One week ago today I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. I have been going on and on and on and on and on about it since April and last Sunday was the big day. It seems like forever ago, but I can still definitely feel the marathon in my legs.
I flew into Philadelphia on the Friday before the race with three others. The rest of the Minneapolis gang (there were 10 of us total!) arrived either late Friday night or Saturday afternoon. My friend Julia and her parents hosted everyone. Their hospitality was overwhelming. Jack and Mare (Julia’s parents) are such fantastic people. They warmly welcomed all of us into their beautiful home like they’d known us for years.
On Saturday we headed into Philadelphia to check out the expo. The bib and shirt pick up was surprisingly efficient, which I definitely appreciated. Afterwards the group split up to wander around the expo for a bit. Overall it was a pretty standard expo. I ended up buying a SPIbelt, which was pretty exciting, and getting a massage, which was also pretty awesome.
After the expo we ended up at the Hard Rock Café for lunch. I was able to meet up with the City Running Tours Philadelphia manager. It was great to meet another manager face-to-face! I enjoyed hearing about how she runs things in Philly and am excited to start working on some things for Minneapolis.
We ate dinner at Julia’s house where her mom prepared us a pre-marathon feast. It was amazing. Salad, bread, pasta, sweet potatoes – the works! Dinner conversation revolved around the marathon and big ass fans.
After dinner we all scrambled around getting our marathon stuff ready: pinning on bibs, laying out race outfits, testing out music, gathering pre-race throw-away clothes, packing post-race sweats, etc. It was fun having everyone there because I could ask their opinion on important things like if I should wear the SPIbelt over or under my shirt and whether or not I should wear a hat. These are decisions I cannot make on my own.
We turned in early, because our alarms were set for 3:30am. Yeah, 3:30am. Jack and Mare even got up to make us coffee, set out breakfast, and make sure we had everything set to go. Seriously, the best people ever. We got to the start by 5:30am, took the necessary picture on the Rocky steps, and found a place to camp out/remain calm/stay warm until the race started at 7:00.
As you may have read in some of my previous posts I was going into the Philadelphia Marathon with a hip flexor issue that basically halted my training since mid-October. I was still able to do strength training, yoga, and the elliptical, but it’s really not the same. I went to the start line with the mind-set to just finish and take in the experience.
The first 10 miles of the race were great. I was feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling happy. It was fun to run around through Philly and hear the cheers from the crowd and, since I hadn’t been running the entire month before the race, it was fun to just run in general. Then at mile 10 it all went downhill. Literally. There was a huge downhill that really messed with my knee. I stopped for the first time at mile 11 to get water, take a GU, and stretch for a second. Then I basically just hobbled through the remaining 15 miles.
The last 13 miles were a little bit of a strugglefest both physically and mentally. Physically, because my body was not used to running. The impact was hurting my feet/ankles and my hip flexors were super tight. Mentally, because this section of the course was an out-and-back by the river. I kept thinking that the turnaround point was “just around the corner”, but it wasn’t (until it eventually was). Also because I was wearing my Garmin and I shouldn’t have been. As my pain increased, my pace decreased, so it was difficult for me to stay focused and motivated.
At mile 17 a runner came up behind me to tell me that he noticed me limping since mile 13. Thanks dude, I noticed that too. Apparently he was cramping up and feeling the strain too, but “we’ll keep going and finish, right?!” Right you are, fellow runner, we will finish indeed.
But then at mile 19 I started to cry. I very rarely cry (I’m German), but I desperately wanted to stop.
At mile 21 I had a beer, because YOLO.
The remaining 5 miles were all about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.
The one huge help was the support from the crowd. I had my name on my shirt, which was something I’ve never done before, but will do for every marathon going forward. There were so many people yelling words of encouragement to me, specifically to me. It was so wonderful to hear things like “You’re doing awesome, Jenna!” or “Keep it up, Jenna. You’re amazing!” or just a simple “GOOOOO JENNA!!!” Man, it was so helpful.
Finally, finally, mile 26 came. I crossed the finish line while high-fiving the Mayor with a time of 4:38.
Philadelphia was my third marathon. Twin Cities Marathon was my first in October 2012 with a time of 4:29. Grandma’s Marathon was my second in June 2013 with a time of 3:49. With my injury I knew I wasn’t going to get a PR, but I was at least hoping to finish under 4:30. After crossing the finish line I was disappointed with how I felt and disappointed with my time. I just wanted to sit down and sob for 3 minutes and then go meet up with the rest of my group. Instead I just walked (oh so slowly walked) to meet up with everyone, because there was no way I would ever be able to get up if I sat down.
When I finally made it to the meeting spot (after what seemed like years) I was greeted with so many hugs and words of encouragement from my friends. “You just ran a marathon. You just completed 26.2 miles on an injury. You are amazing and have no reason to be upset!” So true. Who cares what my time was? I still did it! I still crossed the finish line and that is all that really matters. There was no need or reason to be disappointed, so I stopped crying and started smiling.
We spent the rest of the afternoon eating, resting, and telling stories about the marathon. Everyone had a pretty severe case of “Marathon Brain” and delirium. It was pretty spectacular. A lot of hilarious things were said.
THE DAY AFTER
After a low-key and leisurely morning we headed into Philadelphia for some cheese steaks. It is basically a crime to go to Philly and not eat one. Plus, we all just ran a marathon, sooooo… #earnedit.
We then explored a little bit and walked (although it was probably more of a waddle) around to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It was a gorgeous 70 degree (!!!) day. A friend and I flew back to Minneapolis later that afternoon.
Although I had a hard time training for and running the Philadelphia Marathon I wouldn’t trade the experience in a gazillion years. I was able to train, run, and spend the weekend with such an amazing group of people. Their camaraderie, encouragement, and all around awesome personalities is what got me to the finish line.
Running a marathon gives me the biggest high. All the training, hard work, and dedication definitely pays off when you cross that finish line. It’s so worth it.
Plus, it was awesome to go explore a new city!
A HUGE shout out to Lindsey and Julia for convincing me to register and being the best running buddies, to Monica for lots of early morning runs and great conversations, to Louis, Whitney, Carla, Christie, Kristi, and Martha for being awesome and dominating another marathon, to Jack and Mare for being the best hosts on the planet and for making us so much food and coffee, and to my family, friends, and co-workers for all their support and encouragement.
I ran for the first time today since the marathon. It wasn’t pretty. I only did a mile and my ankles hurt so bad. I really hope to be back at it again soon and start training for my next marathon whenever/wherever that may be…