Warning, this is a LONG recap. So, long story short: I DID IT.
Finish time 3:34:38, which is sub-3:35, which is a BQ time!
I’m so happy. I’m so thankful to my friends who came out and volunteered and cheered. I’m so tired – I’m sore, but just normal soreness that would be expected post-marathon. Nothing plantar fasciitis related, nothing that feels permanent.
I didn’t fully believe I could do this. I thought I could do it physically – but I really doubted my ability to mentally get through 26.2 miles at a sub-8:12 pace, a pace which usually feels somewhat challenging for a five mile run.
The weather was unbelievably perfect. I was really worried a couple weeks ago what the weather would be like because last year, race day was freezing. Adding to my worries, last week morning temps were in the 20s (it snowed on Tuesday). I had all these plans for what I would wear if it were cold… but then the temperature that morning was 52 degrees. Tank top and shorts it was.
Pre-race breakfast and a good luck note from one of my awesome roommates:
I started with my running club friend in the third (green) corral, and we crossed the start about 10 minutes after the gun. Unfortunately, due to being not-super-early to the start (we’d taxied over with another running club friend around 6:15), we had to wait in long bathroom lines and ended up at the back of the corral.
The first mile was extremely hectic – there was one part where the course split, and there weren’t any signs saying what to do. Runners were going both directions, and some people were saying that one direction was for the half and one was for the full. I ran the course last year so I should have known better, but I wasn’t thinking clearly so I was confused, too. People were actually running the course in the opposite direction! My friend turned around at one point too, but I yelled for him to keep going the way we were going. It turned out the course met back up after very soon after the split, after going around a large oval. We lost about 5-10 seconds there, but it was fine.
The first ~7 miles overall were extremely congested. There were people everywhere I would have loved to go around. The crowd support was really good here though, too.
- Mile times for 1-7: 8:38, 8:26, 8:21, 8:12, 8:25, 8:14, 8:23
The only two big hills in the entire course came just before mile 8 and just after mile 9. They were pretty difficult (lots of people walking) but we got through them all right.
- Miles 8 and 9: 8:35, 8:08
My friend I was running with stopped at mile 11 to use the bathroom, but I kept going. I knew I wanted to get to the halfway point under 1:50 (ideally around 1:47:30, but I already knew that was unlikely based on our pace thus far), so I sped up a bit and ended up going through the half at 1:48:52. Just like last year, it was so hard to watch the half marathoners break off and finish. I was actually surprised at how quickly the first 13.1 went by though.
- Miles 10-13: 8:16, 7:49, 7:45, 8:00
Miles 14-17 were pretty uneventful as a whole. I still felt pretty good but was starting to get tired. I saw the top runners coming through around mile 23 (for them) on the “back” part of the out-and-back course. Some looked like they were hurting pretty badly, and I was just thankful in that moment that I wasn’t trying to run a sub-6 pace. And I actually saw my guy roommate (who wasn’t racing) pace his friend who was one of the super fast guys in the race.
- Miles 14-17: 7:55, 8:08, 8:07, 8:07
I think mile 18 was where I started feeling, excuse the language, pretty shitty. My legs hurt a lot and I knew I was going to have to speed up if I wanted to get sub-3:35. It was difficult being in that much pain and coming to terms with the fact I was going to have to run even faster for another 8 miles. Mile 18 on the course is also this weird little “pocket” where you have to go over a bridge and run a short out-and-back before coming back to the same road you were running on before. Right when you come back to the main road after the little side adventure is mile marker 19.
- Miles 18 and 19: 8:31, 7:53
Mile 19 takes you out to this awesome street in a part of town called Manayunk where there are a TON of people cheering. It’s exactly what you need at that point, because not only is it a pretty significant uphill, but the turn-around is at the end of the street (right before mile 20) where you embark on the final 10k back into the city. A really cute little girl said, “Gooo… Erin!” (read my name off my bib) which made me so happy and was a nice distraction from how much pain I was in.
I know my pace doesn’t really reflect this, but I felt like I was dying. My legs hurt so badly. I was really nauseated, but also feeling tired and in need of a gel. I took one gel around mile 10 and another around mile 15, and I tried to take another at around 23, but my stomach turned and I couldn’t do it. Funny story though: I held on to that opened gel (didn’t want to waste $1.25) and accidentally squeezed it about mile 23.5… peanut butter flavored gu erupted into the air. Nice comic relief.
Anyway, on these miles (21-23) I was in so pain, and I was honestly worried I was going to give up and walk. I started talking out loud to myself. Things like, “I am going to qualify for Boston today. I am going to run under 3:35.” Definitely made me sound crazy, but I think it helped.
- Miles 21-23: 8:01, 8:01, 7:58
I was so excited for mile 24, because I knew my friends were going to be cheering there. My friend Emily was also planning on pacing me miles 24-26, and I was in dire need of that. Almost everyone around me was walking or at best, shuffling, and I was still feeling so much pain. As soon as I saw my friends, I yelled out, “Emily, I NEED YOU” and everyone around me stared, haha. But so she jumped in, and we saw Ted (my guy roommate) after about another quarter mile, and he jumped in too. They seriously saved me; I don’t think I could have done it without them. I keep repeating this, but I was in so much pain. I was closing my eyes and just trying to make it to the end.
- Miles 24-26: 8:07, 8:03, 8:02
Emily and Ted dropped off about a quarter mile before mile 26, and I was trying so hard to finish strong. At that point, I was pretty sure I was going to make it under 3:35, but it was going to be extremely close. I’m not looking forward to pictures from the last .2 stretch because I’m pretty sure I looked like I was about to die. I think the pace was about 7:10; it’s hard to tell because my Garmin picked up 26.36 miles (.16 extra not bad at all for 26 miles total).
When I crossed the finish line and saw 3:34:38 on my watch I was so emotional and in so much pain. I didn’t cry (I don’t ever cry from happiness) but I seriously felt like I might. I felt absolutely euphoric. I walked through the finish area extremely slowly while repeating “ow” many times over but smiling hugely. I wasn’t very steady and felt kind of delirious, but I knew where my friends were meeting, so I picked up my gear check bag and hobbled there as fast as I could.
It was a great day all around. I found my friends and found out another guy in running club qualified for Boston in 3:01 (after racing XC nationals yesterday)! And my friend Matt who I started the race with finished in 3:55, which is awesome considering it was his first marathon. Lots of hugs exchanged, lots of pained exclamations made. And consulting the results online, I found out I got 2nd place in my division! (16-19 female)
Boston qualifiers taking a nap post-race.
Post-marathon brunch at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to forever was literally the best. One friend and I went through 2 bread baskets, 2 entrees, and 2 sides of bacon, haha. Got a taxi back home because there’s no way we were walking.
Post-race brunch at Parc. That’s bread basket #2.
I am so happy. That was honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I truly feel as though I gave that race everything I had. Even more than I thought I had to give. Even when I thought the pain was unbearable, I just kept thinking how determined I was to get across that line before the clock struck 3:35:00. I didn’t want to have to explain to my friends (and myself) what went wrong; I wanted to actually do it, more than anything else in the world that day. And I did it. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt this happy or fulfilled in my entire life.