3:20 a.m.—that’s when I woke up on Sunday morning before the Philadelphia Marathon. I have no idea why, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. Luckily, my parents were up to begin the drive from Harrisburg to Philly, so I texted them a few times, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. Like any sane person in my predicament, I went on Facebook … and found out the race started at 7, not 7:30 like I’d previously thought. Good to know.
My friends and I got to the start around 6:15, hopped in the Porta Potty line, and got ready to roll. I found the 5:30 pace group and tried to keep warm (it was so cold this year!!!), while my brother tried to find my parents in the crazy sea of people. They got to my corral just as we started to move. I teared up, of course, mostly out of nerves, but also because I was so happy that my parents, aunt and uncle were able to come see me off. Armed with hand-warmers and my dedication list (thanks to an awesome reader who owns Races 2 Remember, my index card was made into an armband so I could look at it easily!), I was ready to go.
Crossing the start, I was like, Holy $#!+, what have I gotten myself into? All these thoughts were flying through my head, but I realized the only thing I could do about it was to run, so I did. And it felt amazing. My boss met me at Delaware Avenue to run with me for a few miles, and our chatter—combined with the spectacle that was the other runners around me (example: one guy was juggling six balls while he ran; I barely have the coordination to run and talk, and he’s there juggling)—kept me distracted for a while. When I got to University City, my friend Erica waiting to power me up the hills. The Penn and Drexel students milling around are honestly the best cheerleaders. The enthusiasm is contagious, so the hills seemed a little smaller this year (just a little, though … they’re still huge).
The first half went well. I stuck with the 5:30 pacer and was having a great time. My legs felt good, I wasn’t breathing that hard, and I felt really confident in myself.
But slowly, the 5:30 sign got farther and farther away. This was NOT supposed to happen. I’d trained so well! I felt so awesome for the first 13! I found out later that the pacer was well under the 12:30 pace needed to finish in 5:30, which is probably why I was starting to fade.
Around mile 16, I thought, “I could just quit…” And those thoughts continued until mile 19, but I just kept push them out of my mind. A combo of walking and running got my legs loosened up and suddenly I had a second wind. I don’t know if it was the crowds in Manayunk or the Michael Jackson song on my playlist, but I was like, “Ok, time to go,” and started running again. I ticked off the miles in my head, silently thinking of the people they were dedicated to.
Before I knew it, I was at mile 24. I snapped a quick pic of the sign and sent it to my dad and brother so they knew I wasn’t dead or sitting at the Manayunk Tavern having a beer (extremely tempting). I honestly felt like a million sore and dehydrated dollars. The confidence you get from being almost done is the best feeling in the world. It’s almost better than crossing the finish. Almost.
Mile 25 is when the crowds started to pick up. Hearing strangers screaming my name made me feel like a rockstar. And then, I found my guys. What a group of wackjobs—they were screaming louder than anyone else. They’d pre-gamed before the race (except for Dave, who had just finished!), so I’m sure that helped their enthusiasm. But it was so great to finally see familiar faces AND the finish line at the same time.
Not too far past them were my favorite ladies, holding a Ryan Gosling sign, of course. And then my family, and Maggie and Murph who also ran, and then the finish! If my legs had allowed me to do a victory dance, I would have.
I knew I hadn’t hit my goal of 5:30, but I was hoping I had hit my second goal of under 6:00. And I did. I finished in 5:51, which is 30 minutes better than my race last year. Yes, I felt a twinge of disappointment when I knew I hadn’t hit the 5:30 mark, but then I realized how absurd that was. A 30-minute PR is a huge accomplishment in itself. Besides, there’s always next time.
Yes, next time. I know I’ll do another marathon. I don’t know when, but the feeling of having done it is so addicting that I know I won’t be able to quit now! I haven’t signed up for anything yet, except for the Broad Street Run in May, which I’m running for the American Cancer Society as part of the charity team. But even as I sit here with my sore quads and screaming hip flexors, I can’t wait to go for a run (in a few days).
I hope everyone met their goals this weekend and felt great doing it! It’s been great to share this experience with everyone. Happy running!
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. Read the series from the beginning here.