Race Recap: 2014 Philadelphia Marathon

Hello!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  And week before Thanksgiving.  Today I'm recapping the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon!  I paced my friend of 33 years - Heather.  She did it!  

I wanted to recap this race last week.  I hadn't planned on taking a week off of the blog, but a funny thing happened after I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last Sunday: my body completely shut down.  As in ... shut the heck down.  Over and out.  No fighting.  Just shut down.  I am usually the Energizer Bunny, but this is what happened:

I guess once I crossed that finish line, I knew that all my goals were met and I could finally rest. Ironman? Check.  BQ? Check.  Pace Heather at Philly? Check.  A few days at home with my family made me feel so much better.

And now I can recap the race!

I've watched Heather as she began running years ago.  She started with the couch to 5k program.  And then ran her 5k.  She decided at that 5k that the next year she would do the half marathon at that same race.  And she did.  She's gotten faster and stronger and has fallen more and more in love with running as the years went on.  She and I talk often (and a bunch about running of course) and she was toying with the idea of doing a full marathon. We agreed that for her first full, I would run with her on race day.  I helped her develop a training plan that was about 4-5 days of running per week: one long run, one day of speedwork and some other runs in between.  We also decided to adopt the Ironman marathon training plan that my coach used: rather than run the whole thing, we would do 9 minutes running/1 minute walking repeat.  Heather trained for months and come race day, she was ready.  And so was I!

Race day weather was picture perfect, especially for late November. It was in the upper 30s at the start at 7:00 am, and gradually warmed to the mid-50s later in the race.  Sunny but not hot.  No wind.  No rain.  A runner's dream.  

We got to the start pretty early (but that's better than the alternative) and used the bathroom in the Four Seasons for a bit.  Around 6, we worked our way to the start and found our corral.  We had some time to kill, so we do what runners do: we found the porta-potties and got in line.  The porta-potties said to make a line in front of each unit, but the people in line did not do that and had created this long snakelike line.  The women next to us decided to go rogue and start our own line, arguing (with good reason) that if we actually paid attention to the signs and made lines in front of each unit, the lines would move faster.  We followed those rogue women and used the porta-potty after them.  Yes. 

We got in our corral and waited and waited and waited.  Finally, the gun went off at 7:00 am.  We finally hit the starting mat around 7:15.  And we were off!  

The first few miles were pretty non-eventful.  We took it nice and easy and controlled in the beginning, which is always difficult.  We agreed to stop at the second sets of porta-potties,  Unfortunately, the line for these was pretty long, but it moved quickly.

With that out of the way, we ran/walk/repeated for a few more miles.  On South Street, some guy with an enormous American flag passed us. It was surreal because the flag was waving all over us.  We were like ok dude, it's cool that you're running with a flag, but the flag is invading our personal running space.

We were really looking forward to mile 7 on 16th & Chestnut Street, as Heather's family was there.  Unfortunately, we were looking on the wrong side of the street for them and because of how busy that area is with spectators, we missed them entirely.  We were both pretty bummed, but my boss/friend Sandy was waiting at 19th & Chestnut Street, and we easily spotted him.  His high five gave Heather a huge boost.

After Chestnut Street, we hit 34th, which is around Drexel University. This area is a lot of fun: tons of college kids are out cheering (and drinking ... and offering drinks to runners).  It's also a pretty prolonged but not too steep hill.  And it is also the scene of what I like to refer to as Bonk Breaker Gate.

Heather's choice of fuel for her long runs is a Bonk Breaker, which is a bar.  Heather had cut her Bonk Breaker into small pieces and had cut just enough for the race.  I could use words, but I like pictures.  Here's what went down. 

First, I heard Heather say "ARE YOU SERIOUS."

I turn around and see what happened.  The Bonk Breaker was in the middle of 34th Street because some dumb woman bumped into Heather and knocked it from her hand.  Imagine the below is on the street.  

The woman who bumped into Heather was all ...

And Heather was like ...

And I was like ... 

