FIRST, I want to again thank everyone who logged on to the website, donated, and supported this project! Three months of only positive feedback, even if you thought the goals were NUTS, made this entire experience (training, fundraising, marathoning) UNFORGETTABLE. Thank you.
As for the race. I was on pace to give 3:11 a shot… to at least make it interesting… for about 15 miles. And that’s when THE CRAMP hit me, a killer one that locked up my right leg and stayed stubborn for the remainder of the race, changing my thought process from “under 3:11” to “just enjoy yourself and finish.”
Before I take you through the weekend, let me throw some numbers at you. 6781 people ran the Marathon… 504 finished in under 3:11 (7.5% of the field). One person did it in 3:11 flat – poor guy!!! I reached the half marathon point in 1:43 (top 20%!!!) and ended up finishing in 4:15:59. Those who ran a slower pace smoked me! BUT, I DID COMPLETE 26.2 MILES!!! As Jesse wrote me: “Nothing to be disappointed in… lofty goal. You should be glad you did it… raised the money… and challenged yourself.”
Friday – November 16, 2007
I woke up early, popped Rocky in the DVD player, finished packing, and ran to catch my train (almost missed it!!!). My decision to take a train (instead of a bus) turned out to be genius as I somehow ended up in such a spacious car that everyone was asking me (I don’t know why ME!!) if we were in business class. My response? “Do I look like I’m in business class???” (I was wearing jeans, a T, sweatshirt, ski hat… and my sneakers were already off!!!) I listened to my ipod and ate lunch for the 1 hour, 15 minute trip.
When I got to Philadelphia, my friend David C. met me at the station. We dropped my bags off at his apartment and then headed straight to the marathon expo at Temple University to pick up my number and racing chip.
The expo was fancier than expected and we spent about an hour there browsing the booths/picking up my gear/asking questions. My main concern – how to get to the race Sunday morning – was a question that no one knew how to answer. I got a variety – take a bus… subway… cab… walk the 2 miles!!! No one knew what to do!!! Philly organizers – first thing for volunteer training 2008 – have information on HOW to get to the race!!!
I wanted to walk some of the course after, but we had no time. I did notice, though, that Philly is hilly (Not NYC hilly… but not completely flat!!!) We cooked dinner (David is a good chef!) and went to services at the PENN Hillel (had to pray!). Two med students there suggested I not drink at every fluid station. I told them that a veteran marathoner instructed me TO drink at every water station. Who to listen to??? Penn doctors or Lance??? Why can’t people agree on marathoning strategy?!!
We left, ate dinner (drank plenty of Gatorade), and I fell asleep at 11 PM. I drifted in and out of slumber, but clearly recall a dream (a nightmare!!!) I had in which I did not finish in under 3:11.
Saturday – November 17, 2007
Service at Penn Hillel was followed by lunch at David’s with a few friends in what turned out to be a very relaxing afternoon of chatting, sitting, and napping. Was not nervous for the race at all!!! At around 6:30, ate a big pasta dinner and put on my lightning temporary tattoo (so that I would go fast!!!)
And then my New Balance tattoo on the other leg (cause I like New Balance sneakers!!!).
I’m pretty sure David was wondering what he was doing housing a nut for the weekend!!! Elliot/David B. stopped by and I joined them for dinner to go over the gameplan for the race. We decided to meet at miles 16 and 24, which according to the map would be easy to get to.
I was in bed by midnight. Again, my sleep was scattered, but I slept enough to dream that I was running the marathon with Elliot/David B… and that I got lost during the race!!!
Sunday – November 18, 2007 – RACE DAY
4:30 AM – Got up after lying awake the previous hour wondering how this day had arrived so fast!!! I showered, ate a bagel, drank Gatorade, and listened to my ipod to pump me up. I layered myself with clothing, put on my Drymax socks (didn’t get a single blister the past 2 months wearing those babies!!!), and laced up my Nikes.
At 5:30, I grabbed my bag and met Elliot/David B./Danielle (a nice surprise!) in a cab downstairs. We got to the race area in 10 minutes and found a bench to keep warm until start time – a good hour away!
I went to the bathroom (so I wouldn’t have to during the race!), laced my sneakers again tightly (so I wouldn’t have to during the race!), stretched, gave Elliot a bottle of Gatorade to give me at mile 16, and kept a positive/jovial attitude. At 6:55, we walked to the start and I jumped into the middle of the pack – a sauna of body heat. They played Rocky music on and off, and after some short announcements that I don’t remember, they blew the horn. And we were off.
The Philadelphia Marathon
I hoped that resting the past 14 days would heal my bruised shins, but they hurt immediately. So more than ever, I wanted to get these 4 miles under my belt so that my legs would get accustomed to running on pain and not feel it (strange… but that’s what happens). I was thankful that the pain DID go away after mile 4 because my legs were feeling like twigs that would snap after every pounding step. As for speed, the beginning was congested and I couldn’t set a steady pace. But it wasn’t long before I found a few solid runners to focus on and trail behind. At the end of mile 4, my hands were starting to heat up so I tossed my running gloves (mistake #1). I was feeling good.
I kept the 3:11 hopes very much alive and ran these miles at an average pace of 7:25. At mile 6 I threw away my long sleeve shirt (mistake #2) and I was left to run in my under311 tank, which felt GREAT since I was rolling at a fast clip.
