Philadelphia Marathon 2012: goal attained?

Goal attained?  No.  Goal attained.  No.  Goal attained!!!!!!

On Sunday, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 4 hours.  And when I say 4 hours I mean precisely four hours:  my official final time was 4:00:00.  You may recall from my post last week that I wanted to run the race in under 4 hours.  Leave it to me to run that sucker in exactly 4 hours on the money.  Here is my race recap, with more information that you probably ever wanted to know.

Mile 20 and *very* excited to see my friend Robyn!
While there is an eency weency part of me that is bummed I don't see a "3" before my time, 99.99999% of me punched that eency weency part square in the jaw. I am so happy and proud of myself. I ended up running the first half in a new PR (personal record/personal best) of 1:55:12. My time at 30K (about 18 miles) was likewise great: I was still really strong and fast - projected finish around 3:55 or something crazy like that. Miles 18-19 and then 23-25 were the hardest. The final .2 miles were a blur. I was sprinting my bum off! That's the short of it.

The long of it:

The first and last marathon I ran was in 2004.  I loved the experience, but shied away from running another due to the time commitment it requires to train for one.  2012 has been tough, and I decided I was up for the challenge of another marathon.  I ran my first marathon in 4:39:00.  My goal this time was to run under 4 hours and have a great race.  I am much faster than I was back in 2004 (which just goes to show you only get better with age!), and my long runs and half marathon races were right on track for me to break that 4 hour mark.  I am so so proud that I managed to take off a minute and a half per mile from my pace in 2004. That is so huge.  I never thought I could run 9 minute miles at all ... let alone sustained over 26 miles.  

felt really good on race morning. The race gun goes off at 7 am, so I got up at 4, ate my standard pre-race breakfast (oatmeal with brown sugar, bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam, coffee, glass of diluted gatorade) and got into Philadelphia around 6 am.  It was pretty brisk when I got down to Philly - probably around 38 degrees.  There was time for only one porta potty trip, but that was fine. I got in my corral and hung out for about 5 minutes until the gun went off.

Since this isn't my first rodeo
marathon, I knew what to expect both in terms of the course and the experience.  That back half of the race is mentally tough.  So, to combat that, I decided to dedicate certain miles of the second half of the race to friends and family. It helped! I just wrote the numbers and abbreviations for the particular dedication on the inside of my forearm with a thin Sharpie.  I joked that I looked like I was rocking an Angelina Jolie type tattoo.

The gun went off and within a few minutes, I crossed the start line, fired up my watch and it was go time!

The first few miles I was flying. I was going so fast I started to worry, but it felt really good and effortless. I was in a good groove and slowing down was just not gonna happen. My breathing was perfect, my body felt strong. Still, I worried about starting too fast and hitting the wall, which I kind of did unfortunately. But I had banked enough time that it was ok. Funny, as I look at my splits, I clearly got a little slower with each mile, except in a few instances where I had a second, third, fourth wind.

Mile 1: 8:25
Mile 2: 8:28
Mile 3: 8:31

Mile 4 was when I knew I'd see my good friend, Liz, who was cheering on her husband (who, incidentally, runs like 3:10 marathons - crazy inspiring). She was on the corner and I saw her and yelled her name. It was sooo nice to see a friendly face at that point in the race.

4: 8:35
5: 8:41

Miles 5 through 7 were through Center City. Tons of people around cheering with signs. It was great. I saw my favorite sign of the day around this point: "If marathons were easy, they'd be called Your Mom." HA!  Also a few: "Go faster! Don't Stop! (that's what she said)"; "Go Random Stranger, Go!"; "Worst Parade Ever"; "If you were Paul Ryan you'd have been here an hour ago"; "Those tights make your butt look fast"; and "These cats say don't poop your pants." with a picture of two cats. Honestly - the fans on this course are incredible.  Especially at the finish.  The last half mile of the race is literally lined with spectators all shouting your name and really pushing you to do it.  Thank you, Random Strangers.  

6: 8:50
7: 8:20* This was the stretch on Chestnut Street - a gradual downhill, lots and lots of spectators. Huge difference and my fastest mile.

Mile 8 is the first real hill. It's in West Philly and goes up for almost a mile. The incline isn't that bad, but it's long. I dug in and tried to keep my pace under 9.

8: 8:52

Mile 9 was a flat then downhill. I knew what was coming at mile 10. I conserved energy and let gravity help me.

9: 8:31

Mile 10. Ouch. It's a very steep climb up a hill. But thankfully it's pretty short. You get to the top and it's a flat area, then you run down a steep hill. Mile 11 is pretty flat.

10: 9:01
11: 8:35

Mile 12. What a mentally challenging mile. When I ran the marathon in 2004, it was only the full marathon, no half (and only 6300 people ... now the race is near 30,000!). Now the race has both a full and a half marathon.  The races run together for the first half.   At mile 12, you start seeing signs: marathon to the left; half marathon to the right. It takes a crazy amount of willpower to go left. I was honestly tempted to go right, get my PR (I knew I was running my fastest half ever) and call it a day. But I went left.

12: 8:56
13: 9:03

Miles 14-17 are out of center city toward the Manayunk section of Philly, which is the turnaround. These miles always tick off pretty quickly for me. I just zoned into my music and dug in my heels and tried to keep a steady pace around 9:00.

14: 8:53
15: 9:02
16: 9:04
17: 9:03

Miles 18-19 were tough. I was tired and took my first walk break. Just a few seconds. But as I later learned, literally every second counts. On the back end of the race, i also stopped at every water/gatorade station and walked, drank, walked and then ran. That helped a ton. Mile 19 was a pretty gradual, but noticeable, incline.

