I had a really good feeling going into Philly. Of course I wanted things to click…I wanted that perfect day. But, what’s even more important: I truly believed that things were going to go my way.
I was in the best shape of my life…I was pissed about the spring marathons…and I was ready to fight.
Hartford was a huge trigger for me-I talked more about it here-and I knew running the full at Philly would be a risk. But I also knew that I was so ready for it, even with a short training cycle.
The workouts in between Hartford and Philly were amazing. I recovered (read: sat on my butt) for a week from Hartford and then got to work:
|Workout 1||Workout 2||Long Run||WKLY MILEAGE|
|Week 1||(6 x 2 min @ 6:20) x 2||8 x 3 min @ 5:50 w/ rest at pace||10||55.3|
|Week 2||15 min @ 6:17, then 4 alternating miles between 6:43/6:20 w/ varying rest, then 15 min @ 6:20||n/a||4 mi WU, then 6 @ 6:50, 2 easy, 4 @ 6:43, CD to 19||67|
|Week 3||3 @ 6:28, rest, 1 @ 6:03, rest, 2 @ 6:33, rest 1 @ 6:10||n/a||15 mi WU, 5 mile @ 6:50, CD to 22||70|
|Week 4||4 x 2 mi @ 6:24, 6:21, 6:15, 6:13||n/a||10||46|
Yes, you read that right. Only a 19 miler and a 22 miler. BUT here’s the thing. The training leading up to Hartford was pretty heavy. And, for the first time since I started running, I’ve been running consistently and healthily for the past 18 months:
The consistent training makes a BIG difference when it comes to recovery, racing, and jumping back into higher mileage.
So yeah. I was more than ready to battle Philly.
But unfortunately, sometimes our bodies and minds do not align.
And throw in some really shitty weather…and your chances for a solid race are pretty much gone.
Over the course of this past year, I have had increasingly consistent stomach issues, where sometimes I can barely get through runs without urgently needing to go to the bathroom. Some days are definitely worse than others, and leading up to Philly, things actually seemed to be going pretty well and didn’t affect my workouts. It could be stress (?!)…but regardless–it’s an issue that I’m getting checked out by a doctor in a few weeks–and it’s something that, up until now, I prayed that it wouldn’t affect any races.
In the past, when I heard people complain about needing to go to the bathroom while running, I didn’t get it. “Just hold it,” I used to think to myself. I couldn’t imagine stopping to use the porta-potty in the middle of a race.
But I get it now.
I get what it’s like to be legitimately sick while running. Because it happens to me all the time. And my biggest fear that I’ve had all summer–that I’d run a marathon and have to shit uncontrollably throughout the race–is exactly what happened to me in Philly.
Miles 1-4: 7:02, 7:00, 7:02, 7:11
The plan was to go out around 7:10, so these first few miles were just a tiny bit fast, but I was okay with it. They felt easy and effortless, and I knew the first half of the Philly Marathon is more difficult than the second half.
The only thing that felt a little off at this point was my hips and hamstrings on both legs-both of which had been SUPER tight and irritated going into the marathon.
Whatever. Gotta get over it.
In the past, my GPS has been wonky in Philly, so the night before the race, I changed my watch setting from automatic lap split to manual lap split. My intention was to manually split my watch at each mile so I could have a true reading of what I was running. I am SO happy I decided to do that, because not only did it keep my mind in the run, but I was also really heads up about my speed, even when the reading on my watch was completely off.
Miles 5-7: 7:07, 7:13, 6:56
We ran through the center of Philadelphia and my watch went haywire, saying I was running 5:40s. I knew it was off, obviously. I was running completely by feel, and felt comfortable, even though this section was where the headwind kicked up. I saw Gabe and he tried to give me coaching tips:
Gabe: draft off this dude!!! *points to tall, gangly man, the size of my thigh.*
Me: SHUT UP
I checked myself out on a couple of the storefront windows, and I couldn’t help but think about how strong I looked.
This is your day.
I saw friends. I saw James. I smiled and waved. I ate some gels. I was loving every minute, which is exactly what I wanted out of this race.
