In a nutshell, I am so, SO glad I ran this race. I've been hemming and hawing for years about running a half. I bought a bib (gasp) for the Disney half in...wait for it...2005, and trained well for about two months before I found myself wobbling and limping around with an injured right hip in November of that year. I waited it out, let my hip heal, went back to running for a few months, hurt my right knee. Blah blah blah.
It was a full two years later that I finally signed up for and ran Broad Street 2008 as my first long race. I'd done a handful of 5ks by then and was running 15-20mpw, so with six weeks of training and a few long runs, I was in. I met my goal of 1:30 for that race, and then promptly found myself injured a few weeks later. Right knee this time. But that's what gave me the real "long race" bug.
I'm glad I ran this as my first half, instead of the Distance Run back in September. I blew off my training far too much for that, and I'd have been miserable the entire race. This time, I trained - not a lot, but I trained consistently.
More than anything, this race was FUN. Let's recap.
Standing at the starting line, I wasn't even nervous - I had some anticipation, and I was definitely ready to start, but I was just HAPPY to be running. The purple corral crossed the starting line about twenty minutes after the elites, and we were off.
The first two miles were slow - Arch Street is narrow, and there wasn't much room to weave, so Stephanie and I were held back a little bit. Once we made the turn onto Columbus, everything opened up a lot more...and we made the unfortunate mistake of weaving a bunch. Our pace picked up significantly, but this is where we really started to add distance. D'oh.
Once we turned onto Washington, we ran into Melissa! She looked so happy and was keeping a great pace for her first marathon. We ran together for a couple minutes before she took off up ahead.
We saw Lisa just past mile 4 - she was our first familiar face in the crowd and I think we ended up screaming more for her than she did for us - it was so nice to see a friend! I was a little surprised at how few and far between the spectators were for this race.
(photo courtesy of Lisa)
After that, we just cruised for the next few miles. It felt amazing - yes, I was working, but I felt strong and our pace felt sustainable. Our fastest mile was when we crested the hill on Chestnut Street approaching Drexel and the Mile 7 marker.
See, the entire race...I had to pee. Bad. When we saw the first porta-potties at Mile 2.2, I considered stopping then, but there were already people lined up and I didn't want to break my rhythm so early in the race. So, I sucked it up. Past the next two sets of porta-potties. Finally, though, at Mile 7, I couldn't fathom the idea of running for another hour without a little relief. So, Stephanie agreed to stop with me.
The lines were sort of long, but they were moving quickly - I'm guessing we were stopped for about 3 minutes or so. I was antsy, Steph was antsy - and then it was finally my turn. AND THEN. I walked into the porta potty, shut the door and looked down. I CANNOT EVEN DESCRIBE TO YOU THE HORROR THAT WAS THE SEAT OF THAT TOILET. two words (and they are NOT words for the faint of heart): bloody. poop.
That was it. I turned around and went right back out. Running the next 6.whatever miles with a full bladder was so, so, SO much better than dealing with that nightmare. And that, my friends, is the story of our 13:25 mile.
We saw PhillyGuy just past the awful porta potty station, up around 33rd and Chestnut - poor guy was literally just standing there by himself, no one around at all. The spectator situation was kind of weak, especially compared to Broad Street, where all ten miles are flanked by hundreds of people.
There was a little bit of a hill in the next mile, as we ran past Drexel frat houses and towards the Zoo. And then another little bit of a hill. And then another little bit of a hill. AND THEN THERE WAS THE GRANDADDY OF ALL HILLS, which seemed to last for ALL of mile 10. We made the conscious decision to walk the majority of that hill - I knew that if I tried to run it, I'd use up every once of gas I had left in my tank, and the last three miles would be pure misery.
Which, okay, they sort of were anyway. But whatever.
My favorite "cheer zone" was at the turnaround/switchback onto West River drive. I wish to god I had a picture of that - probably 6 or 8 young-ish kids, decked out in amazing costumes (I may have been hallucinating by then, but I recall a court jester-type outfit and a soft pretzel, among others), BLASTING Snap's "I Got the Power." Ridiculous as it may seem, that actually cheered me WAY up and gave me a good blast of energy.
At this point, I was feeling great mentally and aerobically, but my legs were really starting to get heavy and tired. Stephanie and I stopped once to stretch and then shuffled on. Somewhere in mile 11, both of us turned on our music for the first time in the entire race. I signaled to her a few minutes later that once my Garmin read 12 miles, I was going to take a walking break. And we broke. I could see the actual Mile 12 marker in the distance, so I suggested we walk to that marker and then kill it for the rest of the race.
Seeing my Garmin hit 12.25 miles at that stupid 12-mile marker was sickening. I knew we were getting increasingly over our distance, but I hadn't realized it was by a full quarter mile. But, whatever. It was time to kill it. And before I knew it, we were coming up the (f*#%&ng) hill off of MLK/West River with the museum on our left. I have never in my life felt so completely and totally exhausted. Every muscle in my body and every fiber of my lungs was screaming at me to stop. I screamed, too - I told Stephanie I wasn't sure I could do it. Thankfully, she was there to tell me otherwise - as we sprinted with every once of speed left in us around the Eakins Oval, we passed plenty of walkers, and if I wasn't running with a friend, that may well have been me.
It was insane - "Chariots of Fire" playing, the crowd screaming, the announcer calling out the winners of the MARATHON (gah, people run a marathon in the time it took me to run a half!), and all I could think was "WHY IS THIS FINISH LINE SO FAR AWAY????"
But - we did it. We finished. I ran my first half marathon with an official time of 2:23.50. I got my first medal EVER, a kickass shirt, a 13.1 mug, and a great sense of accomplishment. And maybe I'll run another one of these someday.