Philadelphia Marathon 2011

On November 20th, 2011, I stepped up to the starting line for my fourth marathon ever, my second in Philadelphia. The weather was perfect, I had carb-loaded and rested like a rock star, and I had experience on my side. The previous year, I stepped up to the Philly Marathon a first-time marathoner, with little faith in myself and the process.

While this time I had experience on my side, I also had quite the challenge before me: I was attempting to run a sub-3:15 marathon. Last year, I ran a 3:32:33, which up until yesterday was my marathon PR. I have trained the last 18 weeks with the focus of stepping up my game, but the day of the marathon, there are many factors that affect the execution of the race.

Yesterday morning started off rough. The porta-potty line was LONG, and there was no way I could pee one last time AND make it to the starting line in time to take off with my corral. I decided to duck behind a tree, squat down as though I were fixing my shoe, and peed right there! Yes, I peed my shorts. I guess that action proves just how dedicated I am to the sport.

Chris and I started the race together, though he was running the half marathon and aiming for a different pace. As I crossed the starting line, I tried to calm my nerves. The porta-potty situation had become a negative distraction in the minutes before the race, and I knew I had to let that experience go and focus on the task at hand.

The first ten miles were easy and fun. My pace was ahead of my 7:25 mile pace, the crowds were awesome (some memorable signs made me laugh!), the course felt easy, and I ran with a big smile on my face. The hills between mile 7-11 didn’t break me down, but gave me the opportunity to check in with my body and use the hills to my advantage.

Miles 11-13 were the boring, quiet stretch on Martin Luther King Blvd., that I know all too well from last year’s marathon and the half marathons the last two Septembers. As the half marathoners split off to finish their quest, I marched on with the warriors for the second portion of my quest. Around this time, I had my first conversations with a few male runners, who had been pacing off of me and were also aiming for a 3:15 pace!

Miles 14-16 were a bit taxing mentally, though physically I was exactly where I wanted to be. I had slowly created a 3 minute lead on my goal pace, which was a comfort. However, I had a feeling I was going to need that extra time as I got closer to hitting the wall and pushing through it.

Miles 17-18 began to wear on me, and I was getting antsy to approach the 19.5 mile mark and the turn-around mark in Manayunk. What happened next caused much alarm: my stomach began acting up. Something wasn’t settling right (maybe the Gu and water combo?) and I started to worry that I would need to find a porta-potty along the course.

Miles 19-22 were tough! The positive was that I saw Ben on the turn-around and we slapped hands! I was filled with happiness that he was on a fantastic pace, and connecting with him gave me a mental shot of energy. After the turn-around, I realized my body was in crisis. My stomach began cramping, and I began feeling sick from my head to my toes. I needed a porta-potty, and I needed one NOW! The only problem – there wasn’t one in sight, I continued to forge ahead, but I began debating pulling over on the side of the course behind a car or tree. It was that bad! Finally, at mile 22 I came across a porta-potty, and realized I had no choice but to take the time for a pit-stop.

Miles 23-25 presented me with the wall. Plus, I was pissed that the porta-potty detour took 2 of my 3 buffer minutes. However, I felt way better after my detour (though still not great!), and knew the pit-stop might have cost me my goal. I began to feel my energy and mental state fade, and my pace dipped to a 7:40 mile at its slowest. I kept trying to get myself to move my legs faster, but the quiet part of the course didn’t help motivate or distract me from the aches and pains that began to take over.

Miles 26-26.2 gave me a burst to the finish. Part of kick in the ass came when a familiar face from Central Park came up besides me and said hi. Seeing Rachel looking strong and focused, and a few words of encouragement exchanged both ways helped me dig deep. I let go of being pissed about the pit-stop, and told myself to dig and do my best. Some things are simply out of our control as marathoners. As I neared the finish line, the pack of runners was thin and the crowd kept shouting my name and cheering me on as I picked up speed. My last half mile was a 6:49 pace, which was quite the surprising kick at the end of a marathon. I sprinted to the finish line, knowing at my goal of a sub-3:15 wasn’t going to happen but determined to run my best final steps I could. The announcers commented on my strong kick at the end, and I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my salty, tired face.

Interesting experiences this race:

This was my first marathon running with no music! I left the Ipod at home (I’ve been training 99% of the time without music this year), which for the most part was a majorly positive experience. Without music, I was extremely aware of my breathing, the crowd’s energy, and all of my senses. The only time I craved music was when I hit the wall around mile 23-25 where the course is very quiet.

My bib chip malfunctioned, so my official race info has yet to be posted! I am hoping that between my garmin stats and official race photos, this hiccup will be ironed out. I qualified for Boston 2013 with this marathon, 47 seconds too slow to register with the Elites and runners who ran 20 minutes FASTER than their required time – mine being a 3:35 requirement.

Also, as I rounded towards the finish line, a marathoner was on the edge of the course receiving medical attention. I found out later yesterday that this marathoner was the 40-year-old male who died on the course.

As for me, I am resting these next few days. My next marathon experience (Disney in early January 2012!) is just around the corner, but I am planning to run the half and full marathons slowly and to simply enjoy the experience. The next marathon “race” for me will happen on April 16, 2012 in Boston. Goals for Boston? Check back later and I’ll tell you!

Photos from Philly marathon to come soon!


~ by Elizabeth on November 21, 2011.

4 Responses to “Philadelphia Marathon 2011”

  1. Excellent recap – congratulations on what I assume is a PR. It seems that a lot of people ran their best races in Philly, which I’m guessing means the weather was nice.

  2. Congradulation. Nice pace. Next time, stay away from Gatoraide, a lot of time it causes bloating and doesn’t allow the stomach to empty. Water and gels are better, it you don’t want to be weighed down with carrying your own flasks of sports drink (those that are soy or rice based tend to not cause bloating).

    Good job on not using music. All the top runners listen to their bodies, rather than Katie Perry.

    Now that your are a very accomplisher marathoner, you might consider triathlons, as Philly has a good one, and there are lots of Sprint triathlons to get your feet wet…lol.

    Congratulation again.

    • I actually didn’t have any Gatorade during the race, and stuck to my Gu. I think the Gu I was handed at one point was loaded with caffeine, and I always run without caffeine Gu. Lesson learned. I’m signed up for my first Ultra this year.

  3. Way to go! Look at that stride! Sucks about the chip not working, but you have evidence! So proud of you!

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