Going into a race, I always have three goals, ranging from a performance that I would be content with (the C goal) to what I think might be possible on the perfect day that everything comes together (the A goal). The B goal is somewhere in the middle.
For Philadelphia, my goals were:
C) 2:42:19 (my PR coming into the race)
A) 2:37:15 (5:59 pace)
The weather was perfect as Ashlie and I walked the 1.3 miles from our hotel to the start line. Even if I hadn’t looked up the route to the start line online, it would have been easy enough just by following the hordes of zombie-like runners shuffling their way along the streets in the pre-dawn gloom. Since I was lucky enough to get a “seeded” entry, which is basically sub-elite status, I left Ashlie to find her corral and made my way to the elite/seeded warmup area. After jogging around for 5-10 minutes and peeing on some construction equipment, I made my way to the Gold corral and found a spot just a few rows back from the starting line.
After the usual pre-race ceremonies, the gun went off and I set out at a comfortable pace. I had decided to wear the Garmin 110 for this marathon, since my plan was to run as close to 6:05 pace as possible for as long as I could, and I didn’t want a repeat of Columbus where I got lulled into running 6:15s for some of the earlier miles. The first mile went perfectly in 6:05, and I found a small group of people to run with, including one of the elite women. Mile two was similarly paced with a 6:06. Then, on a downhill, the woman and several other runners pulled away from me, while I opted to play it safe and stay back. Still, I split that mile in 5:58, although I noticed that my GPS was measuring each mile a little short. So the first mile was just before the official 1-mile marker, the second mile was a few seconds before the marker, and the 3rd mile was 10-15 seconds before the official marker. This would continue throughout the entire race, so by the time I hit 20 miles, I had another 0.2 miles before I hit the actual 20th mile marker.
After the elite woman dropped me, I found a gentleman who sounded British to run with. We ran side-by-side from three miles until almost halfway. There were two decent-sized hills that didn’t really bother me too much (thanks Turk Hill Road!) and I was able to run 6:07s for both of those miles. There was a good downhill after the second hill, and somehow I managed to run 5:51 for that mile (according to my increasingly inaccurate Garmin).
I came through the half in 1:19:45, a bit slower than the 1:19:30 I had wanted, but still at goal pace. I started to feel a bit tired around here, but told myself to man up and keep running, fatty, so I did. Shortly after 14 miles, I caught up to a guy in a white shirt and an elite woman. I’m not sure if it was the same elite woman from before, but we were all running around 6-flat pace so I stayed with them for a while.
Around mile 17, the course made a stupid turn over a bridge, down a road, then we all executed a hairpin turn around a traffic cone and returned back to the main road. This idiotic detour did slow me down to a 6:20 for my 18th mile, but luckily I was able to re-group and run 6:0x for the next three miles.
However, this part of the course consisted of several long, slow uphills and downhills into the town of Manayunk, only to be greeted by another dumb traffic cone turnaround. These hills and the hairpin turn destroyed me. I slowed down to 6:15 for the 22nd mile, and that was the beginning of the end. My garmin started displaying such awful numbers as 6:26 and, gasp, 6:38, so I once again told myself to suck it up, Sally, and was somehow able to kick the pace back down into the 6:15s for the next two miles.
Once I made it past 24 miles, though, I was completely spent. I was now right at 6:06 pace, on pace for a 2:40:00, and knew there was no way I could summon two more 6-flat miles out of my body. I was running on empty, and I had lost the guy in white and the elite woman. I know the guy took off and ended up running 2:39:29, but I honestly can’t remember if the woman dropped me or if I dropped her. All I know is I was running completely alone for the last 2 miles, and so completely drained that I honestly didn’t even care if I broke 2:40 or not. I just wanted to be done.
I finally saw the finish line and couldn’t even muster up another gear to try to kick it in. I finished with an official time of 2:40:58, a nice PR, but 59 seconds slower than my B goal. My hamstrings tightened up so badly that I was barely able to stagger to the massage tent. Several people, in fact, congratulated me on running such a great race just evidenced by my post-race shuffle. After I had my legs rubbed down and warmed up, I found my parents and together we went to watch Ashlie finish. She was upset because she thought she missed breaking four hours by a matter of seconds, but she actually smashed it with a 3:59:40!
So while I still have not run that elusive 2:39, both Ashlie and I came away from this race with shiny new PRs, and we were somehow able to “run” up the stairs to the Art Museum that were made so famous in the movie Rocky. Let me tell you, walking back down those stairs was not fun at all though!
Thanks to my parents for providing the photos.