The Philadelphia Marathon Part II (My Debut)

Racing Tips

On Wednesday I covered the first 13 miles of my debut marathon. Click HERE to read Part I. Today I will cover the second half; the part where it really gets interesting (well, I hope). Even if I can prevent just one person from going through what I did those last 7 miles, then exposing my mistakes will be worthwhile.

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Running up Kelly Drive IMG_1321for miles 13-17 was pure joy. I was in a great rhythm; smooth, comfortable; on top of the world.

Waving and cheering as I passed my excited athletes.

I even had the arrogance to think to myself “people said that the race would not go exactly as I wanted it, but it is”.

I had a sip of water at mile 14, but choked on it, reinforcing my hatred of drinking out of cups while running.

Giving up on drinking, but I remained calm as I would have a bottle with a friend working the aid station at mile 17 where I could drink more while I took my final gel.

As I ran by the 16 mile mark, I felt great. “I can handle 10 miles at this pace, this is going to be okay!” I knew it would hurt, but little did I know that I was about to face the biggest challenge of my life.

Nearing the 17 mile mark I scanned the aid station for my friend…..nope….not there.

I ran past one of my athletes ignoring his hand offering water as I thought my bottle must be nearby.

I consumed my final gel without any water as we did the silly add on: across falls bridge, down the hill on other side, 180 degree turn, and back up and across.

For the first time I could see how far ahead the leader was.

Not an unreachable distance.

I passed Steve at the 18 mile mark, apparently he tried to hand me a water bottle….however, somehow, I did not see this, as ironically I was panicking about how I did not have any water with my gel.

As I attempted the hill into Manayunk I suddenly felt as though someone had grabbed my lungs and squeezed all of the air out of them.

Not the first occurrence of this sensation, so I attempted to calm my breathing, and slow down to get back under control.

Pretty soon I realized that this was no ordinary struggle.

My arms began to tingle, I couldn’t see straight, and suddenly I was in so much distress that I pretty much slowed to a walk.

I decided I would drop out as soon as I saw my friend Craig.

He could call my family, and tell them I had dropped out. However, Craig was nowhere to be seen, I willed myself along and finally saw Craig just after the turnaround, but thankfully, by this point I had realized if I stopped, I would have nothing to show for everything I had been through, especially the last few weeks.

I was going to finish.

No.

Matter.

What.

I honestly believe that if Craig had been further up in Manayunk, I would have stopped.

Quit. Failed. Never forgiven myself.

Everything happens for a reason, and this meant Craig was far enough down the road for my determination to show through. After all as my beloved Rocky says, it “aint about how hard you hit……

The next 7 miles were the worst 50(ish) minutes of my life.

Other than one mile where I was able to run a 6:19 mile (which happened to be the mile I ran by a very confused Steve), it was pure agony.

I was completely delirious, literally focused on surviving.

I genuinely thought I could die.

Not the usual “I’m gonna die” that flitters through your mind as you race, but a real fear that I could physically drop dead on the course.

Even with my distorted vision I could sense the devastation on the faces of my friends, speechless with what to say.

I was moving as fast as I possibly could, but at the same time I was just trying not to pass out. I managed two sips of Gatorade at two separate aid stations, which I told myself would give me the energy to finish.

You know you are in a bad way when the volunteers are literally holding the cups inches from your face, begging you to drink them.

At mile 24, my body took a turn for the worse….I didn’t even think that was possible.

The world began to spin and my pace slowed even further.

I considered dropping out every minute, and my last mile turned into a few steps of walking followed by a few steps of running.

Every single person I ran by was cheering me on, clapping and focusing their energy on helping me finish.

Runners on the other side of the road cheered for me also, they should have been focused on their own race, but instead were so caring as to cheer for me instead.

People passing me cheered me on, patting me on the back to keep me moving.

Even in my bewildered state, I was overwhelmed that people wanted to help me rather than focusing on their own race. Honestly, I am not sure I would be able to do the same, but it shows just how selfless people can be!

I have no idea how I managed to finish that last mile, it took everything I had to cross that finish line, I could not have run even one second faster than the 8:57 I stumbled to.

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You hear about the magical moment you cross the finish line of a marathon, “you will remember for the rest of your life”, yet I have absolutely no recollection of that moment.

All I remember is putting my hands on my knees the way you normally would after a race, but instead of helping, the extra weight made my legs buckle and I fell to the ground.

The St. Joe’s coach, Claire suddenly was holding me up, talking to the medics who asked her if I needed to go to the tent, YES, she responded without hesitation.

As they strapped me down on the stretcher and wheeled me towards the tent, I was completely out of it. I felt as though I had consumed 12 shots of Vodka, my eyes were rolled back into my head.

Once inside the tent, they asked me what felt like a quick fire round of questions, but talking was too much effort and my mind felt like like it was in slow motion.

Around 45 minutes later I was allowed to leave with Steve after some assistance putting the weight back on my heavy legs.

As we walked outside, we were greeted by my wonderful athletes waiting outside, shivering from the cold, but cared for me enough to wait and make sure I was okay. I was absolutely blown away by their kindness, and I felt so pathetic that I was so weak, when I was meant to be the strong one! It was a great reminder of just how lucky I am to be at La Salle.

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After Steve argued with some police officers who would initially not let me through, I hobbled towards my parents, bursting into tears, thinking everyone was disappointed in me.

Honestly, I felt embarrassed. I felt like everyone in the world would be laughing at me, knowing that I was “that stupid rookie marathoner who went too fast”. Of course my parents were wonderful, cradling me and loving me the same way they would of had I run 2:09, 2:49 or 4:49.

Eventually, we walked back to the car, and drove back to my apartment.

Unfortunately the medics had told me not to go to the Eagles game we had tickets for, so mum and I stayed behind while my dad and Steve went to the game.

The afternoon was a blur of crying, limping around (by now my leg was very very sore), and making myself eat to reduce the severe calorie deficit. That evening we went out to eat at Iron Hill Brewery. I devoured a burger and fries as the analysis began……..To be continued…..check out Part III (The Learning Curve) 

If you missed Part I, it can be found HERE. You can also read about my Chicago Marathon 2014.

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