Mile 8-10: 7:00, 6:53, 7:11
This is where the course gets a little harder, and I had been anticipating it the entire first hour. I climbed the hill past the frat houses at mile 8 and it sucked, but I recovered quickly. I used the downhill in the 9th mile to get my momentum back and prepare for the mile 10 hill that has KILLED me in years past.
I chugged up the hill, and the tightness in my glutes subsided. I surprisingly didn’t feel awful, and I actually PRed in the mile 10 climb (averaging 7:12), which is a big deal when you consider that the other times I ran it was during the half (thanks, Strava!)
As I recovered from the hill, the wind blasted in our faces again. Liz jumped into the race with me and asked how I was feeling. The adrenaline from downtown Philly had worn off and I was actually feeling a little sleepy…but besides that, I felt good. We were comfortably talking and running when I had the sudden, uncontrollable urge to go to the bathroom. I ran in a panic for about 2 minutes before succumbing to the urge.
Mile 11-12: 7:27, 6:56
Oh, fuck it. I’m going over there.
I sprinted towards some bushes in the Centennial Arboretum (sorry Philadelphia citizens). The process was quick, easy, and I even had some leaves to clean up with. Success!
Or was it?
As we flew down the hill onto West River Drive, thanks to gravity, the urge came back. FUCK.
The only problem was, well…the lack of coverage.
Luckily, there was a small ridge of rocks lining the river. At around 12.5, I realized the ridge would be ending, and my opportunity would be gone…the only thing is that there was a guy who was spectating ON THE END OF THE RIDGE. Wtf. Whatever. I sprinted towards the ridge and tucked myself behind the rocks.
Hi. So this is weird. And really awkward. But I really have to take a shit. And this is where I’m going to do it. So, uh, yeah. I’m never going to see you ever again, so I’m sorry if this experience is really traumatizing for you. But this is really necessary. God this is embarrassing. Please don’t look. Yikes. I’m really sorry. OK bye.
I’m fairly certain that man will need therapy. I really hope he doesn’t read this blog.
Mile 13: 7:17
I did my duty and sprinted back in the race, hitting 6:50s to catch up to where I wanted to be. That was the quickest pitstop EVAR! Fellow runners were even complimenting me on how efficient I was. I beamed with pride.
Half marathon – 1:33:02
Alright, not bad. I wanted to hit the half between 1:32-1:33 so I could hammer the shit out of the backend and negative split. I was looking for 3:05 and below as a finish time. So with 2 pitstops, I was fine with a 1:33. I didn’t feel fresh, but I didn’t feel terrible by any means.
Miles 14-16: 7:11, 7:06, 7:20
I cruised through the center of Philly and saw James and Gabe. As I turned the corner onto Kelley Drive, I told myself to settle in for the long haul. And man. It was a long haul.
Holy. Fucking. Wind.
Mile 16 was 7:20…and it definitely felt harder than that. I told myself two things:
1 – Only 10 miles left!! You can definitely do this. That’s just over an hour of running.
2 – If you factor in this wind, that mile was like a 7:05-10 effort-wise. So you’re good. Your body is fine. Keep your shit together, Mary.
It has been a long time since I’ve remained so positive this late in a race. I’m really proud at where I kept my head.
Mile 17: 7:11
Still not really where I wanted to be, but I kept chugging. I kept dreaming of the tailwind we’d hit on the way back.
A pack of guys passed me in here. I let them pass and then said to myself, “no. You need to run with them,” so I surged to catch back up. I caught them and things were going swimmingly…until my stomach dropped. Again.
Oh shit. I gotta go. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. It’s happening.
They drifted away from me as I started looking for a new spot to pull over. BUT THERE WAS NOWHERE TO GO. WTF. The wind was brutal with no one around me to draft off of.
Remember the ridge surround the river from mile 13? Well, there was the same ridge here…only, on the other side of the ridge, it dropped straight down onto a path next to the river…so there’d be no room for me to go.
Twice–at mile 17.25 and 17.5–I sprinted over to the ridge, hopeful there’d be a spot for me to crouch and go. This was a fatal mistake: after the second aggressive out-and-back attempt (think lateral suicide sprint in the middle of a marathon), I tweaked my hamstring. My hamstring was already tight and buggy up by the attachment…but it never bothered me in the belly of the hamstring. As I entered back onto the course, I immediately started cramping in the dead center of my hamstring.
