Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Philadelphia Marathon

If you are expecting to read a quick post letting you know how my marathon went, this is not it! I spent close to six hours running today and I actively tried to imprint it all to memory. I created this blog for this very reason, for a release of all things running and so that I can return later and remember what it was like. I'll post a separate short entry so that you don't have to read overly long post.


I did not spend a good deal of time last night in a deep relaxing sleep and it was easy to get up when the alarm ... and then my cell phone alarm went off. I already had all of my clothes laid out and I jumped in them quickly and was ready ... with about an hour to go before it was actually time to leave. I remember the exact same scenario for my first day of kindegarten, and then every first day of school from then on. Of course there was Jason and Megan to get ready and thankfully that was time consuming but not too difficult.

I had prepared the night before by pulling off directions from the hotel to the race site and back. It was much easier finding it today then it had been yesterday. Yesterday we spent about an hour driving around downtown Philadelphia looking for the expo so that I could check in and pick up my race number and shirt. Then we drove around about an hour afterwards, in some not very nice neighborhoods, just trying to find our way back to the interstate so that we could head to the hotel. I was so thankful today when we made it to the race site without trouble and actually even found parking close by, if not exactly legally.

It wasn't until we parked that I remembered that I should probably eat. Luckily I had thought ahead and had a couple of whole grain bagels stashed in the car. I had turned on my forerunner when we got into the car back at the hotel and it was fully charged, satelites found and ready to go. I definitely had my priorities straight there!!!

I picked at the bagel as we walked towards this huge mass of people who turned out to be waiting in line to use the port-o-potties. Going to the bathroom is considered a good idea before running a marathon so I got in line ... and waited ... and waited. I chatted with the nice ladies in line around me and it turns out this was their first marathon as well. I wonder how many people ran their first marathon today?!?

Of every runner that I talked to today I found that I was definitely the newest to the sport. In fact everybody that I talked to has been running for over a year. I have been running for 15 weeks, one week shy of the 16 week training schedule suggested by "The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide".

After my turn in the port-o-potty I met back up with Jason and Megan and they kept me company while I waited to make my way to the starting area. As we were waiting a school bus driver ran over a street lamp and knocked it down. Thank God there was no one in it's way as it fell hard.

I started noticing more and more people were headed towards the starting area and we decided it was about time to make our way in as well. Jason and Megan walked in with me and kept me company some more. We found the general area that I would be starting from, marked by a sign that read 12:30+ pace, emphasis on the +. As the start time approached we made our way over to the side gates and let them out so they wouldn't be trampled when the guns went off, little did we know that wouldn't have been a problem.

Finally, after waiting for ages, I heard "runners on your mark" ... the gunshot ... and then ... we stood there. After about a minute or two we started walking ... very slowly in a forward movement. My fears about not getting to the starting line were coming true?!? But then I saw it and we were still inching toward it and then I stepped over it ... and the race was on!!!

It was fun!!! If that's all I could say, that would be it. It was fun!!! There were people all around me crowding together, and there were spectators on both sides yelling and screaming for blocks and blocks. And It was Fun!!!

I looked down at one point shortly after we started and I was running a 10 minute mile and it was effortless. My initial plan had just been to run at a comfortable pace, but I had to slow myself down some or I was going to burn out too quickly. Before I knew it the one mile mark was upon us, and then it seemed I turned around a few corners and there was the second mile mark and I was still surrounded by people.

Somewhere between the second and third mile things started to slim down a bit but it was still so exciting. It was also about this time that I ran across the 5:30 pace group (that's hours not minutes). I was kind of in a quandary at this point though. My plan was to run at a comfortable pace and to not pay attention to how fast (or slow) I was running. Of course when you are in line of sight of a pace group, you know exactly how fast you are running. Should I follow because it was comfortable, or pass because it was comfortable or to slow down because I didn't really expect that I could run that fast for that long. In the end, I decided to just stick with them.

That was until I had to wait six minutes for the bathroom and they ran on without me. We had been told that we could expect a port-o-potty at each of the aid stations, but that was not the case. The first port-o-potty wasn't until 6 miles and by that time, I knew I couldn't hold it for the next two miles. I had no choice but to wait ... for six minutes I had to wait. I was going to say that was the longest six minutes of the entire race ... but in actuality it was the longest six minutes up until about mile 21.

While I was waiting people just kept running and in some cases walking by. By the time I finally left that aid station, I don't really think there was anybody left behind me in the race, well except for those that were in line behind me. But in a weird way that was cool because it was fun to pass them later.

The traffic was closed off during the marathon. There were police officers at each of the intersections holding cars off. That was fun!

The spectators along the course were great. There were a few times that I ran by someone who had the music from Rocky, which was filmed in Philadelphia, playing. The young kids wanted to give all the runners high fives. I was dubbed "blue" because I was wearing an all blue outfit. As I ran by people would yell "Go Blue!!!". I ran by a group of college students in front of a fraternity house banging on garbage can lids and yelling and screaming loudly. There were a few live bands and even someone playing bag pipes, which was my favorite because it brought me back to an 11 year old me on a camping trip.

