Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Perfect Weekend

Warning: I apologize for this lengthy, sappy, and not necessarily running-focused race recap! :)

This past weekend was perfect.  I couldn't have asked for a more incredible first marathon.  I may have been the one to do the work during my training, but my friends and family were the ones that got me across the finish line. In the days leading up to the marathon, I received SO much support...from everyone.  I got more emails, calls, facebook messages, texts, tweets and in-person good luck wishes and positive thoughts than I ever could have imagined or asked for.  Just thinking about it all brings tears to my eyes.  The running community is absolutely amazing, as is my family.

A week or two before the race, I started getting really nervous whenever I thought about running a marathon.  Everyone was asking me if I was excited, and I was, but I was way more nervous than anything else.  But yet, at the same time, I felt an odd sense of calmness over me.

Since this was my first marathon, I didn't know what to fully expect.  Training runs only prepare you so much, and I had never run more than 22 miles.  I was afraid that I was going to start out way too fast. Or have a mental breakdown mid-race. Or that my goal was unrealistic and I'd be disappointed in myself. Or that I'd get injured. Or it just wouldn't be my day. But in the end, I loved everything about Sunday.

A year ago, when people asked me about running a marathon, my answer was that I had no interest.  It wasn't until I watched the Boston 2012 marathon that I contemplated running a marathon myself.  It still took me several weeks after Boston to sign up, but I finally registered for Philadelphia.  From then on, I knew that I wanted to give the marathon everything I had.  Sure, I could have run 5 days a week instead of 4, or done more speedwork, but when I got to the starting line, I knew I had trained well and was going to leave it all out on the course.

Anthony and I took the train to Philly Saturday afternoon, dropped off our stuff at the hotel and went to the expo.  The booths were a crowded disaster, but once you got  past them, there was no line at packet pick up!

We met up with some of my childhood friends there, and probably ended up walking/standing too much to find something to eat.  We finally made it back to the hotel and checked in to find out that this was our view:

It was a perfect view of the start/finish, except that I wouldn't be there to see any of it! But it was nice to look out Sunday morning and see what was happening before I headed out myself.

My mom, sister and her in-laws, Anthony and I went to Thai for dinner.  I had Pad Thai, which I had the night before the Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half marathon and was fine, but a few hours after dinner, my stomach wasn't feeling great.  By the time I finally went to bed (too late and I woke up so many times), my stomach felt terrible.  Fortunately, when I woke up at 5:30am Sunday morning, it was better!

My sister, mom and me after dinner

Anthony and me after dinner

                                           Walking to the starting line Sunday morning.

When I signed up for this race, I just sort of decided that I wanted to run a 3:35 marathon, which also happens to be the Boston Qualifying time for my age group. At first I just thought it'd be cool to qualify, but then as time and my training went on, I became determined to make it happen. I became so attached to this goal time that I was slightly concerned for myself if I didn't meet it! I had days where I thought it was possible and other days (ahem, including the day before the race) when I thought I was crazy for setting my goal so high for my first marathon.  But I guess you have to set your dreams high to live up to your full potential!  

Walking to the start Sunday morning, it made me glad that I ran the Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in September. This race was set up basically the same way- porta potties (not enough- had to go but would have missed the start), start line, baggage- I knew where everything was so didn't stress out. I got into my corral around 6:50 and it was really chilly, but sunny (great running weather!) so I kept my throwaway clothes on as long as possible. They started the National Anthem a few minutes before 7 and I started to tear up. Already. I told myself to hold it together at least until the start!  Soon the wheelchairs were off, then the elites, the second corral, then me! I crossed the starting line and pressed the wrong button on my Garmin, so it was inaccurate before I even took two steps. Smooth.  Fortunately, I caught it within a few seconds so it didn't make a big difference overall.

I saw Anthony cheering at mile 1, which got me excited.  Since I knew where all my cheerers (is that a word?) were going to be, this race quickly became about counting down the miles until seeing my next cheerer.  Mentally, for me, this made the race go by really quickly. Not so much mile by mile, but while looking back on the race towards the end, it felt like I had only been running for a few minutes. Although, whenever I thought "only an hour left of running!" I immediately freaked out. But when I thought "only 7 more miles" it seemed totally manageable. Whatever works for you! 