18: 9:34
19: 9:55

Once you hit mile 20, you are at the turnaround.  You stop seeing signs on the course that say "Marathon - Outbound" and start seeing signs that say "Marathon - Inbound". "Just a 10k to go!" is what a woman said to me in 2004 at that point. It sounds crazy, but even that little reassurance helps. "oh, I can do a 10K". Ha. Right at the turnaround, I saw my friend Robyn (who snapped the above picture) - I was so excited to see her. I just needed a little boost. And ... look at mile 20. Gradual downhill, energy restored momentarily from seeing a friendly face, and yeah, the end in sight.

20: 9:24
21: 9:34

Miles 22-24 were hard. Ouch. OMG. Ouch. I kept in the zone, tried to walk only at the water stops, and just kept pushing.
22: 9:53
23: 9:56

Mile 24 was my friend Maggie's mile.  Maggie was a dear friend of mine who I met in college and who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 2007.  In the five years since she died, there have been so many times where, I believe, she sends me little messages through music (which is completely appropriate given her love of music and dancing).  Wouldn't you know it, during mile 24 - the hardest mile for me - there were three songs right in a row that Maggie loved:  two Michael Jackson songs and Madonna's Like a Prayer -- all were songs she loved and/or tied to memories of Maggie.  It gave me the push I needed.  I could feel her encouraging me to keep on going.

24: 10:00
25: 9:57

When I hit mile 25, I knew it was time to run. Hard. I had my running watch on so I knew my pace and my chip time. My sub 4 hour goal was still in reach, but I had to really run. So I did. I kicked my butt into gear and pushed.

26: 9:26

I saw the mile 26 mark and sprinted the final .2 miles. Sprinted!! I ran over the mat, hit my watch and saw: 4:00:01. I thought for sure I might have delayed by two hundredths of a second! Alas, only one.

.2 8:06

So, mission accomplished. This isn't my final marathon. I will break through the 4:00 mark yet. This race was a culmination of so much hard work and love:  love of running, but also love of self. One might think that forcing my body to run 26.2 miles in 4 hours isn't exactly loving, but to me, it sure is.  And now ... I can, and will
, eat anything I want on Thanksgiving.  

See you swoon,

PS:  I'll be back to home projects after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I am about half way through my major bathroom redo and am going to use the long weekend coming up to finish it.

PPSS: I am always interested in fellow runners' playlists.  I'll share mine here but trust that this is a No Judgment Zone.  I'll explain first and then post.  I need a variety of beats and songs.  I love fast music, but I also find that I need slower songs too.  Oddly enough, I run faster to slower songs!  My body seems to relax a little more.  I know for a fact that two slow songs came on during mile 7, which was my fastest mile of the race.  Anyway ... here are the tunes that helped me make my goal this weekend.  I shuffled them and was genuinely excited to hear every one come on.  A slow song came on during that last mile, and that was the only time I fast forwarded. I needed a pump me up song.  Thankfully, the song "Warrior" came on, which is the song that was playing as I finished the race.  perfect.

Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Apache (The Sugarhill Gang)
Livin' On a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley)
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
Come On Eileen (Dexy's Midnight Runner)
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley)
Ants Marching  (Dave Matthews Band)
Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac)
Southern Cross (Jimmy Buffett)
Back on the Chain Gang (The Pretenders)
Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (Simon & Garfunkel)
Peace Train (10,000 Maniacs) 
I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
Dancing In the Moonlight (King Harvest)
Push It (Salt-n-Pepa)
It Takes Two ( Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock)
Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell )
Sloop John B (Beach Boys)
God Only Knows (Beach Boys)
Here Comes The Sun (George Harrison)
You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
Dirty Glass  (Dropkick Murphys)
Down On the Corner (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Ventura Highway (America)
One Week (Barenaked Ladies)
How Deep Is Your Love  (Bee Gees)
Crazy In Love (Beyoncé)
Love Will Keep Us Together (Captain & Tennille)
Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)
Band of Gold (Freda Payne)
Alone (Heart)
Proud Mary (Ike & Tina Turner)
Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels) (Jim Croce)
Footloose  (Kenny Loggins)
Like a Prayer (Madonna)
I Will Wait (Mumford & Sons)
Spiderwebs (No Doubt)
Mo Money Mo Problems (The Notorious B.I.G., Mase & Puff Daddy)
Hey Ya! (OutKast)
Maggie May (Rod Stewart)
American Girl (Tom Petty)
Tennessee (Arrested Development)
Beat It (Michael Jackson)
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (Michael Jackson)
Rump Shaker (wreckx-n-effect)
You Can't Hurry Love (The Supremes)
If You Could Read My Mind (Ela Wardi/Stars on 54)
Take On Me (A-Ha)
Copacabana (Barry Manilow)
Everlasting Love (Carl Carlton)
Brandy (Looking Glass)
Land Downunder (Men At Work)
One Particular Harbour (Jimmy Buffett)
Does Your Mother Know (ABBA)
You're So Vain (Carly Simon)
Oh Very Young (Cat Stevens)
Islands In the Stream (Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Blister In the Sun (Violent Femmes)
Faith (George Michael)
Flashdance...What a Feeling (Irene Cara )
The Warrior (Scandal)
Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)
You Shook Me All Night Long  (AC/DC)
Pour Some Sugar On Me (Def Leppard)
Walking On Sunshine (Katrina & The Waves)
All Night Long (All Night) (Lionel Richie)


  1. I'm so happy I found ur post! I ran the Philly marathon too (my first) and was trying to remember all the funny signs to tell people! Thanks for posting and great job!

  2. Allison - congrats to you too! It was a perfect day for a race, no? Thanks for stopping by the blog ... happy thanksgiving!