2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

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It’s hard to believe last weekend I completed my second marathon. It wasn’t the picture-perfect race I envisioned, where I’d cross the finish line with a huge PR feeling like a million bucks. In fact, if you can believe it, I actually finished slower than my first marathon. My training runs weren’t as fast as I’d hoped. Work was kicking my ass in the weeks leading up to the race, leaving me drained and wanting nothing but to be in bed as early as possible. I abandoned all pace goals for Philly and decided to simply focus on finishing. Also, on the Tuesday before the race I came down with a sore throat, cough, and a cold. Of course I did. I armed myself with Vitamin C, cough drops, and enough meds for an army in an attempt to stop the illness in its tracks. Unfortunately, the illness carried right through race day.


Sunday morning Brad and I met up with Shannon, Ashley, Ritsa, and Kara in the lobby of my hotel. I was oddly calm despite the fact I was about to, you know, run a marathon.

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We made the mile trek to the start line, talking about the race and trying to keep warm. Once we arrived at Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum it started to feel a little bit more real. Ritsa and Kara were running the half, Shannon and I were running the full, Ashley had plans to be the World’s Best Spectator (and she was!)

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Ashley, Shannon and I

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And my race shirt:

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The race officially started at 7am but since our corral was a little further back, we didn’t cross the starting line until nearly 7:30. The first few miles were fairly congested but once everyone settled into their pace it seemed to space out a bit. I was fueling with Honey Stinger chews, which I had used religiously throughout training. Unfortunately that morning my stomach decided it didn’t like them. I knew there would be Clif Shots in the later miles but it wouldn’t have been smart to go without until that point. So every 30 minutes I ate 2-3 chews.

Around mile 7 (after several miles of trying to talk myself out of it) (and pleading with Shannon not to kill me for having to stop) I decided to make a pitstop. The portopotty lines were ridiculously long so I took my chances on a Starbucks bathroom. Thankfully the women already in line ushered me to the front since they knew I had a race to get back to – so nice of them! Shannon and I were on our way very quickly afterwards.

My stomach felt a bit better but my legs were already feeling heavy. Great feeling to have when you aren’t even halfway into your race. My walk breaks became more frequent and I continued fueling as planned, hoping the sugar & carbs would keep me moving. Shannon was trucking along in front of me, killing it – feeling GREAT! I was so proud of her. I felt like I was holding her back but she insisted she wasn’t going to leave me. So thankful for her – she definitely saved me.

As we neared the halfway point, I heard the crowds cheering. Half-marathoners filtered out as they made their way to the finish. I really hated how close we had to run to the finish line. But not as much as I hated the miles I was about to run…

Miles 13-17 were hard, but I was going to see my family at mile 17 so that kept me moving. Shannon was still a bit in front of me, basically my carrot, pulling me through the miles. On a walk break, I texted Brad to let him know I wanted him to jump in at mile 17. Shannon and I discussed that she was going to push ahead and meet a friend at mile 20, and then we’d meet back up again at mile 23. I was so happy that she was going to run ahead because she was doing SO well – she needed to keep going and not worry about me.

The graceful water bottle swap for fresh Nuun at mile 17:

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Why yes, I DID wear sparkly leg warmers.

Brad handed his jacket to my parents and jumped in with me to tackle a few miles.

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Brad was smiling. I’m pretty sure I was not.

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Had I done a bit more thorough research on the course for Philly, I would have noticed miles 13-26 were an out-and-back. I absolutely LOATHE out-and-backs.

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When you’re heading out at mile 13, watching runners hauling ass to the finish near mile 26 is brutal. And then you continue to watch those faster runners all the way to the turnaround in Manayunk. So tough. Mentally it tore me apart. Thankfully I had Brad with me, who listened as I rehashed the first half of the race. Around mile 21 I realized my phone was vibrating. I had a text from Shannon, saying she couldn’t stop at 23 or she might not be able to finish the race. I completely understood (I even mentioned to Brad a few miles back that I wasn’t sure how she was going to stop and wait for me, because it would be tough to start running again) and wished her luck. Go check out her race recap – she did amazing!!

I was going to drop Brad back off at mile 22 with my parents but he offered to stick with me until 23 and then I’d fly solo to the finish.IMG_0209

Could have been a good shot, if Brad wasn’t blocking my face.

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I was trying to fuel but my stomach didn’t want the Honey Stinger chews and it wasn’t a fan of the Clif Shots either. I tried sipping Gatorade instead of Nuun at water stops for the extra calories but (unsurprisingly) my stomach couldn’t handle the way-too-sweet Gatorade. I’m pretty sure miles 20-26 were 90% walking and 10% running shuffling. Every time I tried to run, I could hardly lift my legs off the ground. I had hit the wall at mile 18 (WAY too early) and every step after that was a struggle.

The last three miles were quiet, lonely, cold, and LONG (18:21, 19:51, 20:23 – NOT an exaggeration). I wanted so badly to be done, to see the finish line, to sit down. Once I came up on mile 26, I saw Shannon + her boyfriend, Ashley, and Kara screaming their heads off for me. They gave me the push I needed to start running again. Ashley jumped in with me for a minute, telling me to keep running and haul ass to the finish. So I did. Heel strike and all.

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yup, didn’t buy that photo. stolen.

I got my medal, a heat sheet, and quickly made my way out of the finisher’s chute.

