Posted by: Sarah | November 23, 2009

26.2 is a painful, but oh, so beautiful number…

I’m still riding the high of knowing that I completed my second marathon about 24 hours ago.  I’m wearing the race t-shirt, and admiring that finisher medal sitting on my dresser, and taking it easy today.  My muscles are sore, but the joints don’t really ache, which is encouraging me that I will be able to get back out there and run sooner than I did after my first marathon last year.

I know. I know. I am getting ahead of myself. But no joke, about halfway through the race yesterday, I was starting to consider running a full in spring or summer of 2010, rather than just limiting myself to the NYC Marathon in November. What can I say – a lot of thoughts go through your head when you are running for almost 5 hours.

Overall feeling coming off of the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon?  I loved it.

I loved the course, we had beautiful weather (41 degrees at the start, 54 and sunny when I crossed the finish line. hellooooo perfect running weather), and I could not have been happier about how I ran.  The official times have not been posted yet, but I clocked myself at 4:56:29 with the watch [update: official finish time 4:56:27].  My first marathon in San Fran last year, was without a doubt the most painful thing that I have ever done, and the fact that I was on my feet for about 6 hours the first time around, since I had to walk/run the last 8 miles or so, contributed significantly to that pain.

My goal for Philly, set based on how my training had gone this time around and the times of my 4 half marathons this year (2:19, 2:29, 2:32, 2:16), was to finish under 5 hours and run the entire course with the exception of walking a few seconds at water stops or when I needed to stretch.  I came to run, dammit, and I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that was what I did at this marathon.

Amy, Ryan, and I drove down to Philly Saturday afternoon, a few hours later than I had hoped (I don’t generally consider myself to have a super Type A personality, but apparently when it comes to running, things not going according to schedule stress me out. a lot.) but still had time to hit up the expo and visit one of Amy’s friend before meeting up with Renee and two of her friends for a DELICIOUS carb-filled pasta dinner at Spasso Italian Grill.

Back to the hotel, usual pre-race routine of laying everything out, from clothes to breakfast food, trying not to psych myself out too much, but mind still racing about the next day. Managed to get some sleep before the alarms went off at the crazy early hour of 4:45 a.m.

Ryan (Amy’s boyfriend) was awesome all weekend, driving us everywhere, so much so that I couldn’t complain too much about the late start on Saturday.  He dropped us off behind the Art Museum and we joined the crowds of runners proceeding to the port-a-potties and bag check.  Amy was in awe/overwhelmed the entire time.  Her only other race was the Lake Placid Half this summer, which is such a small scale event compared to this.  She was pumped, but pretty nervous (I was nervous for her too), as she had been traveling in the weeks leading up to this race and hadn’t gotten in as many long runs as she’d planned.

We started off at a nice, easy pace as the sun started to come up over the city.  I was pleased that while some parts of the course were similar to the Philadelphia Distance Run that I had done last year, it mostly covered different parts of the city.  As this was only my second time to the city – both for races – it was a great tour of Philly.

Ramon, my coach, had prepped me before about where to expect hills, where to hold back, where to push myself, which was so helpful.  Even though I could have run faster the first half, I held myself back to stay at Amy’s pace, knowing that it was good for me to conserve the energy.  By about Mile 10, she was holding me back a little too much, and I told her that I needed to go ahead, that she could text or call me if she needed.  I was feeling very strong by that point, but needed to keep my pace steady and was speeding up/slowing down a little too much running with her.

We turned back toward the Art Museum and the course split. Finish line to the right, mile 14 to the left.  Just around the bend, I glanced at my watch as I past the 13.1 marker.  2:28:18 for the first half.  I was going to have to run smart if I wanted to break 5 hours, and that meant staying very consistent and aiming for negative splits.  Holding back during the first half had helped me conserve energy, and I needed to make sure I used that to my advantage.  Time for the iPod (had run without music until this point), time to get in the zone.

The miles passed, I kept an eye out for Ramon, knowing that he was watching somewhere, but ultimately not seeing him at all.  Little aches and pains came and went, I stretched a few times, but no major issues.  I passed Mile 18 feeling much stronger than my last long run two weeks ago (which was mapped out for 21 miles and I had to hop on the subway and cut it short at 18 because my legs felt so blah).  I knew that I had it in me to finish.  The stretch from 18 to 20 was mentally challenging, as I knew there was a turnaround, but it seemed like a longggg time until it finally came (Brandon & Jenna agreed with me on this one). Jackie texted me a “good luck” message a few miles later and my response was “Mile 22. Pain.”  I managed to get out a few tweets during the run, but texting anything longer than those three words at that point required too much coordination.

I checked my watch constantly during the last 4 miles, knowing that I had slowed my pace, but that as long as I kept running and didn’t let myself walk, I was going to hit my goal.  Sheer determination carried me from about 22-25, the energy of the crowds combined with adrenaline took over the last mile, as I ignored the pain in my legs.  Somewhere around 25.5 I glanced over to the sidelines and saw Coach Steve.  I smiled and waved at him; he did a double take, and shouted “what are YOU doing here?” haha, I hadn’t seen him since this summer when I was training with TNT for the Lake Placid and NYC Halfs.  I laughed, “running a marathon?”.  I love our coaches.  Seriously amazing group of people.  I would not be where I am if it weren’t for them.