So after seeing Anthony near the start, I was counting down until mile 6 where my dad, Anthony, Ashley, Beth and Erica were going to be. During the last week of tapering, I started feeling some knee pain.  Nothing serious, but I did wonder if it would become a problem after running a marathon on it. Within the first few miles, I could already feel that my knee didn't feel great. I was also kind of in a bad mood for the first few miles and wasn't mentally with it or into the race. I got slightly worried, because 3+ more hours of running when you don't want to is TOUGH! It also really annoyed me when I saw a sign around mile 4 that said "Hurry Up, We're Cold!" I may have even said a not-very-nice word out loud to that person "cheering" - oops. However, as soon as we turned onto Chestnut Street around mile 5, there were SO many people lining the streets and cheering that I forgot about being grumpy and got really excited. There was so much energy and it gave me some adrenaline. My pace dropped consistently for the first 5 miles.

I saw Ashley around mile 6 (but missed Beth and Erica - I think they were on the other side of the street) then Anthony (but missed my dad- same story!)  Even though I missed some people, seeing Ashley and Anthony at that point helped me so much.  Then it was a countdown until I'd see my mom and sister- somewhere between miles 8 and 10.  I think not knowing exactly where they were going to be might have actually worked to my advantage.  Miles 7-10 were the hilliest of the whole course, but I was mostly looking at everyone cheering, trying to spot my mom and sister, so I wasn't focused on the hills.  These miles actually ended up being some of my fastest.  

I usually don't pay attention to my elevation charts from my runs, so an elevation map really doesn't mean much to me.  I can obviously tell where the hills are, but don't really know what a 100 foot climb over a mile feels like. But after running the course on Sunday, it seemed like (for anyone that knows Central Park) the hill at mile 7 was like Cat Hill and the hill at mile 9 was like the Great Hill. But by then I was feeling great and wasn't going to let a hill ruin that! 


Just before mile 10, I finally spotted my mom and sister, yelled to get their attention, they cheered something back at me, I waved and kept on my way. After 10 miles, I was feeling great, except my lower back started to hurt (already).  My pace was consistent at 8:04 (on my Garmin- texts from tracking varied from 8:06-8:09) and I knew there were some downhills coming! I was feeling really great, aside from back pain, and felt like I could keep running this pace forever.

Next up, find Anthony and my dad at the halfway marker, and don't accidentally only run a half marathon. Fortunately, the signs for the split, where the half marathons go right and marathoners go left, were really clear so it wasn't an issue.

Before the race began, I decided I was going to break this race up into three segments:

1. First half- 13.1 miles
2. Out to Manayunk (6.5ish miles)
3. Back from Manayunk to finish (6.5ish miles)

Because of the way this course is set up, this worked really well for me.  The race wasn't really half over at the halfway point, because as I've been told by so many people, the last 6 or so miles are always the hardest. Makes sense, and they were right.  For me, at the halfway point, mentally I was 1/3 of the way done. Just before heading downhill (which later becomes an uphill...) onto Kelly Drive at mile 13, I saw my dad and Anthony.  I yelled "Happy birthday" to my dad while they yelled...?!  I don't know what, but I was glad I spotted them!  I hit the half marathon marker in 1:46:11.

After that, I unfortunately didn't see anyone I knew for almost 10 miles. I'm glad I didn't know that was going to happen, because I think it would have made it mentally really hard for me.  Around mile 15, I felt invincible and had big plans to pick up the pace after the turnaround at mile 19.5.  I'm glad I planned to wait on that one, because as it turns out, it didn't happen that way at all.  

Around mile 17 we crossed over the river for a short out and back, and I saw the 3:35 pace group a bit behind me.  While I knew I was ahead of my goal of 3:35, it was nice to have it confirmed by seeing the group then.  I finally turned on my music around mile 19 and continued looking for my mom and sister from miles 18-21. They apparently spotted me around mile 20, but I completely missed them.  There were SO many people cheering here in Manayunk- it was SO loud and had great energy! I will also say that there were many more hills at this point than I was expecting.  They weren't huge, but they started to feel pretty big after 18-20 miles. Shortly after making the turn around back towards the finish, I heard someone yelling my name and saw Jocelyn!  She was looking awesome! I just remember yelling "JOCELYN! SUB 4!" to her! She wasn't far behind me, so I knew she was going to do it- just didn't know she was going to beat her goal by 10 minutes!!! So awesome- congrats!!! 

