Today marks exactly four years since Mike suggested the idea of beginning this quest to run a race in every state. Here is a recap of the race that started this adventure.
We had been loving running in Philly while visiting our daughters who were attending college there. I don’t recall how we first became aware of the race but after looking at the course map, we decided we were up for the challenge of the Philadelphia Marathon (me) and Half Marathon (Mike).
Although we had both run half marathons before, neither of us had done a marathon. As a runner, the thought of running a marathon had been something I’d often considered in a vague way. Suddenly, the thought of running the Philadelphia Marathon filled me with excitement and enthusiasm. Being familiar with the route somehow made running the race seem like something that we could truly accomplish.
Mike and I trained individually during the week and did our long runs together on the weekends. As my long run miles increased, I attempted to plot out courses that would allow us to run together for the first half and let Mike detour back to our starting spot while I continued on to complete that week’s required mileage. Despite my sincere efforts to do this, there were a number of runs where Mike’s designated mileage for that run ended several miles from where he planned to finish his run. As a result, on race day he was fully trained for a half marathon and beyond, having logged more than his requisite training miles. I felt confident in my 16 weeks of training, as well.
It was still dark as we made our way to the starting line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art the morning of the race. The excitement among runners was intense. As we waited for our wave to head off, the sun rose and reflected off a skyscraper ahead of us. It was beautiful and seemed symbolic of the momentous event ahead of us.
Since we were running different races, Mike’s wave started ahead of mine. After waves of runners had crossed the starting line, finally my group was off and running down Ben Franklin Parkway, high-fiving the mayor who cheered runners as they crossed the starting line.
Before I even felt like I was truly underway, I was passing the first mile marker where incredible, giant puppets greeted runners. Throughout the race, there was some sort of organized entertainment at every mile. I remember listening to the Mummer’s band early on and being especially thankful for the pumping music played by frat boys as we headed up a small hill in University City. And throughout the entire course, there were crowds and crowds of cheering spectators. At one point, someone yelled something like, “Looking good, Karen” and I know I looked up with a stunned expression on my face, forgetting that my bib had my name printed on it.
Since I had never run a marathon, I was unaware of the tradition of spectators holding inspirational and humorous signs. Some of the ones that I loved were:
For a good time call 555-5555. For a better time, run faster.
26.3…now that’s just crazy!
Worst parade ever!
Go, random stranger!
The course runs through the city, past historic sites, into University City, through parts of Fairmount Park, and then back to the Museum of Art. At that point, the half marathon finishes and the marathoners turn left up Kelly Drive toward Manayunk. I can remember the noise level dropping significantly as we made that turn past the Museum to finish the second half of the race. Running past Boat House Row, beside the Schuylkill River, and along the tree-lined streets of Kelly Drive has been one of my favorite places to run in Philly. Running through the narrow Main Street of Manayunk was festive as spectators sitting at sidewalk cafes called encouragement as they enjoyed their libations. At about mile 20 I began having some pretty strong cramping in my right quad but I was able to work it out by stopping to stretch and massage that muscle.
Our daughters, Amelia and Hannah, arranged to be at two points of the course to cheer us on, despite being in the throes of intense vet and design school workloads. Somehow, I missed seeing them at about mile 9, although they were there. They were at mile 20, though, and seeing them was just the perk I needed as I headed down Kelly Drive for the last six miles. Their signs (below) were priceless.
As I ran the last six miles I remember thinking, “I’m really going to do this!” The crowds got thicker as we got closer to the finish line. I had been listening to music quite a bit during this second half of the race. I put on my favorite running song, “I Got A Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas (a song Hannah had put on my running playlist a while ago) with about 2 miles to go but as I got closer to the finish I turned off the music and just soaked up the cheers of the crowds and savored the wonderful emotions of traveling the last distance to cross the finish line. When a volunteer put my medal over my head, I remember just smiling with pure contentment and joy at accomplishing this milestone run. My time was 4:47:15 which was just what I had hoped for. Even as I was covering the last few miles of the course I was thinking, “I would do this again”.
Mike was at the finish having completed his half marathon run with a strong PR more than 4 minutes faster than his previous best time! He walked with me as I got the chicken broth they handed out after the finish. At that moment, it was one of the most fabulous things I’d ever tasted. The support of family and friends was overwhelming. I had gotten encouraging texts from relatives and friends throughout the day. My cousin, Tom, had waited at the finish with Mike. It meant so much to have others share in and acknowledge our accomplishments.
We eventually headed back toward our hotel in University City with the intention of hailing a cab. Somehow we ended up walking about 9 blocks before getting a cab, but I was fine with that. We just kept walking and talking about our races. I was wrapped in my Mylar blanket and we were wearing our medals proudly. Perfect weather, cooperative bodies, amazing crowds and entertainment, and incredible support from family and friends had resulted in a life experience that was everything we had imagined and more.
Good luck to everyone running the Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon this weekend! Enjoy every moment!
Date Run: November 21, 2010
Quest Race #: 4
The Bottom Line: Completing the Philadelphia Marathon is truly one of my greatest accomplishments. I cannot imagine a better course, crowd, entertainment, or volunteers. Mike loved the course, as well, and had a stellar race with a strong personal record. This race was the beginning of our 50 state quest which has, so far, been an experience that has brought us unanticipated excitement, enjoyment, and fun.