There were runners from all walks and seasons of life. I passed an old man walking with a shirt that read this is his 100th marathon, he later passed me while I was waiting for the bathroom, but the good news is that I passed him again a little while later. There was a lady that I ran passed towards the end of the marathon that had a map on her shirt of all the marathons that she has ran. Hawaii is the last state she has left to run in and she said she is running that one in December. Batman ran the marathon, and so did a guy who jumped rope. Apparently when he crossed the finish line they said that he had been jumping rope the whole time, but he didn't. He was carrying that rope when I crossed paths with him when I was on mile 16ish and he was at mile 24ish. At mile 15 I was running behind a runner whose shirt read "83 and going strong" ... it's not as much fun to say that I passed him as well.

After I waited in line for the bathroom I came up behind a lady who was running slowly then all of a sudden stopped and started walking. When I reached her she said "Oh Lordy, you are an angel" as she started running with me. At this point I was feeling great, and still trying to catch back up with the 5:30 pace team. At first I tried asking her questions but she was out of breath and couldn't respond. So I was just talking to her. Then she just stopped running. I tried urging her on, but she told me to go on ahead without her, that she was just walking and wasn't quitting. I told her I would see her at the finish line, but I never did see her again.

Jason and Megan were going to meet me at mile 7. He called me about a block before I reached mile 7 to find out where I was. Apparently they were at 21st and Chestnut and I had just ran past 32nd and Chestnut. Unfortunately the next street I passed was 33rd, so I missed them. That was sad ... I was really bummed about that one.

The race route took us through downtown Philadelphia, along a river with some huge, huge ships in port, back downtown, next to a zoo, through a large park, back to the start/finish area, down a 7 mile scenic stretch next to a river and then back to the finish area.

I wasn't execting to be running next to the finish line at half way through the race. It was 3ish hours into the race at this point and there were folks finishing strong and I still had almost half a race left to finish. But the added excitement was a great push. Right at about mile 14 I turned a corner and there was Jason and Megan. Now that was a wonderful sight. Megan rushed to me and gave me a big big hug, Jason gave me a kiss and then I was off again, refreshed by my families love and support.

From then on it was a split course, those running out and those running back. The spectators were awesome, the view was great, the weather was spectatular ... it was fun!!!

Mile 18 came and went and I was still going strong. At this point I was averaging about 12:53/mi. From then on out each step was one step further then I had ever gone before. At this point I just wanted to get to mile 20ish where the turn around point was.

Mile 20 was extremely exciting. I had this grand plan of counting everybody who I passed going the opposite way and all those that I passed ahead of me. By the time I crossed the finished line I had counted 97 people. I was so bummed because as I got closer to 100 my goal changed from finishing the race to finishing it ahead of 100 people. The official race results have me coming in ahead of 101 people. I was number 102 ... how cool is that?!?

After mile 20 the aid stations were being disassembled and water was no longer available. Thankfully I had just passed a very nice man handing out little bottles of water. I took one from him so that I could consume my last gel of the race and it was a good thing I did. That little bottle of water handed out roadside by a spectator was probably the most important water that I had the whole race.

Up until about mile 21 I was feeling physically fine. Shortly after I hit mile 21 the sides of my feet started cramping. It was never an option for me to stop, but I was definitely running with pain and it did slow me down.

I think the hardest mile would have to be mile 24. It got harder and harder each mile after 21 ... but once I reached mile 25 it was almost over and there was an end in sight. I didn't think I had any kick left in me, but when the race volunteer told me that the finish line was just around the corner and that I should smile because they would take a picture everything changed, and I added speed. Which is so funny, because speed for me at that point was probably the 13:00/mi that I had averaged over the race. But it was speed then!!! I crossed the finish line just in front of the lady next to me ... now that was the real race!!!

Can you believe that I forgot to smile. I had just been advised to smile, but I forgot. I had only one thought in my head at that point and it was to pass the finish line so that I could sit down. Jason said that I had a look of serious determination on my face. He had our digital camera with him and it has a bit of a delay. So he has a picture of the finish line ... I had already passed through ...

We didn't stick around very long once I finished. I sat down long enough for Jason to take my championchip timing device off of my shoe and then we headed out, grabbing a banana on the way. I wanted to make it back to the hotel before I couldn't move anymore.

I am very happy to report that I ran my first marathon, without walking. And I will be back for more!!!

Official Race Results

Distance: 26.2 miles
Final Time: 5:55:16
Chip Time: 5:53.03
Average Pace: 13:33
Overall Place: 5832 out of 5934

Race Results as per my Garmin Forerunner

Time: 5:53:58
Distance: 26.52 mi
Average Pace: 13:21/mi
Overall Place: #1


kt said...

wowie kazowie!
well, i got to talk to you first hand after you ran...when you were sore but moving. i wonder how you felt the next day. i will keep waiting...
I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! proud to know ya and proud to call you my friend and proud that my friend just accomplished such a major feat! what ELSE is there?
love ya amber! THANKSSOMUCH 4 writing about it!

Sarah Elaine said...

Rock on, grrlfriend!

Thanks for the great post!

And I would suggest that you write to the race organizers and REAM THEM OUT about not having enough water!! That's deplorable!!

Anyway, back to you...

You are awesome, girl! Can't wait until I can get back on the road, too!

Hugs to you.