I had broken down the marathon into 4 races beforehand. The plan was to do the first race (first 10 miles) in 1:12 – I did it in 1:14:30… a few minutes off pace, but nothing to get me worried. 3:11 was reachable!!! My legs were getting a little sore, but I had NO other pain. Still felt good.
Elliot/David B./Danielle surprised me since we had agreed to meet up at mile 16, but here they were cheering me on at the 13th mile!!! Elliot had my bottled water/Gatorade and he started running with me (and stayed with me for the remainder of the race!!!). Here at the 1/2 marathon, I was slowing down a little. 3:11 was on the edge of doable, but still there, and I at least wanted to make it close!! I remember Elliot telling me when he joined that I had a great pace going… but deep down I think we both knew that I was going too fast to keep it up.
This photo was taken by a new friend who stumbled upon the under311 world a few months ago. Her husband snapped this by coincidence while he was trying to photograph her!!! He caught me when I was still looking pretty good!!!
But then it happened suddenly. My right leg cramped right above my knee. In the past, my legs have hurt bad while running, but they had never cramped before. I’ve run a lot of races and I run through pain because I know that after it will disappear in minutes. But now, my motto of “pain is temporary, the run is forever” was worthless because this wasn’t pain… this was a softball lodged right above my knee preventing me from bending my leg. I had to stop and rub the leg back into shape. A similar problem popped up in the other leg soon after and the strategy changed from steady 7:15 miles to running as far as I could until my legs cramped… walk it off… run again. Unfortunately, this lasted until the end of the race. 10:00+ minute miles the rest of the way (but I still did not take the beer that was being handed out outside of a pub at mile 15!!!).
Rainy and cold. Not much crowd support. It was around now that “UNDER 3:11” was competely lost and turned into “finish the race and enjoy yourself!!” I was hoping the MUCH slower pace would solve the cramps, but even a slow jog wouldn’t rid me of them. I was disappointed not only because 3:11 was out the window, but because aside from the cramps, I felt GREAT. Running/walking continued, but it got colder/rainier out and I wasn’t exerting enough energy to create the body heat necessary to keep warm. I apologized to Elliot since I couldn’t go faster and we were out in nothing but tank tops!!! I thought we’d get sick!!! But Elliot, saint that he is, took matters into his own hands. He ran off to the side of the road and started grabbing clothes that other runners had left behind. Within minutes I was sporting a yellow vest (which had gloves in the pocket – a bonus!)… and a black windbreaker jacket!!! Normally I wouldn’t touch these with a ten foot pole… but this wasn’t “normally.” I had just run 20 miles!!!!
I was wrapped up in my new gear… but Elliot was still wearing his under311 shirt since he was running strong, and thank goodness, because a spectator watching the race would never have seen us, lowered her cell phone, and yelled “Oh my God!! Under 3:11!!! I’ve been to your website!!!” Awesome. This happened many times during the race. Runners passing us and fans yelling out under 3:11!!! Though, I was slightly embarrassed because at mile 21, we were already over 3:11!!!! … which led to some good natured heckling!!!
My parents were at Mile 25 along with David B./Danielle (both of whom missed their train to watch me!!!). I was way over 3:11 so I stopped for a few moments. I remember clearly what everyone said. Dave was very curious how I left him at mile 13 and came back 12 miles later wearing a completely different outfit – “Where did you get those clothes???” My Mom, with her camera, told me, “don’t stop, keep running!” As I passed my Dad, I put my hand on his shoulder and said “I didn’t do my goal time.” He said it was OK. Danielle cheered and ran with me and Elliot until mile 26, where they both broke off.
The large crowd made the cramps disappear and I finished strong. I also took inventory and realized that aside from cramps, nothing hurt. I had finished much easier than I ever thought I could have. I was NOT winded AT ALL. My back was fine. Knees, feet, neck, hips… everything in perfect condition. Had I run at a more manageable pace to begin with, I may have not cramped up, and would have finished MUCH faster. As the Finish Line appeared my emotions came knocking and my eyes started watering. I’m not sure I’ll ever run for an aggressive speed time again (especially since I ENJOY running at a more reasonable pace)…. because it was bittersweet crossing the finish line. At a moment when I should have been NOTHING BUT PROUD of beating 26.2 miles (something just 1 year ago I thought I could NEVER do), I crossed that finish line thinking “I finished… but not under 3:11…”
My friend Steve put it best. Like most things, you can train and train for months, prepare your best, but it all comes down to one day – and anything can happen on that one day. It can be good or bad… many times it’s not in your hands… many times it’s hard luck. As my doctor, Jim, told me: “the goal is finishing – the dream is 2:04! Somewhere in between are wishes.”
Being a runner has its benefits. Staying in shape, being healthy… and it’s an activity that needs nothing except a pair of sneakers!!! It’s introduced me to hundreds of people I never would have met or spoken to otherwise… and there is no doubt that there are hundreds more to come!!! And we all share a special bond!
Everyone had a hand in this accomplishment. My parents and friends gave up a weekend to travel and see me!!! They cheered… they STAYED in the cold to watch me run!!! It was an amazing experience and all the support was UNREAL.
To date, 140+ people have made donations and people are still pledging!!!!!! Nearly 6,000 people visited the site!!! The two goals were lofty… and even though I was disappointed at first in the run, I now feel like I reached BOTH!!! And I haven’t stopped with the lofty goals!!! I once said that I always wanted to run one marathon. Now I want to see how MANY I can run!
Believe it or not, this is just my first cut, my first thoughts of the race. I will update the blog and post as I recall more information in the coming days!!! Stay tuned!!!!!