Philadelphia Marathon #1, Marathon #87

Kim and I signed up for Philly on a whim.  It was one of those “Happy Hour” kind of nights where we saw a post from our friend Jennifer that signed up.  We commented on her post, and then she made that comment that any runner could not resist “I’ll have snacks if you come”.  We signed up immediately. The next morning when I woke up my first thought was “Oh Wow, we are running Philly, and “I wonder I have credits from American Airlines for 2020 trips that were canceled”?  I checked and discovered we had enough credits to fly!  We booked our flights, hotel and put this race on the back burner knowing it would be post Clarence Demar, Hartford, Boston, Loco and NYC.  I have to admit, I had some regrets that next day that I added one more to our fall schedule.  I always wanted to run Philly, but typically it’s at the tail end of our crazy fall marathon schedule.

Finally, the Philly weekend approached. I researched logistics, packed and then next morning we were off to the airport to get our 6 AM flight.  This was the first time that I flew since March 2020 and I was a bit rusty.  They confiscated 2 very import items in the carry on; my wine opener and bathroom spray!  The flight was quick and then the train from the same terminal to downtown Philly was super easy.  Our hotel was right around the block from the train station too.  They even let us check in at 7:30 am! 

We met Jennifer on the corner who was with her husband James and son Logan, then headed to the expo.  It was the first expo that I’ve been to that felt like the “good old days” with quite a few vendors.  I purchased a really nice Philadelphia Marathon running jacket, visited a few booths and actually won a shirt by spinning the wheel!  I spun that wheel so hard I could see the concern in the woman’s eye that I spun too hard and the wheel would be “in flight”.  They even took some photos of me jumping up and down like I had just won a million bucks when the wheel hit “t-shirt”. 

Pre-Race:

We explored Philly.  I loved exploring The Reading Terminal Market that felt a bit like Quincy Market with so many restaurants, vendors and some shops that dated back to the 1800’s.  We got baked goods and headed back to clean up before we met Gary who promised everyone that signed up to run Philly a Philly Cheesesteak.  We took an UBER with Jennifer and her family to Pats, the one place that our friend Brian, (who lives in Philly), told us multiple times not to eat there.  When Kim ordered his he asked me if I wanted one and I said “nope, I’m good”.  Even the local woman on the train said “Oh, you don’t want to eat a Philly Cheesesteak at Pat’s if you’re running tomorrow”.  Kim ate his ‘Wit” which means in Philly language “With onions” and of course the famous cheese wiz. 

We took some photos of this nostalgic “not so recommended” place and headed back to the hotel to rest.  We had been awake since 3:30 am and were exhausted. We walked to dinner for a “not so great” meal and went to bed early.  Oh, FYI, this restaurant was not on Brian’s list of places he recommended to eat.

Race Day:

We woke up at 4 am and started getting ready to be bussed to the start that was in walking distance but it was dark and cold out.  We dressed with our throw away pajamas, hats, gloves and hand warmers.  The bus picked us up 2 blocks from the hotel and drove us to the very well-organized start.  We walked in and looked ahead at a group of what looked like homeless people where I recognized my friend. I yelled “Lisa”! I have no idea how I picked her out, as it was dark out and she had on a mask.  She looked at me with a blank look.  I instantly felt uncomfortable with her silent stare, until I looked at the woman standing next to her only to realize it was Natalie!  Finally, Lisa recognized me and we all hugged and took photos.  Lisa said “I was thinking who would know me in Philadelphia”!  This was Lisa’s first marathon and she was having pre-marathon jitters! 

We left them and headed to drop off our bags and check out the area.  We found a “warming tent”.  I said “Hey, lets go check it out”.  We walked in and it was warm, but packed shoulder to shoulder with runners.  All I could think was “This is a “COVID” warming tent.  There were runners that didn’t have masks on.  I looked at Jennifer and Kaitlyn and they both had the look of fear was in their eyes.  I am pretty sure they were all experiencing the same feelings that I had. Keep in mind, every runner HAD to provide proof of their COVID vaccination for this race, but I was still nervous.  I said “hey, do you want to wait outside”?  We all walked out with a sigh of relief.