These miles were pretty quiet (and pretty- they were along the river with beautiful Fall foliage!) and uneventful. Or else I was already delirious and just don't remember much from those 10 miles! I was still feeling mostly good and was just focused on counting down the miles and finishing my first marathon! Then, at mile 23, I spotted Anthony on the side! He was now wearing running clothes and jumped in to run the last few miles with me! We had talked about him running from mile 25, but weren't sure that would work, so I was extra happy to see him, and earlier than I expected!  He kept telling me how great and strong I looked, while I kept telling him everything that hurt- my feet, my calves were killing me at this point, my lower back. I said more than once that I just wanted to stop, but knew I was so close to qualifying for Boston and beating my goal (but didn't have THAT much time to spare) that it wasn't even an option to stop and walk. He kept yelling my name and saying "Go Abby!" which got everyone else around us yelling my name too.  It definitely kept me going. Thank you, Anthony, for getting me to that finish line when all I wanted to do was stop!  He ran with me until around mile 25.75 where he pulled off before the finish chute. At that point, the crowds were AWESOME! I apparently ran up a hill, but had so much adrenaline from the cheering that I didn't even notice!  There were people completely lining both sides of the street, everyone was yelling and Ashley, Beth, Erica and Kara (who ran the half marathon- congrats)! spotted me and were cheering for me. With their encouragement and only .2 to go, I decided it was time to pick up the pace!

I crossed that finish line with a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes. And as soon as I stopped running, my legs were so wobbly that I almost collapsed! I got my space blanket (whatever it's called!) and medal and found my family. And continued to smile for the rest of the day. 

Official results:

I beat my 3:35 goal and qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2014! So many people told me that I could do it, but it wasn't really until the last mile or two that I realized I was actually going to meet my goal.  Even though I tried not to get my hopes up too much about running sub 3:35, because I didn't want my first marathon to be a "disappointment" to me if I didn't meet my goal (that I pulled out of nowhere), I knew that if I didn't qualify for Boston, I'd want a redemption race in the Spring. I think that might have been the real motivator for getting it done on Sunday- I didn't want to have to go through another 4 months of training during Spring 2013! I had an amazing time, and wouldn't change a thing, but am not quite ready for another marathon just yet! :) 

Photo credit: Erica Sara

This was my first race as a member of the Oiselle Team and I couldn't have been happier to represent the company! I've only met a few teammates, but had SO much social media support from dozens of other Oiselle teammates that I've never met.  They motivated me to run a strong race and I'm so thankful to be a part of the team!

Note: If you chafe a lot (or at all- it's never comfortable!) and don't already wear Oiselle, try their products! Not only do they fit well and look good, I've NEVER chafed while wearing anything of theirs. Maybe I'm just lucky (but I have chafed in the past while wearing other apparel) so I'm sure the non-chafing has at least something to do with their products!

Special thank you to Beth for this awesome 
sign!!! Photo credit: Ashley

While I'm super sad that I didn't see this sign while on the course, it made so happy to get a picture of this afterwards, with one of the Oiselle mantras!

Congratulations to everyone else that ran on Sunday! There were so many PRs!  I loved everything about this race- the people cheering, the course, the weather and the energy. I already loved Philly, but now it holds a special place in my heart.

Note: I'm really glad I carried a small water bottle (thanks Emilia for the recommendation!) with me (until I handed it over to Anthony at mile 23).  Water stations always get bogged down and I was able to just stay in the middle of the road and breeze by them without too much congestion. Also, for me, it's harder to stop/slow and then start again than it is to just keep going.  I will definitely do this again in the future!  I ended up stopping for Gatorade a few times in the last 6 miles, after I ran out of water, but having the water bottle definitely helped me stay on pace and not have to worry about fueling before getting to a water station.

Here are some post marathon & pre celebrating/consuming-my-weight-in-liquid photos!

Signs/artwork courtesy of my mom! 

My mom, dad, Anthony and I all walked back to our hotel together after the race, and this sign was taped to the outside of our hotel room door when we arrived! Mom, you're the best! Thank you for all the cheering and awesome signs you made for me!!!

