Oh, Broad Street.
I think I'll always have a special place in my heart for this race. It was my first distance race, and my first race other than the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k. I consider it my first "real" race -- and the first time I ran it (in 2008) was the first time I'd ever run 10 miles. I've never "officially" run a longer distance.
This year...well, let's just say another PR wasn't in the cards like I'd originally hoped. After my knee injury flared up again in February -- the same day I registered for the race -- I more or less didn't train, at all. I started P90X and ran about once a week, on average, for about four miles or so at a time.
Even though my doctor told me I could train and still run it, my actual training didn't really put me where I needed to be, and as of a few weeks ago, I'd all but given up on the race. I considered selling my bib, or going to pick up the t-shirt at the expo and just cheering on the sidelines. But, for whatever reason, I got a wild hair up my ass to see what I could do. When I was able to run eight miles somewhat comfortably, without dying, the week before the race, I figured -- what the hell.
Thankfully, Stephanie from The Bright Side answered my plea on Twitter, and welcomed me to run with her and her sister during the race. And good grief, thank GOD for Stephanie.
The morning of the race, as everyone knows, was not exactly ideal conditions. The humidity was bordering on obnoxious, even at 7:15 in the morning when I got off the subway at Olney. At first, it was overcast -- which we all agreed wouldn't be SO bad. Naturally, before the first gun went off for the wheelchair start, the sun came out. How...sweet.
This year, they introduced corrals and a wave start -- as opposed to 2008, for example, when they just had people standing with signs. "9:00 PACE HERE. 8:00 PACE HERE." etc, etc. -- and all 25,000 or so people just started at once, which led to some great bottlenecking.
Although I was assigned to the green corral (with the other 4,499 people who intended to finish between 1:29 and 1:30), I started a corral back with Stephanie and her sister. Our corral didn't cross the starting line until almost 8:50 -- a good 18 minutes after the official start, and, as I pointed out, after the leaders had probably covered four miles already.
I spent the first three miles of the race like I spend the first chunk of any race -- with an excellent negative internal monologue. "WHY did I sign up for this? WHAT am I doing? There is NO WAY I can finish...what was I thinking? I could still be in bed -- in the air conditioning -- with my dogs and my husband. What is WRONG with me? This is no way to spend a Saturday morning!" etc, etc, etc. I even told myself that, if I just made it to South Street, where PhillyGuy would be looking for me -- I could just hang a hard right and the two of us would head home together.
Not shockingly, those were the hardest miles. They were also our fastest. When Stephanie and I stopped to walk through the first water station, we were both starting to feel it. As I told her then, there were times during that first chunk where I was absolutely, positively, one-thousand-percent certain that I was about to die...and then times when I felt GOOD. Like, okay, I can do this.
I finally started to hit my stride as we approached Spring Garden. It was around that time that I took my first (and only) gel. God, I hate that stuff...but it really does work.
The next few miles started to tick by. Although the tightness in my legs and hips was increasing, the miles were going by much faster, and every time we ran through one of the fire-hydrants-turned-sprinklers, I felt downright refreshed and happy (for a GOOD two seconds a time!). We circled City Hall, where a band was rockin' out "Mustang Sally." I was anxiously awaiting South Street, where PhillyGuy was waiting for me -- and this year, with a camera! He even got a great picture of me and Steph:
What? You don't see me? Let me help.
The perils of running a race with your 30,000 closest friends? When your husband has a great shot of you waving and smiling, you can get overtaken in an instant by someone...maybe someone in a blue shirt...juuuuuuust fast enough to step directly into the shot. Oh, and check out the dude running without a bib. BANDIT!
From then on, it was GAME ON. The last half of the race was -- while significantly slower than the first -- by far my better half. Sure, my legs were screamin' and sure, my hips were unbelievably tight. Sure, we walked it out at the remaining water stations, and sure, we walked a little during Mile 7 as well. But for me, the miles were starting to fly by, and as we got further and further south, I was actually believing that I was -- for real! -- going to finish this.
After we walked for a chunk of Mile 7 to stretch out our legs, Steph and I agreed we'd knock out the last two miles without stopping -- and we did. My god, I have never been so happy to see the Naval Shipyard. Although the vast majority of our gas was long since spent, we both managed to pick it up and "sprint" (if you can call it that!) for the last tenth of a mile or so towards the finish line.
My official chip time was 1:47:57, which sounds about right -- I didn't hit the "stop" button on my Garmin until after we'd gone over the finish line -- I was too busy smiling and waving like a toolbox.
Not too shabby, considering the absolutely abysmal conditions. I am sunburned like a mofo, and I believe the official reading was 67% humidity. On any other day, this would have been a treadmill workout, no question about it. I cannot even describe how important it was that I had Steph to run with, either -- if it weren't for her there next to me, it's very likely that I'd have stopped to walk sometime during one of those first three negative, painful miles -- and probably would have added an easy 20 or so minutes to my total time.
After PhillyGuy and I managed to find each other at the shipyard, we started to walk (well, he walked -- I sort of waddled) back to the subway. I was tired and sweaty and happy -- but not nearly as happy as I was when we made our way back to the city, and I finally sat down to this:
A post-race burrito. The most delicious meal I have ever eaten.
I spent a big chunk of the afternoon napping in bed with my dogs. Sophie curled up next to my head on a pillow, while Cosmo snuggled next to my leg. I closed my eyes sometime around 1:30pm and did not open them again until 3:30...and my god, was that glorious.
So...let's see. Am I pleasantly surprised to find that I have a base level of fitness that allows me to complete a 10-mile run without any prior training? Definitely. Would I ever do this again without training? Um, no chance. Even though I came in 17 minutes over my 2008 time, this run was about four billion times more difficult than 2008.
HOWEVER...I've learned something. And this might sound really obvious or really stupid, but it's sort of opened up a new world for me. I don't HAVE to do all of my long runs at a 9:00 pace. In fact -- if I just slow it down a little bit -- I can go a whole lot further and not burn out so quickly.
Um. Rocket science? not so much. But maybe, with this epiphany, there might just be a Philly Half in my not-so-distance future.