Finally, it was time to head to our corrals. Kim and I were in a different corral than Kaitlyn and Jennifer.  Kim and I decided to stay with the girls and run together.  Jennifer and Kaitlyn both said “Jeanne, you should run your own race”.  I had told them earlier that I was trying to requalify for the World Abbott Wanda division to get into London and was hoping for a decent finish time.  I said to them, you know what, I would rather have some fun at this race and not kill myself running too fast.  I ran the Colchester race with Jennifer in the spring and she is great to run with.  I also ran all summer with Kaitlyn doing hill repeats on Tuesday mornings and really enjoyed her company.  They both had a goal at this marathon to break 4 hours.  Kim and I said that we would pace them so they could reach their goals. 

The weather was PERFECT for running.  We waited for each wave to be called with the announcer saying “Runner’s on your mark, get set” and then the horn.  When it was our waves turn, they messed up and we didn’t have the warning horn, and we just started running.  It was so congested and we couldn’t go any faster if we wanted to.  Finally, the road opened up a bit so we could pass runners.  Our first mile was around 9:30. After that we settled into a nice comfortable pace with some splits a bit faster than we wanted and Kim or I would say “Let’s back off a bit”. 

It was on the cooler side and I never ended up taking off my top layer.  I did however roll down my sleeves at certain points, only to roll them back up when we ran near the river.  Kaitlyn’s mom was going to be at mile 1 and 6 so those few miles went by quick as we were looking for her.  Kaitlyn’s dad “Bob” was also running so there were a few out and backs that we looked for him.  When he spotted us, he had the biggest smile on his face.  This man is pretty well known in the local running community as being fast! Kaitlyn refers to him as “ancient” but then again, she’s 23!  She told us he only had one long run during his training cycle of 23 miles and never fueled.  He looked bullet proof each time we saw him!

We started to run up some inclines to the “out and backs” but they didn’t seem too challenging.  I was still feeling good!  We exchanged stories, and made small talk with other runners.  We crossed the bridge over the Schuylkill river and Kaitlyn asked Kim as she looked down, will we run down there? Kim told her yes, that’s mile 16 and will be mile 24 when we come back from the turnaround in Manayunk at mile 20.

We finally got to the river where we could see the leaders coming in.  I said to the girls, they don’t look like they are having fun like us”.  Boy, some of those runners looked like they were in pain.  It was mile 23 for them. After the leaders passed, I saw Kristina Miner and screamed her name. She gave us a smile, next we saw Bob fly by and then Gary. Finally, we approached the final out and back that was a slight incline to get there.  We turned around and Kim told Kaitlyn and Jennifer “If we run this same pace, we will finish 3:53, but if we drop back to a 9:30 we will finish 3:56.  Kaitlyn put in her ear buds and started to pull away.  Kim told her to back off a little, but she was on her own journey.  Off she went, she looked strong and determined.  Around mile 23 Jennifer said “Jeanne, I’m going to back off”.  Kim heard her and said “No you’re not”!  I said, “do you want me to sing you a song”?  And she said “as long as I don’t have to sing with you”!  I did my best “ant song” and then “whip it” and when that wasn’t working anymore, I told her “silly stories of my childhood”, and then when that stopped working I turned to “Let’s play pick some thing and run to it”.  So, we took turns, I picked the lamp post, and we’d run there, Kim picked balloons and we’d run to it.  Jennifer would start to get quiet and I’d yell “Jennifer PICK SOMETHING OUT”. She did and we ran to it.  Then, I’m not sure why, I started yelling to the crowds “It’s Jennifer’s birthday today”.  The crowds went crazy and started screaming “Happy Birthday Jennifer”!  It was pretty funny!  I’m not sure where or how, but it gave me so much energy!  I started screaming to the crowds “Come on Philly, let me hear you”!  Then I high-fived ever person as I ran down the last mile.  People were screaming! It was epic.  I hadn’t done that in such a long time.  It’s such a great way to get goosebumps from the top of my head to my toes.  As we approached the finish line I grabbed Jennifer’s hand and Kim’s and we powered through finishing at 3:53. I was so proud of Jennifer!  She had a nice PR that day.  Kaitlyn finished 3:51 and her ancient dad “Bob” finished 3:39. AMAZING! We caught up with Gary after we finished. He had a great run finishing 3:55 and Boston Qualifying by 9 minutes.

Philly was one those perfect marathons that I felt bulletproof. My legs still feel really good. There is something to be said about running marathon after marathon. You either crash and burn or you become unstoppable. This marathon season we were truly blessed with success!  The final question. Would I run Philly again? Hell Yeah! Who’s signing ups?  Snacks and Philly Cheesesteaks for everyone! I’m in!

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