I’ve never been so happy to finish a race.

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It wasn’t the race I hoped for – not even close. I’ve decided I’m going to hang up my 26.2 shoes for awhile. Ideally until 2014, but knowing myself I probably won’t be able to hold off for that long. I want to not dread 3+ hour training runs. I want to focus on running faster in shorter distances. I want to PR in the 10K and half marathon. I’ll certainly have plenty of chances in the spring: 3M, Austin, and ZOOMA.

I don’t want to run races to finish. I want to give them my all – leave everything I’ve got out on the course.

My calendar is full of races and I’m ready to put in the work. I’m ready to push hard. I’m ready to dig deep and run strong.

I’m ready to RUN.

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37 Comments

  1. I am really proud of you that you stuck it out till the end!! I can’t wait to read about your training and your new PRs in the spring!

    • Thank you!! I’m excited to get down to business on those shorter distance races. And also HUGE thanks for coming out to cheer for everyone – you’re the best!! 🙂

  2. Ditto to Ashley’s comment! Sorry I wasnt there at the finish for you but so proud! Maybe next time I will actually run the MARATHON!

  3. So glad you stuck it out. I definitely had my “I want to quit” moments in my marathon. The hardest part is over and now you get to run little miles for 3M!!

  4. congratulations! No matter what, you finished and that is what matter. Great job! Yes, that point where you see the fast people nearing the end of the marathon IS brutal! -_Ericka @ The Sweet Life (sweetlifeericka.com)

  5. Congrats and cheers to you for another 26.2 notch on the belt!!

  6. Congratulations on finishing your SECOND marathon!! Holy awesome!! I always am amused by marathoners who complain about slow times.. Girl, you did 26.2 miles!!! YAYY!!!! I struggled with my first 10k I just did!
    AWESOME job!!!

  7. Is Brad your boyfriend/husband? Whoever he is, that is freaking awesome that he ran with you!!!! I think that would be so motivating! I ran my first 5k (RAN the whole thing) with my boyfriend next to me and it was just an unbelievable supportive feeling.

  8. I’m so with you on hating the out and back parts of this race, not fun at all. But you finished! Congratulations!

  9. Melissa, you are amazing. Given so many struggles, you still finished, and that kind of will and determination is inspiring. I can’t wait to read about your spring of PRs ;). And FYI, that out and back should just not exist. When I got to the bridge at mile 17, I thought I was going to cry when I realized how much of a loop that was. I kept thinking I saw the turn around and it never was there. That was just brutal and definitely demoralizing when you watch people finish as you start the second half.

    Congrats on finishing! That’s what truly matters!

    • Amanda, I want to hug you!! You’re so sweet. I wish we had been able to meet up last weekend. Looking forward to reading your recap – YOU inspire ME! 🙂

      • Me too!!! I wish I had been there for more than 24 hours!!!! I hope we end up crossing our running paths next year, especially since I’m almost finished with school and I can actually get away. I feel like I “know” you too well to have never actually met you IRL! (Also, I was totally stalking your photos to see if we ran past each other in any of them :).) Oh, and I’m working on the recap now…so hard to get it all just right.

  10. SOrry it wasn’t the race you wanted, but great job sticking with it an finishing 🙂 This is still something many people would never attempt.

  11. Congrats! Great job on finishing the marathon.

  12. I LOVE marathon reports. I’m training for my first and I hang onto every runners experience! Great job finishing and wanting more!

  13. I am so proud of you Melis! And really loved every minute of our 17 miles together 🙂 Wouldn’t have traded it for the world. You kept me calm, we chatted, laughed, I really loved it. I would totally be in a for a 10k / half together with the girls not to PR, but just to have an excuse to see each other again 🙂

    And PS Brad is pretty awesome and you two are quite a team. I was totally impressed with his unwavering support!

  14. i actually read this post when you first posted it, but am commenting now that i’m on my laptop! first of all: CONGRATS ON MARATHON NUMBER 2!!! i can relate to the feeling of surviving a race && not necessarily feeling like i thrived. that happened to me a few times this year. really excited for january, i think this race experience is going to fuel a great fire for you!

  15. ALSO: proud of you for sticking to it && finishing!!!!

  16. Congrats! You may not have felt the best but at least you looked cute doing it. 🙂 That’s so awesome that Brad ran with you for 6 miles. Man, I totally want to run the last 5 or 10 miles of a marathon with someone just to cheer them on. I didn’t even know they allowed that on a course.
    Those long training runs are killer. I feel you not wanting to do another one. I kinda want to do another one now but thinking about the training makes me want to punch myself in the face. And then punch Fabian.

    • I don’t think they technically allow it, but we did it anyway 🙂 really helped to have someone else NOT in the race to talk to, to keep my mind off of the miles.

      And about that punching in the face thing – I’m gonna need you to punch me if I sign up for another full in the next six months, okay?

  17. Congratulations!!! Although it wasn’t the marathon you had planned in your mind – Someone once told me that “all the stars have to align” for a great marathon. So it won’t happen every time you run one. I think this is a great learning experience – and also it looks like you have a lot of fun (you are always smiling in your photos!!)

    I wish I could have met you in Philly. This just means that we need to set up another race to meet up! Zooma Texas?

  18. AWESOME GIRL!! That is totally something to be proud of. I’m dying to check off one full!!

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