Photos here, because they want me to pay $50 for a jpg so they make it impossible to embed the proofs. But they are pretty silly. My natural unphotogenicness is enhanced by my extreme sweaty grossness but the feeling of victory is pretty obvious, no?
So, I ran a half marathon. I did this once before in May 2008 but this time was about 10 million times better. Mainly because I trained better, but also it was a much better course, with more people and more enthusiastic people (and more slow people, really) than Brooklyn. And I think there is a major psychological benefit to having done one already. I kind of knew what it feels like when you get to Mile 12. Or I thought I did! This time was just so much easier in almost every way than last time.
Here's the summary:
At the end of the week leading up to the race, I had serious pain happening. In my butt. Seriously, it was some kind of pinched nerve situation that at first I thought was a joint issue but then it was pointed out to me that my left butt is not really that close to a joint. For real, I was not able to get out of bed at the appointed time on Saturday because bending hurt too much. But when I dragged myself up about an hour after the alarm first went off, I decided I was going to drive to PA anyway, and even if I couldn't run the race I'd watch my friend IC (who I roped into this) do it on his own.
Drive, drive, drive! I left Boston at 6 am and got to IC's house around 12:30 after getting pretty lost at the very end of the drive. By then I was walking pretty ok and figured if I could get out of bed on Sunday I'd be doing the race. We went to the race expo, bought flashy running sunglasses (you can see them in my race photos), and also hit up the UnderArmour outlet for lots of cheap-ish tech clothing. We definitely flouted the "don't wear anything new the day of a race" rule. Then IC's wife NC cooked us up a really delicious pasta meal and we all went to bed super early.
Sunday morning I woke up without much pain at all, at ridiculous o'clock in the morning. Everyone was up and excited, which is really more than I expected for 4:30 am on a weekend. N's friend A had come over late Saturday so she could come keep N company while she was cheering and IC and I were running. We suited up, got in the car, and headed to the start. It was really, really cold. But apparently about 20 degrees warmer than last year, so I can't really complain. Once the sun came up it was really great running weather.
We milled around, ran into my friend A from law school (we knew she'd be there but did not expect to find her in a crowd of over 18,000). And then just before the 7 am start we wandered over to try to find an appropriate corral to start in. We were supposedly color-coded but we couldn't figure out where we were supposed to be and just situated ourselves in the middle, which seemed to work. We started in the third wave of runners (marathon and half marathon were mixed right up until the 13 mile mark) and off we went! The beginning was chaotic like most races are, with everyone trying to figure out their pace and find some space to move. Actually that went on for most of the race -- there were sooo many people.
IC took off pretty quick at the start, which we had anticipated; I knew he'd been training at a faster pace than me so we had made plans to meet up at the end (not anticipating just how crowded it would actually be). I warmed up over the first mile, took off my gloves (the race planners provided us with some cheap gloves, which was really great), and got into a good pace. The first couple miles I had kind of a lot of pain, but not too much to take and the running definitely wasn't making it worse than if I was walking (or standing or sitting) so I pushed through but reminded myself that I could quit if it got bad.
The course went all over Philly, and the first few miles took us from the center of town (Art Museum) through Chinatown, to the Delaware River and along that for a bit. It was in this area that I found IC, checked in with him, and passed him. He was not having such great luck with his new clothing, it turns out. (And he'd never done a race at all before!) But he looked in good spirits and he was chugging along so I didn't worry about him. I had no idea what my time was though -- I forgot to start my watch until I'd been going for a few minutes, and with all the excitement I wasn't really able to do the math to figure out what my pace was except that I remembered the time when I passed Mile 1 (18:50) so I could keep a running average time whenever I passed a timeclock. As it turns out I think I crossed the start line at around 8 minutes, something like that.