 Post shower marathon bliss

This Oiselle sweatshirt, which happens to be the softest thing I've ever worn, was my marathon gift to myself.  I haven't really taken it off since I finished the race. Do yourself a favor and go buy one!

Regrets of this race: 
-Not seeing the signs that my mom and Beth made for me during the race.
-Not hearing "The Edge of Glory" during the race. I don't know why, but I really wanted to hear this during the race and I didn't. I have been listening to it ever since though...
-Not getting a picture of my mom and me together after the race. This one makes me sad, but it's just something we'll have to change after the next marathon!

Things I'll never forget:
-Hearing my mom and sister cheer for me at mile 10, Anthony and my dad at mile 13, and Beth, Ashley, Kara and Erica just before the finish!
-Realizing that I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon
-The feeling of crossing the finish line of my first marathon
-What it felt like to accomplish my goal after so many months & miles, aches & pains, early nights & early mornings with so much determination.

Thank you EVERYONE who cheered for me, sent me a text/tweet/facebook message before or after the race, ran with me during training, tracked me or believed in me. A special thank you to my mom, dad, sister, Anthony, Ashley, Beth, Erica, Kara and Jocelyn for making Sunday a day I will never, ever forget.

Did you run the Philadelphia Marathon/Half Marathon?  What was your favorite part?  Never run a marathon but want to? I'm not a marathon course expert, but Philly was pretty awesome! Just sayin'...  (Hint hint, Beth! :)  )

Want to commit to cheering at my next marathon (whatever it is)? I'm fairly confident I wouldn't be able to run a marathon without having friends and family spread along the whole course...


  1. I'm so freaking happy for you Abby!!!! What a great recap :) Congratulations on an amazing race!!!!

    1. Thank you, Steph!!! Congrats again to you too! Sorry I missed you there but let's get together soon...or definitely after you kick ass in Rehoboth!!! :)

  2. Congratulations again!!! I loved reading your recap. Such a great first marathon story. Can't wait to do some long runs together when we train for NEW YORK! And, you know, some runs before then as well, obviously.

    I ran the Philly Half last year and loved it, but I kind of forgot about it after doing 5 more halves after it. Reading everyone's recaps is making me really want to run it again sometime in the next few years!

    1. Thank you, Carla!!! Yes, when are we running together again?! I'm sort of reconsidering NYCM after the mess this year, not sure how they'll handle everyone, etc. but am definitely planning a Fall marathon so will be training for something! :) Can't wait to get back out there with you!

  3. Congrats on your BQ, Abby! What an amazing accomplishment!

    1. Thank you, Carrie! Still riding the runner's high! :)

  4. Congrats on your BQ!!! And more than that, your race recap is an emotional window into the journey of your marathon, thanks for opening that window for us to see! You really motivate me to do it all over again, even though sitting here today I can't sign up for my next race yet. I have some pain to forget first!

    I was sooo annoyed at the person holding the sign "Hurry up, we're cold!" I tried to laugh but inside I was infuriated -- that next mile is my fastest, so I guess it worked!

    And then the dudes lining the wooded areas close to the river with their hands on their hips (I have no idea what they where doing!!!) That slightly annoyed me - c'mon if you would have only planned ahead, not to mention there WHERE portable facilities. Where's the decency!!!?? I know I know... But still. It just seemed greedy. And unsophisticated. I'm a country boy and should be OK with this but I'm NOT. ***End of public pee break rant!

    The tears... Yes the tears... Reading your recap brought them all flooding back again! Thanks for sharing your story and again, YOU ROCK!

    Good Luck in Boston 2014!

    1. Thank you for such a nice comment, Paul, and congrats again to you! Maybe we'll both be in Philly again in the future to relive the awesome race that it was! Still can't stop thinking about it and am so anxious to get back to running! Hope you're still riding the runner's high too!

  5. What a great recap! Congratulations!!

    I am SO IMPRESSED! by your speed and consistency! I am aiming for 4:15:00 for my first and honestly can't imagine beating that by nearly 45 minutes! Insanity. Great work!

