Sunday I ran my fourth Philadelphia Marathon. On the positive side, my friends and family allowed me to raise $1,000 for Crossing Paths Animal Rescue and I finished in one piece. On the negative side, it was rough going. I don't know quite why... I was freezing at the start and my teeth were literally chattering but once we got moving I warmed up in a hurry and tossed my gloves. The first five miles were so crowded that I had to watch where to put my feet and kept getting boxed out and having to run around people. Some guy was running through the crowd and throwing elbows. It was far more crowded than it was in 2010. Mile 1 took me more than 10 minutes, which was way slower than it should have been. I also realized around mile 2 that I really had to pee so I had to stop and wait for one of the port a potties around mile 3. I picked up the pace to 8 minute miles and avoided water and Gatorade stops until Mile 8. By then I had a weird cramp in my left shoulder and my chest. I think my shoes may have been a little loose because I had some ankle pain early on too.
I took a walking break for about 30 seconds around Mile 8 to have about 3 sips of Gatorade and take a breath. For some reason I have serious issues with taking walking breaks during marathons even though I always take them during training and I think they help me tremendously. In part I think it is watching crowds of people pass you, and in part having fans think you're giving up and yell things like, "You can do it Jocelyn, don't give up!" (Believe me, I'm not picking on the fans. I literally don't think I would have made it to 26.2 without them.)
I took another walking break around mile 10 in Fairmount Park near the Please Touch Museum to drink some Gatorade and eat a few Sport Beans. Probably about 3 minutes or so. This was also about the point when I gratefully took a pump of what I thought was Purell only to find out that it was SoftSoap and my hands were now covered with sticky white foam. I succeeded at knocking the bottle off the table and had to stop and bend down to put it back. I found water and dumped it across my hands, carefully trying to navigate around the discarded cups being swept away with rakes and brooms that were far slippery-ier than a banana peel. I did my best to thank police officers, smile and thank fans who wished me well, and give high fives to every cute little kid who stood bundled up on the side lines. That and the funny posters (my favorite was the one that said, "Paul Ryan would have been here an hour ago" around mile 3) kept me going.
Around 12 I really started feeling it, and my side stitches started. As we approached the 13 mile split where all of the half marathoners veered off to the right to run through the tape and get their medals and blankets, it took everything in my brain not to follow. I figured I could borrow someone's phone, call Mike, and then the four of us (my mom and aunt also showed up and supported Team Clyde and me) could go get pancakes. Even though the first 13 miles had gone pretty quickly, thinking that I had 13.2 still to go was horrible. Even at 14 I thought about turning back and heading for the half marathon finish line. The most depressing thing about the Philly Marathon is that the second half of the marathon is an "out and back" course, so as I was heading out at 14, the elite runners were passing mile 24 and heading toward the finish line. Nothing like knowing that you have 13.2 miles ahead when other people only have 2.2.
I told myself I would just slog along. No matter what I would finish before the course closed, and damn it, I was going to finish. I wanted the medal and the stupid-looking space-age blanket. I would take walking breaks. I would just keep moving. Around 15 I stopped to chew a couple of bites of a PB&J that Mike had handed me a couple of miles earlier. I had never wanted to eat less, but I figured it could only help. As I pressed on toward 18 I saw the mile marker for 22 and thought how grateful I would be when I knew there were only 4.2 miles to go. I calculated how long it would take me to walk the rest of the race if I absolutely had to. Mostly I just focused on getting to 20. At 20 the course would have turned around and I would be back on my way to the finish line. I would be in Manayunk with tons of crowds and music and signs to keep me going.
I took a few walking breaks, but I made it to 20. Then I got the worst side stitch of my entire life. It made me feel like I literally was going to fold in half. I wanted to sit down and stop, but I didn't. I walked for a little while and took some serious deep breaths, but my arms over my head, pushed on my side, pushed on my other side, changed my breathing, and then reminded myself that I've never had a side stitch that lasted forever. When it finally eased up a bit, I was so afraid that if I started running again it would come back and I would have to stop. I just wanted to make it to the end. I wanted the medal and the bragging rights and the stupid blanket. I wanted to be able to stay in bed for the next 2 days watching stupid TV and eating whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. I needed to cross that finish line, and I felt awful that I was making my family wait for me.
I ran and walked the final 6.2 miles. My legs ached and I figured I would burst into tears the second I finished, so grateful that I survived. By mile 25 the course was completely lined with fans and I was moving slowly enough that they could all read the name on my bib. I must have had at least 50 people wish me luck, tell me I looked strong, tell me that they knew I was going to finish, tell me to keep it up in that last 1.2 miles. It meant the world to me. I sprinted for the last .3 miles, passing people and desperately searching for the finish line. When I finally crossed, gave a high five to Mayor Nutter, and got my medal and blanket, I choked back tears. Then I saw the giant corral still waiting in front of me, forcing me to keep walking to try to track down my family and escape the white metal bars that seemed to go on for miles. There was a huge line, and when someone asked what the line was for, nobody knew. I walked by and saw they were handing out bananas and yogurt, but it seemed terribly inefficient. I borrowed a very nice runner's phone and tracked down my family. Then we trekked back to the car.
All in all, I finished in 4:31 minutes. It was slower than I would have liked, but considering the mental battle that I faced and the cramps I had, I was just so thrilled to have survived. I guess sometimes we have more to be proud of when we survive the hard-fought battles even if the outcome isn't quite as good as the times when we just breeze along. If you need me in the next couple of days, I'll be lying in bed watching Sister Wives and Made in Chelsea with my medal on. Ta ta!