Monday, November 21, 2011
Phenomenal: Philadelphia Half Marathon 2011
I had wanted to run Philadelphia for about a year. A couple of my friends ran it last year, and really loved it. In May, when I decided to do a season of fall racing (w/ no marathon), I worked it out with Sarah that the Philadelphia Half Marathon would be my big race for the fall season. I started my training June 13th for this season – Sarah had me on 6 4-week cycles of “5k to half” training. My races leading up this one included:
9/10 – 9/11 Memorial 5k – VA – 80 degrees, 21:02
9/24 – Clarendon 5k – VA – 20:23 (PR)
10/16 – Boo! Run for Life 10k – DC – 42:48 (PR)
10/25 – Unofficial 5k on track -- DC– 19:57 (not certified distance)
11/13 – Veteran’s Day 10k – DC – 41:26 (PR)
I cross trained MWF, did a track workout every Tuesday, a medium run on Thursday (6-8 miles), a tempo run on Saturday, and a long run on Sunday (12-15 miles). And preparing for comps too – and to be honest, running was what probably kept me sane during that process.
Friday night, I went out to dinner with my friends to celebrate comps (there was a master’s student who took his, along with another PhD candidate and good friend of mine) – 16 people in all. It was a lot of fun, and a good way to loosen up for the race. This is me with my friend Brian - the other PhD candidate, who is also a Benedictine monk and priest. I was very glad that were able to share in the comps experience and celebration together.
I did a small shake-out run (20 minutes) took the bus from DC to Philly on Saturday – I was so pumped. I didn’t spend a lot of time at the expo, but dashed over quickly to Philly LoopPhest (a gathering of a bunch of runner bloggers form all over the country) for a fun dinner. It was nice to meet people from my running world. I stayed with a friend, got to bed early, and could not wait to get up and run this great race.
I didn’t sleep well, but I also woke up a few minutes before my 5:15 alarm, so I took that as a good sign. I had a little breakfast and then did my 2 mile warmup through the quiet streets of Philadelphia. Actually, I couldn’t get over how quiet it was – and then as I approached the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, it was very clear that 20,000 people were up and ready to run!
I was able to get my bag checked and everything taken care of pretty smoothly. I was in the maroon corral (2nd corral), and was pretty excited by how close I was to the start. I talked with a nice guy next to me for a couple of minutes while we waited for the start. I could not wait. I had written on my split card "Philadelphia Half: Half No Fear" - I was going to put it all in the race. And the gun went off!
The crowds in Philadelphia were phenomenal. And I went through the first mile at 6:59 - perfect. The miles clicked off so nicely, right at 6:59 pace. The people were cheering, and since our names were on our bibs, they were actually cheering my name. I felt like a rockstar. There were drums at mile 2, and I just love running to drums - something rhythmic about that, and I just felt like I was keeping time alongside of them. I bumped into a friend of mine at mile 3 who was aiming to run a 3 hour marathon, so we just said hi and I let him go, as he was aiming to run each half slightly faster than my one half. At mile 5, I was still hitting my splits absolutely perfectly, and I was so excited. I told myself that at mile 10, I would pick it up. I got through the 10k at 43:17 (6:57 pace). I couldn't wait for the next 4 miles to go by, so I could really kick - I felt like I still had a lot in me. But then, I hit the hills. I knew that I would need to save some for the hills, but oh my goodness, these hills were hard. And I do a lot of running on hills, but probably not a lot at 7:00 pace. It was so hard, and then it would flatten out. And then up again. I was pretty nervous - this was hard, and all of my thoughts of picking it up at mile 10 went out the window - I just needed to stay close to this pace. Even though it was hard, the crowds just kept cheering. At mile 9, we were going up a hill, and turning, and doing the two together felt so hard. I couldn't believe how tired I was. Just keep moving, but 4 miles to go seemed far. I hit mile 10 at 1:11 - about a minute behind my goal time. I was aiming for 1:31:45 as of last week, but before that, the goal was between 1:33-1:32. So, I told myself that I needed to do everything I could to stay in the 1:32s. I finally regrouped at mile 11 - 2.1 miles didn't seem so bad at this point. And I felt like I could try to pick it up a little. They kept showing arrows indicating that eventually the half and full marathoners would split off, but they just kept coming - wouldn't we ever finish? Around 12.5, I picked it up again, determined and excited. Finally, the Parkway opened up and I could see the finish. There were so many people cheering for us, and things had spread out enough that people were trickling in - not like Boston, when as many as 20 people are finishing every second. They announced my name as I was coming down the wire, and bam, it felt like I was flying. I gave it my absolute all at the end, put my arms up in the air as I came in, so tired yet exhilarated.
1:32:35 - a 2 minute PR (7:03 pace)
Division (24-29): 20/1460
Age grade: 71.1%
I have never finished so high in a major race like that - top 2% overall. And I have moved from just running these events, I am racing them - working to pass people and putting it all out there. It all paid off - all of those races and tempo workouts, made it come together on this big day. I was so excited. After I did my cooldown (2 miles, and they were slow - I was done!), I actually bumped into a few friends, which was nice to share in the excitement. I even watched one friend run a 3:00:01 marathon - wow! How amazing!
After I left the race, I found a Dunkin Donuts (DC doesn't have DD - and I love their coffee so much), and just sat with my coffee and took it all in. I wrote "half no fear" on my card, and I really did my best to not be afraid of pushing and put it all there. There was no doubt in my mind that I put everything into that race. As I walked around town, with my cape around me, I received numerous congratulations from people - this city really supports its runners.
I took the bus back a few hours after, and even just sitting on the bus, my legs hurt. But it is that great kind of running hurt - a soreness that reminds you of what you've accomplished. And my medal says it all - the theme of the race was "Best time of your life," and not only did I run the best half marathon of my life, I just loved loved the whole experience: it was absolutely phenomenal.