    1. Thank you! You CAN do 4:15! Believe in yourself, be consistent in your preparation and visualize yourself crossing that finish line in 4:14:59! Which marathon are you running? Good luck and HAVE FUN! It's an incredible experience so soak it all in!

  6. What a great recap, Abby! You make it sound so effortless, awesome job! You were destined to run the marathon! Now you can look forward to Boston 2014.
    Nicole (@nmh1970)

    1. Thank you, Nicole! Running this race as my first on Oiselle Team honestly helped me stay focused, consistent and pushing myself! So proud to be a part of such an amazing group of women!

      Hope you meet you sometime soon!!

  7. Beth @RxBethOnTheRunNovember 20, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    WOW! This was an amazing race recap! You literally made me tear up from start to finish. I am so proud of you!!!!! You inspire me to be a better runner EVERY DAY. Seeing you right before the finish, looking as STRONG as you always do, about to reach your goal, brought Ashley, Kara and I to tears. When we knew you qualified for Boston, we were all SO HAPPY FOR YOU and all VERY emotional. We just kind of stopped what we were doing and celebrated you. I'm so happy I was there to cheer you on. You are an inspiration. My bags are packed for Boston 2014! I can't wait to see you achieve something amazing there too! DREAM BIG my friend, you are capable of ANYTHING!

    1. Beth, you're the best. Just rereading this comment now made ME tear up! I'm SO happy that you were there to be part of the day with me! I'll never forget that! I'm going to hold you to coming to Boston with me because you give the BEST pep talks and are SO motivational :) I can't wait to watch you run your first marathon and experience what an amazing feeling is when you accomplish something like that.

      I hope you're having an awesome run right now and can't wait to see you/talk more about marathons in a few hours :)

      THANK YOU!

    2. I second Beth's comments!! Love this recap. We were definitely crying watching you finish, haha. YOU ARE AMAZING!! Never forget it! So happy I was able to cheer you on. (PS it was great to finally meet you this weekend!!)

    3. You guys are the best! THANK YOU!!! Still love thinking about seeing you all along the side cheering as I was about to finish! It makes me want to run another marathon ASAP! Such a great feeling! And SO nice to finally meet you, Kara! Sorry I didn't get to say bye last night!

  8. Congrats again on your amazing race (and BQ!!!). I felt so inspired getting that email that you finished in 3:33, and then again hearing you talk about it, and now again reading this recap! I can't imagine how wonderful it must have felt to run the marathon with Anthony, friends, and family there to cheer you on. Congrats, congrats, congrats!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Jen! I can't wait until YOU run your first marathon! I can't even put into words how awesome it is to cross that finish line and know that you've done something that you've never done before! So excited for you!!

  9. Wow, that "hurry up, we're cold" sign would have bugged me too - not very encouraging.

    Congratulations on a KILLER race, including an incredible sprint to the finish! So few first timers are able to achieve something like that and I can't believe how strong you were. 3:33 is UNBELIEVABLE! Your pictures are all so awesome - I love seeing how happy you are :) YAY YAY YAY and I can't wait to hear what you set out to do next!

    1. Thank you, Laura!!! I was skeptical of marathons before finishing mine, but now I see what the appeal is, and why you've run 70 or 80! I don't think I'll be trying to beat your record anytime soon (haha) but I can't wait until my next one! Let's celebrate your 60k and the marathon soon! :)

  10. Wow!!! What an amazing race for you, congrats!!! I always carry my bottle I trust NO ONE to know when I need to hydrate but me! ;-)

    1. Thank you, Kristin! Congrats to you too!!! Sorry I missed seeing you in Philly, but we should have a big runner's holiday happy hour or something to celebrate everyone's awesome races this Fall!

  11. Congrats! And thanks for the Oiselle tips -- I've never tried their products, but am inspired to now!

    1. Yes!!! Absolutely order something from Oiselle! Everything is great, but my favorite shorts are the Rogas and ALL of their tops are awesome! Enjoy! :)

  12. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!! SO proud of you!!!

    Once we got to the "out and back" part of the race, I ran on the inside so I could find you!! So happy I did! WEAR THAT SWEATSHIRT PROUD - you earned it!!

    1. Thank you, Jocelyn!!! SO proud of you too! Can't wait to read the race recap! :) SO glad you found me during the race- it made a big difference for me!