The offender ran away but Heather really wanted to do this.  

Snafu aside, we had a real problem.  Heather had just enough food for the run, and when the woman knocked that piece out of her hand, she was one 100 calorie bite short.  Not good.  We agreed that she should keep eating and at the end, we would deal with the nutrition. We said bad things about the woman who knocked the bar out of her hand too.

We knew at this point that at mile 10, once we got to the top of the huge hill by the Please Touch Museum, that we would see Amy and Bill, who were volunteering at the water stop up there.  We saw them ... and they were another huge boost to Heather.  Amy jumped up and down so we could see them, and Bill ran along side of us for a little bit and it was funny and fun.  Bill and Amy later showed up at the finish line with Sprites for us.  Yes! And thank you - we didn't even ask for the Sprites.  I am blessed with great friends.

After the water stop, we were nearing the half way point.  We found Heather's family, which she absolutely needed. Her kids were so excited to see her and she was so excited to see them.  We stopped a moment and then ran past and headed out on Kelly Drive for the second half of the race.  About a mile on Kelly, her dad and step-mom were there cheering for us, which was a huge surprise!

We saw some amazingly funny signs at this race.  My absolute favorite was this one:

I saw it and was like ZOMG I LOVE IT.  It literally took all of my self-control not to steal that sign.  So clever. So cute.  So kitten.  There were also a ton of pictures of just cats.  I liked them too.  Some other signs that I enjoyed:

* You're my heroine. And by heroine I mean inspiring woman, not that I want to inject you and then listen to jazz

* Smile if you're not wearing underwear (with a pair of enormous cheetah print underwear tacked to the sign)

* Tired? Blame Obama.

The miles on Kelly ticked off pretty fast, just as they always do.  We hit my least favorite part of the race - the weird out and back on the Falls Bridge. Heather didn't mind it that much.  I did.  The best part of this segment was the music that was playing - Will Smith and House of Pain.  Thank you!

Heather and I headed into Manayunk and she was struggling a bit.  We talked about what was happening, and I suspected she needed some food.  As usual, the folks in Manayunk were handing out oranges.  Heather took one and instantly perked up.  We grabbed more and she felt a lot better.  The oranges gave her fuel and boosted her blood sugar a bit.  That was just what she needed.  

Once we got out of Manayunk, it was the usual four mile slog back to the end.  I have to say - this went so fast!  I was really surprised.  We were walking a bit more, so I made up for it by having us run longer intervals.  When Heather was running, she was nice and strong, so I rationalized that the running would be fine.  

At some point around mile 24, a woman was there alone with a cow bell.  A little down the road, a group of women were cheering.  One said, "You get a medal! You get a medal! You get a medal!" a la Oprah and the cars:

On an otherwise very quiet part of the course, this was such a huge boost.  We finally hit mile 25.  I knew at that point that things would turn around fast.  Heather was feeling just like you should at mile 25: tired.  She said she just wanted to finish strong and happy.  I knew she would ... we just had to get closer.  We saw Boathouse Row and then the crowds picked up.  We finally hit the Art Museum and then could hear and then see the finish line.   

Heather's entire face changed and the tears started.  She increased her pace to the mid 9:00s and beamed and smiled through that finish line.   Our final time was 5:28:19.  

Her family was so proud.

With good reason!  She did it! 

Running by her side for 26.2 miles was amazing.  It was truly inspiring and wonderful to be with someone as she reached her dreams and did something that she once thought was impossible.  I was, and am, so proud.  

We went through so many emotions and moments on that race - highs like the start and the finish, lows like Bonk Breaker Gate and Manayunk ... and every mile and every step in between.  We laughed and cried together.  We yelled at each other (in an encouraging way).  We struggled and persevered.  And in the end, we did it and crossed the finish line side by side.

Heather is still on a high from the race and is super happy and proud of her experience there.  I hope that whenever life gets lifey and hard, she can look back to that day and remember that she can, and will, do anything.  I am so, so proud of my friend.  

See you swoon,

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