letter post is longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.”
Though I took steps to prepare myself for the Philadelphia half-marathon on November 20, 2011… as the race weekend had approached, I wondered if I had done enough. I’m used to feeling slightly nervous before any race, so I tried to simply accept the feelings, instead of allowing them to sap my energy.
Since I was doing the race with the Runner’s World Challenge, I went to a shakeout run on Saturday morning led by Bart Yasso from Runner’s World (RW). I normally only do a mile or two walk the day before a race, but I did a 3-mile slow run with the other challengers because I didn’t want to stop early and appear wimpy. (darn pride)
Then I went to the Fitness Expo and walked a few hours to see everything and attend a few seminars. I know a lot about running, but I learned some very helpful tips from the RW staff. (will share in a future post) As I went to bed Saturday evening, I wondered how tough the race would be with all the exercise my legs had that day.
I slept fairly well, but woke up early. (normal before a race) I drank some coffee and ate a small portion of my normal breakfast … oatmeal with peanut butter, cinnamon and chia seeds. (A favorite since reading Born to Run)
I mixed up my sports drink that I’ve been using for the last year after trying Gatorade on long runs and not liking the sweet taste or the way it made my stomach feel. I made sure I had my Galloway timer, headphones and my phone. Instead of a watch, I use the Nike+ running app which tells me my pace and distance.
Then I drove to Philadelphia to join the other RW challengers for a breakfast at the Four Seasons. I drank water, sipped on a little coffee and nibbled on a bagel. Plus I used wonderful, clean porcelain toilets instead of smelly porta-pots. (perks of being in the RW challenge)
The Philadelphia Marathon … empty starting area about 15 mins before the start
I’ve never done a race this large before, so the corral system was new to me. With 25,000 runners, they start the race in waves. When you register for the race, you give your estimated finish time, then you are given a certain color corral to be in with others that will be running a similar pace as you will.
As part of the RW Challenge I was supposed to be in the gray corral, but I knew most of the other challengers would be running faster than I would, so I went to the purple corral which was behind the gray corral.
The corrals were a farther walk from the hotel than I anticipated (darn detail I missed) and the crowds were already starting to move at a slow walk when I got there. I looked around for purple bids, but saw all different bid colors. I’m still not sure if I was in the right corral or not, but I met another challenger and we decided to start together.
We were still walking when we crossed the official start line. The crowds threw off my normal cool-calm-collected-race-starting routine and I think I started my running app a little before the starting line.
Soon after the start, the road widen and the crowd started running. I felt like I was part of a giant worm that wound its way down the Ben Franklin Parkway.
All the roads were closed with no parked cars along them and runners filled the streets for the whole race. We weren’t shoulder-to-shoulder, but once or twice I was almost hit in the face by someone’s arm when they tried to stretch their shoulder/arm/etc. This was new to me as I’m used to running races where after a mile or two, runners might me in front and behind me, but not beside me.
With other runners all around me and spectators lining most of the route, the first few miles went past quickly and I didn’t even hear the distances/pace my app was telling me until a few miles into the race. I realized the distances weren’t quite lining up with the race markers (the difference increased the farther I ran) so I tried to forget about the distances and only focus on my average pace it gave me. (I was aiming for 11:30)
My timer was set for 5 minutes of running and 45 seconds of walking. I followed this about 80% of the time, always moving to the sidewalks when I walked because I didn’t want to walk in the middle of runners.
Around mile 4, my needy left leg started bothering me which made me realize I ran the first few miles too fast. (did mile 2 in 10:30) I slowed down and massaged my leg during my walking breaks. This helped somewhat.
I adjusted my walk/run times around mile 7 and mile 9 for some hills. I also adjusted my stride and how I landed because the bottom of my right foot (my good foot, don’t you fail me!) started bothering me around mile 8 or so.
Around mile 10, I was wondering why the heck I wasn’t home on the couch.
Though I was totally exhausted, I managed to hold my desired pace during the last few miles by focusing on the running advice RW editor, David Willey gave us, “Run the mile you are in.”
It was discouraging to hear my running app tell me I’d run 13 miles, but according to the race markers I had almost 3/4 mile to go! I assume I started my app slightly early, but not that early. The race had many turns and apparently I don’t know how to take the shortest route, plus with moving to the sidewalk every 5 mins, I managed to add almost 3/4 mile to my race.
The crowds of spectators lining the last mile gave me energy for a strong finish. As I crossed the finish line, I received a shout-out from Bart Yasso who was calling out the names of both half and full finishers. (Some of the elite runners did the full in the same time I did the half!)
“My buddy Janet finishing strong.
Janet is running… because she can.”
- Bart Yasso
My app told me I did 13.9 miles! Though I doubt if I started it a tenth of mile before the start, I’m going to assume that, so that means I did 13.8 miles. The racing bids had electronic chips in them that track your time from the second you cross the start line to the finish line. My official chip time was 2:36 … which means I averaged 11:30 per mile.
Which means this was my fastest half since the accident!
I’m so thankful that with regular exercise and healthy eating (most of the time) my body continues to get stronger.
Our bodies are amazing! And yours can do more than you think it can … so get moving!
Running might not be for you, but find something that you like, walking, hiking, biking, exercise classes, etc … just do it.
Because you can!
Update: According to another runner, her app also gave her the wrong distance. She’s assuming the GPS screwed up somewhere. So maybe I did closer to 13.1 miles, which means I averaged 11:90 per mile, so my spring half-marathon was slightly faster, I averaged 11:60 there, but either way I finished it.
Recaps of other half-marathons I have done:
Disney Princess Half 2/26/12
Lehigh Valley Health Network 9/11/11
Garden Spot Village Half 4/9/11
Half Sauer Half Kraut 6/10
Recap of the full maraton I did:
Bob Potts Marathon 5/20/12
If interested, Because I Can is a memoir of my recovery and my return to running.