I passed Ryan in the crowds just before the finish line.  Think he might have given me a high-five?  I don’t remember.  At that point, the finish line ahead of me was the only thing I was focusing on.  So many things were going through my head.  I was completing my second marathon.  I was tired, but still felt strong.  I saw my watch turn to 4:56, and I used that last surge of energy to push ahead.  After I hit the finish line and stopped the watch, the time said 4:56:29 [chip time: 4:56:27].  I was somehow still able to do math at this point and it hit me immediately that my splits were not only negative, but within 10 seconds of each other.  In Ramon’s words, I had behaved. I could not have asked for a better race.

I wrapped myself up in those foil wrappers that they hand out at the end of a marathon (do those things have a name??), got some food, took pictures, awkwardly put on sweats (bending my knees made this a difficult task), and went back to meet up with Ryan, cheer on the runners still coming in and wait for Amy.

In the meantime, I caught up with all the supportive messages that had been coming in through my phone via facebook and twitter all morning.  I have mentioned before, but omg the running community on twitter is an incredible thing that I have discovered over the past year.  I have met so many people, and there were so many people who had been cheering for me and sending me positive vibes over the previous five hours.  Absolutely incredible.  To any twitter peeps reading this race report – thank you AGAIN for being AWESOME.

Amy came through about an hour later, and somehow I managed to jump on the course and run with her (how was I running? I had just finished a marathon. no clue) for a couple minutes until she got close to the finish line and I jumped back off the course.  I was so proud of her for finishing her first 26.2, even though she had an incredibly hard time with it.

Final thoughts? Our hotel got major props for letting us extend our check-out by about 4 hours so that we could shower and feel like normal human beings again. Celebratory margaritas were much needed, and it only took one to give me a good buzz.  As much as I love the 13.1 distance, yesterday gave me a new found respect for the 26.2 distance, and I may just have to conquer more than one next year.  To be determined as I plot out the race schedule for 2010.

As for 2009 races, that’s a wrap.  Four half-marathons, the 9+1 NYC Marathon Qualifying Program, and one full marathon.  Yesterday was the perfect way to end the racing season for the year, as I take it easy and just run for the love of running over the next couple months.


  1. LOVE the foil wrappers. Great race report!!

    • thanks so much!!

  2. you are a rock star!!!! those turnarounds were brutal! way to run a negative split! you are amazing! congrats again….I’m glad you got your margarita!

    • That stretch until the turnaround lasted FOREVER!! I was convinced that there wasn’t going to be 6 miles left until the Art Museum and that they had mapped it wrong….ok, maybe I was a little delirious at this point 😉

      Congrats on an awesome race to you too! Can’t wait to catch up with you in NYC soon.

  3. nice job! they’re called solar blankets and they are fantastic after a long hard race, almost as good after a race as a margharita, but not quite…

    • ahhhh, I knew they had a name, but couldn’t figure it out – thanks!!

  4. Sarah, WAY TO GO LADY!!! I am so very proud of you!! I knew you would reach your goal and now enjoy running for the love of it. I hope to run with you someday soon!!!!!

    • Agreed, as much as I love to race and have something to look forward to, there is also something so nice about the “downtime” after fall marathon season.

      We’ll definitely meet up for a run soon!

  5. Wow Sarah…definitely inspirational to read. I’m getting goose bumps up my arms just thinking about running Philly (my first…) next year! Don’t know if I’m going to pull the trigger yet, but it seems like everyone absolutely loves it! Congratulation again, can’t wait to see what you have in store for next year!!

    • I would definitely recommend this race…my first marathon was in San Francisco, nothing like jumping in full-force to a challenging course! Let me know if you end up doing this one and have questions about the course or anything at all.

      I have a few ideas up my sleeve for next year… it’s going to be another good running year 🙂

  6. Great race report and GREAT race!!! Way to stick to your race plan and run negative splits! I LOVE when that happens!! You got your sub 5 hours-that is SPECTACULAR!! There is nothing better than accomplishing what you set out to do!!! You rocked it!!!

    • thank you so much, Penny! I was so happy, was just one of those running days where everything falls into place…and when that happens to be a race day, even better 🙂

  7. AWESOME race recap and AMAZING race! Congrats on making your goal time. I went out for a celebratory drink after the race, too. Very much needed! Great job, again 🙂

    • right back at you, congrats on your great race and making your goal this weekend too!

  8. […] store for me in 2010 (with plenty of halfs and other racing adventures leading me there).  After Philly though (actually somewhere out on the course), another crazy idea popped into my head.  I wanted […]

  9. Omg, you are awesome! Huge congrats! Such a motivating story… will remember this when I run The National this Spring.

  10. […] but it symbolized a drastic shift in my training that has occurred over the past four months since Philly.  Add that to the academic news and I was slightly overwhelmed by emotion – happiness, […]

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