So, another marathon in the books.
I can’t say it was easy, but I finished.
When I woke up at 5:00 this morning, I looked in the mirror and thought, “What am I thinking?” I just couldn’t fathom spending the better part of four hours running.
Not a fortuitous start.
I pulled myself together, choked down some toast and peanut butter, and headed out the door to pick up a couple friends and scour the city for parking. We got to the race start at 6:25, and after standing in line for the port-a-potties and making my way to the green corral, I only had 15 minutes to wait before the gun went off. I managed to find Natalie amidst the hysteria, and we wished each other well without dwelling on how we were feeling.
For the first eight miles, I felt great. The beginning of the course weaves through downtown Philadelphia, and I loved seeing all the people out on the streets. I sang to myself, high-fived the mayor at mile six, and enjoyed the energy. Only thing was, because I started with the 3:40 pace group, the roads were packed to the gills. There was lots of elbowing, lots of jostling, and lots of fits and starts. It was really hard to find a rhythm.
Still, the pace felt easy and I felt strong as I made my way toward University City and into western part of Fairmount Park.
And then I just lost it. My pace was fine and I still felt good physically, but I think I got bored. The crowds had thinned considerably, and I couldn’t find any of my friends who’d planned to come out and cheer. The 3:40 pace group was still clogged, and I was getting tired of dodging people.
As the course left the park and circled the river, I seriously contemplated stopping at the half. Problem was, I didn’t have any reason to. I was still a couple minutes ahead of pace. I was still feeling strong. I just didn’t feel like running anymore.
At the split for the half and full, I was able to talk myself out of pulling off, and continued on back into the park at an even clip. The 3:40 pace group took off around then, and though I missed the Mile 13 marker, I was sure I must have been slowing down. But when I looked at my watch at Mile 14, I was still ahead of pace, and still moving well. The pace group seemed to be surging ahead. Ah well… I enjoyed the respite from the crowds, but still couldn’t get my head into it. Luckily, the second half of the course is an out-and-back, so once you start, you’re pretty much committed.
I made it to Mile 18 with relative ease, but then my body started hurting. A lot. My calves cramped and my IT bands seized up, and I resorted to what Brent likes to call the “adventure racing shuffle.” Still, I kept moving. I just wanted to get to Mile 19, where I knew my dad would be waiting. And sure enough, as soon as I passed the marker, there he was. I was feeling pretty raw at that point already, and though I was thrilled to see him, it was all I needed to put me over the edge. My throat tightened and the tears began to fall, and it was all I could do to keep moving forward (instead of turning the corner and running home – it was only three miles to my house, as opposed to seven to the finish).
But I kept plodding along, and once I got to the turn-around at mile 20-ish, I began to regain my composure. I started to smile again, and interact with the crowd. It helped that the Rocky theme song was blasting there – for the first and only time all morning!! I wasn’t moving much better, but I got my head in the game and started to have a little bit of fun. Thankfully, my dad waited around to see me on the way back, and I waved and smiled as I passed by, entertained by the sight of him trying to take a picture with his phone.
The last five miles were rather painfully slow (and painful, to be sure). I kept telling myself, “you just have to run to the bridge, and then you can take a walking break.” “You just have to run to the boathouse, and then you can walk.” But other than walking through a couple of water stops, I kept shuffling along. Finally, at mile 23, I said aloud, “Stop playing games, Abby. Just f-ing run.” That seemed to do the trick. I shuffled for another twenty minutes, and when I got to the 25th mile, I looked at my watch and saw that I had 12 minutes to finish with a PR. That was all I needed.
I picked up my legs, and though my IT bands felt like they were the size of Tokyo (I have no idea what this means, but it’s what came to mind as I was out on the course), I pushed myself into the finish, past the zillion “finish line this way” signs, past friends from law school and much-missed running buddies, and finally crossed the line. As Ali would tell me later, “you totally had your ‘bite me’ face on.”
It was a rough morning physically, but even moreso mentally. Remember when I wrote yesterday, what else would I rather be doing on a Sunday morning? Well, let me tell you, throughout the race, I could have listed dozens of things.
But I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I didn’t stop at the half. I’m glad I pushed through the pain.
I kicked asphalt.
In the end, I finished in 3:54:00, a PR by 1:35. Not earth-shattering, but I’ll take it.
And when I looked at the results, I learned that I also came in first in my age group: “women of invalid age.”
As one friend asked me, is that “INvalid, or inVALid?”
I think I’ll figure that out when I wake up tomorrow… Ouch!