Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Philadelphia Marathon 2015

If I don't get this post written before Christmas, it's probably never going to happen! If you want the short summary of my marathon experience- it was absolutely incredible! (You can stop reading now and just look at pictures). If you want to read more about how a person who said she was never going to run a marathon (ever), and ended up loving it so much that she wants to run another one....then please continue on.

Philadelphia Marathon

This is the race recap that I posted on our Gilbert's Gazelles (my training group) forum, with a few extra details.

Gilbert's Gazelles
It's not official until you have your own t-shirts.

My story starts almost two years ago, when Hank and I decided we were ready to start a family. In a perfect world, things happen when you want them to, but that wasn't the case for us. During this time I put everything on hold, "just in case". No race plans, no big trips, no nothing! We started fertility treatment, and eventually decided it wasn't for us. For a multitude of reasons we walked away from the idea of starting a family, and made peace with that decision (with the help of a professional counselor). From there I decided that life was way too short to not make plans.

Over breakfast tacos one Saturday morning, there was discussion over the next destination marathon for Hank's group. We had all traveled to Napa in early 2014 and had an absolute blast, and everyone was ready to do it again. The infamous Wish (local Austin runner and writer) joined us this fateful day, and wouldn't stop talking about what a great course the Philadelphia Marathon had. From there- it all snowballed and I somehow agreed to run my first marathon. Yikes!! Having never been a distance anything...I knew I would have my work cut out for me.

Fast forward to training season. I faithfully attended every work out. I made so many friends, sweat more than I ever though possible, and slowly watched the miles add up. Each Saturday was a celebration of a distance I had never run before (past 13 miles), and it was exciting to see the progress. As we creeped up into the 18 and 20 mile runs though, I started to have doubts that I could run a full marathon the way that I wanted to (living with a Gazelle = lots of pressure to run fast). Everything hurt and I was never able to finish a run without having to walk. It was too late to do anything about it at this point, and I had to accept that my primary goal for race day would be to just finish.

Philadelphia Marathon
Saturday morning warm-up run 
Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes
Carb-loading breakfast- chocolate chip banana pancakes for the win!

We traveled to Philly with a group of about 20 Gazelles, and the entire weekend was an absolute blast. Carb loading, expo visiting, and obsessing over every logistical detail- I feel like I got the full marathon experience! When marathon morning came, I put on my Gazelle-phia shirt, wrote "Dig Deep. Run with joy." on my arm, and made my way to the starting line with my running buddy Meghan. Hank told me good luck and kissed me goodbye, and I immediately started crying. They were tears of excitement, fear, and joy just for making it to the starting line injury free.

Philadelphia Marathon
Race day ready!

Philadelphia Marathon
Waiting to get through security to the starting line.
The race itself is almost a blur now. We ran a really smart and conservative first half, holding a consistent pace as we zig zagged all through downtown Philly. Historic buildings and unique neighborhoods made up the bulk of the first half and provided plenty of distraction. We enjoyed the excitement (and hilarious signs) that the crowd brought, and just soaked it all in. After crossing the half way mark- the course took a more scenic turn along the Schuykill River, and we were running against those who were making their way back to the finish. For about 3 miles we kept watch for the faster Gazelles, cheering them on as we saw them. It was so good for me to see Hank on the course- and let him know I was doing ok. Before we knew it, we hit mile 16- when I would normally have a total meltdown. Yet somehow I was still smiling, my legs were still moving, and we were still holding a consistent pace. (Thank you to Coach Gilbert for engraining that in our head!)

Philadelphia Marathon
Running with Meghan, and still smiling around mile 16!

Philadelphia Marathon
So close to the finish line!

We hit the last turn at mile 20, and I knew that I had just one hour to go before I could call myself a marathoner. I wasn't going to hit my time goal, but I made the decision that I was absolutely not going to stop running. My body was holding up fine- it was all mental at that point. This is where the fantastic course came into play. Cheering spectators lined up so much of this section- it was such a huge rush. Meghan felt good enough to pick up the pace, and I just kept going until I met my good friend (and very fast runner) Bonnie at mile 23 to help me finish. What an honor to get to run with her! Those last 3 miles were so tough, but she kept me going with some positive pep talk and before I knew it- the finish line was in sight. I saw and heard my husband cheering as I crossed the finish line (4:44:00), and was so overcome with emotion. It is almost impossible to describe what it feels like to finish your first marathon.

Philadelphia Marathon
I did it!

Philadelphia Marathon
Hank surprised me at the finish line with this awesome finisher's jacket. LOVE!

Philadelphia Marathon
The most amazing medal ever.

It was an absolute perfect day. No blisters, no cramps, no lost toenails...I didn't even have chafing issues! I was tired and cold at the finish, but the happiness of the accomplishment far surpassed sore legs. After chatting with my family and reading almost 100 Facebook comments, we showered and joined all our friends for a well deserved day of eating and drinking (and more eating and drinking). Honestly- the marathon was such a small part of the overall experience. It was more about the friends you make, and the good times (and hard times) you share as part of the training process.

Post-marathon celebration shenanigans, Rocky style.

So thankful for my awesome running partner. Couldn't have done it without her!

Next day sight-seeing. Legs were sore, but it was good to get out and walk around. 

It will be hard to top my Philly experience, but you better bet that I'll give it another shot. I can't say enough how thankful I am for this wonderful training group known as the Gazelles. They inspire, motivate and support me beyond words, and I feel lucky to be a part of it!

Philadelphia Love Park
Philadelphia Love Park

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