So here I am, about to shit my pants…limping, because my hamstring is about to rip off the bone…panicking, because in one mile, everything had literally gone to shit. The longer I waited to go to the bathroom, the more my stomach churned.
FINALLY, just before mile 18, I found a porta-potty. I sprinted in and, well, I’ll spare you the gory details. But you know when going to the bathroom only hurts your stomach more? Yeah. That.
I sat on the pot (no shame for sitting…it was actually clean) and watched the pace on my watch creep up…and up…and up. My stomached felt increasingly horrible. I put my head in my hands. “It’s over,” I said out loud.
Mile 18: 8:34
I jogged back onto the course, head hanging in shame. I felt terrible. My legs and my stomach were done. I watched the elites pass, going back into the city, and I wished I was still running fast. I was sad it was over.
I saw my athlete, Tara, and she took a video. I’m legitimately surprised at how sprightly I look.
Mile 19-26.2: 1:16:12
After I saw 8:34 for mile 18, I stopped lap splitting my watch. I thought about dropping out. What was the point of finishing? I was legitimately sick and I was concerned I was doing further damage to my hamstring. But I kept moving.
At mile 21, my stomach lost it again. I found another porta-potty…took my time…jogged back onto the course. I saw a man throwing up on the side and I almost threw up watching him. I couldn’t take any gels or gatorade and I had stopped sweating completely.
I passed Tara again after I went to the bathroom for the 4th time. I asked if I could use her phone. I called Gabe and he didn’t pick up. All I wanted was to talk to James and for him to tell me it was okay to DNF. But I couldn’t get in touch with any of them.
I kept trucking back into the city.
I’ve never walked in a marathon before. I walked during mile 22 and twice during mile 23. I saw people running in the opposite direction who knew me from social media and I was embarrassed I wasn’t running.
You knew this was a chance. It’s ok. Your fall race was Hartford. That 1:25 was what you earned this fall.
Finally, at mile 24, I found a woman to run with. She was the 3:25 pacer, so my new goal now was to finish in 3:25. We talked for 2 miles. I got over my misery and started to enjoy myself. I smiled again. I saw people I knew and waved to them.
Wow, I’m actually going to finish, aren’t I?
I looked to my right and I saw Gabe, James, and Liz. I was expecting James to be mad, or look disappointed…but he had a big smile on his face–they all did. Maybe today wasn’t so bad after all.
I locked eyes with Gabe and I wanted to stop and give him a kiss. My finish time didn’t matter; when’s the last time I stopped in a race to give him attention? Literally never. But there were too many people, I couldn’t get through, so he took off running on the other side of the fence with me, smiling the entire way. We ran this way until I crossed the finish line.
FINAL MARATHON – 3:25:47
It was over. I ran my slowest time in over 3 years: over 20 minutes slower than where my fitness is.
But it was a risk, and I knew that. Looking back…I am sad…but in the moment, I wasn’t at all. I knew the run was out of my control: my body had completely revolted. I stayed strong for as long as I could, but threw in the towel when my body said no.
Because I’m so stubborn, I will not give up on the marathon. This year was just really freaking hard, and every marathon I ran (3!!) was a test of my patience. All races ended up having shit weather…and that just sucks. I was VERY stressed going into this race about the weather (among other things), and I can’t help but think it had something to do with my GI system having a meltdown. (I know, I know. Control only what you can pre-race. Easier said than done.)
So I will be back for this distance. I am strong enough for sub-3:05. I am strong enough for sub-3. I was strong enough this year, but it didn’t happen. This year was full of breakthroughs in other distances, just not the marathon. And that’s hard to deal with…but it’s okay. I’m exiting 2016 having run 3 marathons and being healthy. –That’s huge, and I can’t take it for granted.
I’m not sure when the next marathon will be, but let me tell you…after this year, I’ve got some major beef with this distance, and I am NOT backing down just yet. Thanks for the tour, Philly, but I think I have a better relationship with Boston.