I hope y’all are enjoying these race recaps as much as I am! All of you writing them, thank you!
Philadelphia Marathon Recap by Laura Beth Gabriel
Disclaimer: I’m normally not an overly sentimental person, but this article, much like a marathon, is a little emotional—especially towards the end J.
It is with sore legs and a full heart that I write this race recap.
My Philadelphia Marathon experience was not an uncommon one. My first half felt great, I started to lose steam around mile 18 or 19, and the last six were worse than a big, red beet on top of an ice cream sundae. I’ll let you know about the miles (you’re welcome), but I want to tell you about what was going on inside my head—because I think that’s what means the most during a marathon.
I started off with a rush of adrenaline (try starting off slowly while the Rocky theme song is playing) and a pace that was a bit on the fast side. I’m normally a slow and steady runner, but I was hoping to cross the finish line at 5:00, and I knew that every second mattered.
My first ten miles felt great. I kept my run pace at 10:30 or better (though not much better), and I tried to walk as quickly as I could on the walk “breaks”. The weather was cool and overcast, and I had Stephanie Molz beside me. Stephanie had just finished the Dublin Marathon a few weeks prior, and was dealing with some back pain, so we lost each other at a water stop around mile 14. I was on my own.
I hated losing Steph, but I know I wasn’t the best running buddy that day. I was watch-obsessed and not very talkative. This was a very different experience from my first marathon where I ran with a group and only wanted to cross that finish line. I had a goal, and though I knew I wanted to reach it, I didn’t realize just how much I wanted it until race day.
Miles 15 through 20 weren’t too bad, either. The route contained two out-and-backs, so in a span of five minutes, I saw both Matt (my husband) and Stephen Molz (Steph’s husband). As much as crowds help, nothing beats seeing a familiar face. Seeing them both still running strong perked me up and helped me maintain my 10:00-10:30 run pace.
Then I hit mile 20…
Around mile 20.5, a girl came up to me while I was on a walk break and said, “No! Don’t stop now! I’ve been following you for a while, and you can’t walk yet!” I explained that I wasn’t quitting, I was doing a run/walk, and she was intrigued. We talked for a while, which kept me occupied until mile 21. Thanks, random inquisitive stranger.
At mile 21, the dull aches and pains became…not dull. I hadn’t thought of a power word to get through moments like this, but I did see something at work that stayed with me for the entire marathon.
I work for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and, while I don’t work directly in the hospital, I’m over there a few times a day—because that’s where the food is. A few days before leaving for Philadelphia, I went across the street for coffee. Walking through a hallway toward the exit, I saw a patient using a small walker. His dad gently took the walker away, and the boy had a panicked look in his eyes. His dad nodded at him and said, “You can do this. Just a few steps.” The boy moved one foot in front of the other so slowly that you almost couldn’t tell he was moving. He cried out in pain with each step, but his Dad kept assuring him that he could move without the walker’s support. I thought about that boy the entire race, but I especially though of him those last six miles. As much as I was hurting, I was healthy. And, for that, I am thankful. For that, I run.
For those of you who don’t know, the last few miles of a marathon are as mentally tough as they are physically tough. I thought of the young patient, but I also thought of others. I thought of Star, cheering us on and tracking our splits via the internet, making our pace bands, wearing all of her clothes to stay warm while we did sprints on the high school track. Her dedication pushed me through those last miles.
I thought of Stephanie, who would tell you that she felt negative during the race, but is always the most positive and encouraging running buddy and friend. Her friendship pushed me through those last miles.
I thought of my parents and in-laws, who were tracking our splits even though they couldn’t have told you what a running split was (a tricky gymnastic act?) before we started and were now enthusiasts— even though they probably thought we were a bit crazy. My family pushed me through those last miles.
I thought of the other Star Runners. Rebecca, who was braving the San Antonio heat in her marathon that very same day. The Star Runners got me through those last miles.
Mostly, I thought of Matt. After we got married, we decided to make a change. We began running a few miles, and those few miles led to a half-marathon, followed by a full-marathon. Thank you, Matt, for being my support system literally and metaphorically every step of the way. I’m so glad we’ve made this amazing journey together. You inspire me, and I love you. You pushed me through those last miles.
To sum this up, I did make my goal—4:58 and change. While the Philly finish line could use a boost of awesome, I still felt grateful. And thankful.
Awesome race, LB!!