So, back to the race recap -- when I got to about mile 5 I could hear a bigger cheering section up ahead. To that point there were families scattered along the sidelines cheering for their runner, and some nurses outside the hospital offering massages and water, but when we turned onto Chestnut St, which would be the longest straight stretch of the race, suddenly there were TONS of people cheering. The sidewalk was packed and it created a weird claustrophobia-inducing effect where the runners were in a narrower street than before and there were people standing on the curbs so they were too tall to see over. It was weird, but thankfully the road wasn't so crowded that I felt freaked out or anything. The energy of the crowd was a good boost there at the halfway point. I stopped at mile 7 for the first time to walk for about 2 minutes and eat one of the caffeinated sugar goo packets that I brought. Getting going again was easier than expected and I felt good going into the 8th mile, which was a doozy. We went up and over a bridge at the Skuylkill River, then up a big hill to the area by UPenn (I think). It was rough, and I started to walk again when I got to the top of the hill but a woman maybe my mom's age saw my name on my race bib and said "Come on Rosalie, you can do it!" I know some people find that creepy but I really like it -- I took off running again, and came to a good downhill section that got me back in the groove.
It was around that time that we turned and started heading into a park. This was the hardest part by far, up a big and windy hill that seemed to go on forever. I had to walk for a minute right around the 9 mile marker to get myself up to the top, but then I picked up the pace again heading down and out of the park. Once I got back out onto the road, there were runners going both directions. It was an out and back mile and a half or so, and a lot of people seemed to get pumped up by seeing the people ahead and behind them. I was scanning the crowd trying to find IC because I didn't know if he'd passed me again or if he was just behind me. I got into a really good rhythm and this was probably my quickest leg of the race. It was flat, predictable, and I was surrounded by other runners so the race effect was in full effect. I never did see IC though, so when I got to the end of the out-and-back and the road widened I got more focused on finishing. I took quick walk breaks at mile 11 and again at mile 12, and at 12 I had the second goo packet for a final energy boost. In this stretch there were a lot of high-fivers. I love high fives during the race! There were a bunch of college age ladies right in the middle by a water station wearing t-shirts that said "free high fives" so I took advantage while I still had the energy to lift my arm.
From there, well, it was tough but I knew I'd be done soon, after running for over 2 hours. So I tried to keep the pace up at a good clip for the final 1.1 miles. And I also knew I'd finish at or around my goal time of 2:30! (At mile 12 the clock said 2:20, so I had done the past 11 miles in about 2:01.) When I got really close, the crowd got louder and the road narrowed as the marathoners went left to mile 14 and the half marathoners went right to the finish line. I ran as fast as I could (at this point, really not all that fast) and finished strong at 2:23:42!
That is over 6 minutes under my goal time and a fantastical 17 minutes faster than my May 2008 Brooklyn time.
IC finished his first half strong and with style, in some fantastic blue knee socks that apparently gave him a lot of trouble but looked very cool. (I haven't seen his race photos yet but if you are his Facebook friend you should check out the pre-race photos posted by N.) And after much searching and borrowing of strangers' cell phones and maybe a little bit of crying and flopping on the ground, I found N and A, and eventually IC found us and hopped a fence to join the crew. We hobbled a painful quarter mile to the car, went home, showered, and ate SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD OH MY GOD. We got a big hearty brunch, and for dessert I ordered us some cheese fries. Pennsylvania is the only place I know of where Cheez Wiz is exalted and consumed with no shame. (This may be why Philly is one of the nation's fattest cities, but I'm still calling it a positive.) A lot of it was consumed that day, since later on after we collapsed and slept on the couches (and N and A attended a baby shower) we ordered more cheese fries and sandwiches for dinner. Monday morning I got up early yet again and hit the road back to Boston with my medal, commemorative t-shirt, and glory!
And that, friends, is the tale of my half marathon. It's making me excited all over again to write about it. I DEFINITELY recommend Philly to anyone who's thinking of doing a half or full marathon. If I ever run a full (I'm entertaining the idea) I think this will be the one I go for. So stay tuned, maybe Philly Full Marathon 2010 will happen...
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