A Charming Third Time

This morning I ran the Philadelphia Marathon 2012. It was my fourth running of this decidedly fun race. I completed the marathon in 3:16:02 (7:29s). While not a PR in this fast, flat course, the race was the end of my feat to run three marathons in four weeks. I did it!

Here are my unofficial results per my Garmin:

I really wasn’t sure what would happen in today’s race. Four weeks ago I ran the Atlantic City Marathon in 3:15:14, a time about 10 minutes faster than I had expected. Two weeks ago, I ran the NYC Replacement Marathon in 3:38 — it was actually an ultramarathon of 26.6 miles. Between then and today’s race, I did only two runs — a half-marathon training run and a 10k training run. Based on some prior history of running NYC then Philly with little training between them, I thought there was a good chance that my Philly would end up really slow. I surprised myself.

With the hope of pulling off a 3:25, I relaxed in the beginning of the race. I only had to run 7:49s to pull off that goal, so when I shot out of the gate running around a 6:40-6:50 without much effort, I was a bit surprised and knew I needed to calm down. I remembered seeing some portajohns Saturday and the course ran past them, so I hopped off the course and into a portable toilet. I lost maybe 30-45 seconds, managing a 7:28 first mile according to Garmin (I thought it was a 7:49??). Now without the urge to pee, I was comfortable and running, without pushing myself to go too fast. I remembered the course fairly well and knew there were places I could speed up, but I decided not to.

Instead, I thought I’d hold back until the hill around Mile 8 to turn it on and work. Just before then, I’d been stalking a City Coach runner, whom I’d picked out because of his singlet. Elizabeth trains with the City Coach team so their shirts are distinctive to me. I don’t know the team but I eventually caught him and introduced myself as a friend of Elizabeth’s. His name was Jeff. We chatted a bit (he was running with a guy named Jerry, so we became “Ben and Jerry”!) and I learned he was aiming for a 3:08. I knew I wasn’t going to achieve that today but he dismissed my statement as a lack of confidence. (It wasn’t a lack of confidence; it was a realistic estimate based on my training and history … a 3:08 would have been close to my PR and I wasn’t in that kind of shape.) I ran with Jeff and Jerry before charging up the hill around Mile 8, and I weathered it really well. Around Mile 10 or 11 (near the gel station) Jeff showed up in front of me out of nowhere! I caught up to him then went past him on one of my favorite downhills of the course. It wasn’t until near the half-marathon mark that Jeff passed me then I caught him and we talked as we tried to help Elizabeth (who was in town to watch her boyfriend also race) make ourselves more visible. She wasn’t where I had expected but Jeff and I stayed running together until eventually Elizabeth emerged near the cool old stone underpass on Kelly Drive, cheering us both on.

I ran with Jeff for a bit more. We were doing sub-7:00s at this point, which made me really happy yet I didn’t know how long I’d be able to sustain it. Another guy joined us, too, given our clip. However, inside the 17th mile, something changed for me. I was right there with Jeff when I decided it would be a good time to get some gel in me. Reaching into my pocket meant that I slowed just enough for Jeff to pull in front of me, and as I wrestled a bit with getting the gel into my mouth, Jeff was 90 feet or more ahead of me. My body wasn’t responding as much now to my impulses to catch Jeff, and sure enough I managed a whopping 7:22 in this mile. Whoa! I went from running about a 7:00 to a 7:22! I figured here was the shift in my race and maybe that I’d hit the wall.

Sure enough, my body was starting to slow in the 17th mile. My times started to climb but I knew I could get all the way out to Manayunk. I was pretty confident I could get out of Manayunk. I was even confident I could finish this race, though I wasn’t sure how much I would end up slowing. I remembered that the going out on Kelly Drive is long. Did it feel as long going back toward the finish line? I couldn’t remember but I figured it would feel long. Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad.

With about 4 miles to go, I had a caffeinated gel. In fact, I had two — one 2x-caffeine Tangerine PowerGel and one raspberry Clif Shot of unknown caffeine level. I’ve avoided running with much of any caffeine since a hot summer run left me with a racing heart, which made me feel really weird and knocked me out of the training run. However, I was curious if I’d get a needed boost to the finish line with the caffeine. I didn’t have the heart palpitations, yet I did have some increase in speed. Or rather, when I wanted to turn it on a bit more and get to the finish line, my body output some increase in speed.

With 2 miles to go, I talked to a guy named John. John told me a secret about his race (he was running with a buddy’s number, I believe), and he said that people were calling him by the name on his bib rather than his name. We connected a bit and encouraged each other in keeping it going to the finish. Eventually I pulled ahead of him and he wished me well. And then the speed really started to pick up for me.

A girl in fluorescent running clothes rivaled me. She sped up much too soon for the finish, which is really hard to gauge in this race. I think I caught her, only to have her eventually pull ahead of me. I was really starting to charge to find the finish, with tears welling up in my eyes in a fit of emotion. Eventually I saw the 26-mile marker, which I wasn’t confident I’d see. I knew that after seeing that, it’s about 2 minutes until the finish. I found the finish and charged ahead. And then I finished. 3:16:02 — just shy of running a 3:15. If I didn’t have the pee break, I might have run in the 3:15 range, but honestly, the having-to-pee would have drained my concentration, and that early break from running actually may have helped me out a bit.

After the race, I saw Elizabeth’s boyfriend Chris, who pulled off his first ever sub-4:00 marathon, running about a 3:57. I saw Elizabeth, too, but then I was on my way back to my hotel. I noticed a limp in my right knee had started to develop, most likely delayed onset inflammation of some sort. At worst I feared it was a cartilage tear but I’m thinking that’s not it for now, and that the inflammation will go down soon enough. My guess right now is that it’s a bit of inflammation of the IT band since the pain is a bit on the lateral (“outside”) part of the knee.

I slept a lot of the train ride back to NYC. I’m pretty happy with my accomplishment of three marathons in four weeks, even if I didn’t do them as quickly as I had originally hoped. Training for them was extremely tough for me this year. I didn’t have the luck this year of consistent stand-in gigs, so I was hacking together a work schedule among different productions, meaning my sleep was erratic and my runs couldn’t always work out. Many times I just didn’t run, too defeated by the stress of early calltimes and extremely early risings, and too wiped out at the end of the day to do anything about it. This goal makes me long a bit more for training for a single marathon again, though quite honestly I need a bit of a break from running after this experience. Running was enjoyable to an extent, but I would do whatever I could at times to delay my going for a run. I think it was my body rebelling against the goals I’d set forth for myself. I also had a book come out in this time, and the erratic nature of promoting it also wore on me, as did general life pursuits. This huge running goal is largely behind me now, thank goodness.

And I did it!

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