stop comparing myself to other runners and take the leap to sign up for the Broad Street Run in 2006. I was (finally) bitten by the running bug.
After six Broad Street Runs and about as many half marathons, I decided it was time to sign up for a full marathon. That’s how I found myself at the starting line last November.
I won’t go into details, but some issues in my personal life arose last fall that meant I wasn’t as prepared for the race as I wanted to be. After missing a few long runs and feeling generally fatigued, I was very nervous while waiting for the race to begin. My brother, who came to offer moral support and make sure I didn’t chicken out, gave me a great pep talk. Still, nothing can make you feel capable of running 26.2 miles short of having done it before. I told myself all I had to do was finish the race and have at least one person behind me when I crossed the finish.
It started off well, but as I ticked off the mile markers, I kept hearing “You’re not even close to being done.” Seeing all of the supporters who had come out to cheer on the runners gave me a boost of confidence, but it wasn’t until mile nine that I began to believe I actually could finish the race. Crossing the halfway point, I realized I had just run my half-marathon personal record. Then, a few friends jumped in to run with me at 16, giving me the boost I needed to keep moving forward—albeit at a crawl. Six hours and 20 minutes after beginning the race, I crossed the finish with at least a handful of people behind me. Mission accomplished—kind of.
Fast forward to April 2012, as I enter the last few digits of my credit card number into the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon registration page. While completing a marathon at all is a great accomplishment, I know I can do better. My goal: to run a 5:30 marathon. I won’t be a front of the pack runner any time soon, but I will train harder and run faster than last year. And that’s how I’ll measure my success.
I am following a plan I found online, tweaking it to my needs. My longest run will be 22 miles instead of the suggested 20 (no matter what they say, an extra 6.2 miles is FAR). Best part? I’ll only be running four days a week, which leaves plenty of time for yoga. While I’ll be running the actual race by myself, I’ll have some training company this year. My cousin will be traveling to Philly from Florida to complete his first marathon, and several of my coworkers at Drexel University will also be running. While we’re all at different levels, it’s nice to know that you’re not pushing yourself through another hazy, hot, and humid long run alone.
I can’t wait to share my training journey with you. I see so many people running on the streets of Philly and on Kelly Drive, and it makes me wonder how many of those runners are preparing for the marathon, too. Just remember that we’re all in it together. Seventy-five days until race day!
>> Are you running the Philadelphia Marathon? Or have you run a marathon before? What advice do you have for Annie? Share in the comments.
Annie Acri is an administrative assistant at the Drexel University College of Medicine and is working toward her master’s of communication degree. The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon will be her second marathon. Follow along every Tuesday as Annie posts about the ups and downs of training as she prepares for the big race on November 18th.