Full circle at the Philadelphia Marathon

Four years ago, I decided to run a marathon. One marathon.

After much deliberation,  I picked Philadelphia. My mother was raised there, my sister lived there. It was home. I ran the race and had the time of my life. I reached what I long thought was an unreachable goal.

Last weekend, I returned. And yep, it was well worth the wait.

As always, I stayed with Meri, who decided to run the Philadelphia half marathon after years of cheering and volunteering at the race.

We hit the expo midday Saturday, collected our goodies and connected with Dimity of Another Mother Runner. We even managed to leave without spending too much money. Huge success.

The day’s weekend’s highlight, however, was meeting friends old and new.

At high noon, we met with fellow running bloggers Karla, Jen and Katherine and my longtime friend Claudia at the Reading Terminal Market.

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Katherine (left) Jen, Karla and Meri

We all gabbed like old pals for more than an hour…. and then we met up with broken chick Kyle, who planned to run Philadelphia Marathon with us until she sprained her ankle.

popshopKyle is thrilled to be in the land of grilled cheese

We three carb-loaded at our beloved pop shop in NJ before we all attempted to settle down on marathon eve. A great chat,lots of  laughter and race-morning planning filled our evening.

phlbibReady to go!

Fast forward to marathon morning. The 4 a.m. alarm woke us in time to catch the 5:40 train into Center City. We walked about a mile to the start area, where we dropped our bags and wished one another a great run and headed into our respective corrals.

Somehow, in a mass of 30,000 runners, I connected with my training partners Gary, Traci and Jen in the purple corral. We all planned to start together with the 4:15 pacer, but race our own races. While waiting, Gary met Justin, a man from Allentown who joined our running crew for the day. (More on him later)

phlstartWith Gary, Traci and Jen (note the art museum behind us!)

Soon enough, we hit the road. The first few miles flew by and pretty soon Gary, Justin and I were all running as a well-oiled 10-minute-mile pacing team. I jabbered along much of the first half, pointing to landmarks and sharing stories. Running through Center City was fantastic, between Independence Hall, several bands and streets lined with cheering fans and volunteers.

The miles clicked by and I felt fantastic. My Garmin watch was acting up, clearly giving me false readings as I ran by skyscrapers, so I went by feel.  It totally paid off. Looking back at my stats, I ran a solid 10-minute-mile pace nearly the whole race. I slipped a bit in those last two miles.

I was feeling it Sunday. I powered up the hills at miles 7 and 9. I flew on the straightaways. I was in the groove.

At the half, I felt invincible. I spotted three cheering friends near the art museum and Boathouse Row. Childhood friend Kelly, who ran the half Sunday morning, waved me down and ran alongside me for a bit. Her words of encouragement carried me for miles.

I pulled ahead with a smile on my face. This was the race I’d been waiting for.

Around mile 20 in Manayunk, running pal Cynthia waved me down as I started to get the inkling that my legs felt heavy. Her smiling face motivated me to keep moving forward. (Thank you!)

I started to struggle around mile 21. Justin ran a bit ahead and I recall thinking how nice it was to see him get a surge of energy. It was that moment I knew he’d reach his own goal, no matter how hard those last few miles were.

Several times he circled back, checking to make sure I was holding my own. Thank you Justin!

We ran into Traci around mile 22-23 and the three of us pushed on together. I walked longer at each water stop, but didn’t throw in the towel, even though I desperately wanted to. My legs were on fire and my breathing was labored. I was doubting my training.

Then we approached the art museum and the  crowds carried us in. With a high five from Mayor Nutter, Traci and I crossed the finish line together at 4:25. We both PRed and were thrilled we were done. Justin waited for us on the other side and also ran his best time. Triple PR!

We each received a beautiful medal, rivaled only by the soft pretzel handed out in the runner food line.

Eventually, we found the rest of our group and started learning about everyone’s races. LOTS of PRs in our running group! I cannot wait to hear all about everyone’s adventures.

phlendWith Traci and Meri just after the full

 groupphillyj

 From left, I’m with Traci, Brittany, Charlotte, Aileen, Gary and our new pal  Justin

Philly is a tough course, but there really is nothing like it. I loved my first 26.2 in Philly for just that reason – it was my maiden marathon and showed me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. Five years later, I completed a far different training cycle that included multiple missed runs, illnesses and other demands taking away from my training time. I went into the weekend feeling strong but told myself not to overshoot or stress over a goal time.

So I didn’t. And it paid off. Philly, you’re my city. Running the Philadelphia Marathon the second time is like coming home.

Did you run Philly? I want to hear all about your race! Ever meet a new running pal and run a race together?

25 thoughts on “Full circle at the Philadelphia Marathon

  1. Did the chicks just pick up a tablet sponsor? I ripped the cords from my monitor turning it sideways & upside-down to look at the pix (grin).

    Great story, Vic!

    • The Philadelphia marathon weekend is one of my favorite race weekends, without question. I love the course and have run both the half and full in the past few years. They also have an 8K race as part of marathon weekend. Its a laid back event, which is part of why I love it. What did your sis think of the expo?

  2. Ah I grew up around Philly and LOVE POP SHOP. Omg. I may need to go there this weekend. I ran the Philly half last year and had a great time. The marathon is definitely on my list of ones to do. Congrats on the PR!

    • I shouldn’t admit this, but we ate there on Saturday AND Sunday. We are pop shop addicts! Thanks so much for your celebration! (and obviously, I love the race weekend!) Good luck on your future Philly full!

  3. Congrats on the PR and wonderful marathon experience!!
    I ran the Philly half this year. I did the race for the first time two years ago as my first half marathon (and second ever road race), and I returned this year to chase sub-2. I love the crowd support in Philly more than anything, and I will definitely want to run the full some time in the future!

    • Thanks so much! And congrats to you on your half! How did you race go? That half course is a bit challenging with the super hill at mile 9! I love the crowd support in Philly- second to none!

  4. Congrats on a fantastic race. Clearly your love of Philadelphia resonated throughout your race recap and how fabulous that there were so many PR’s in your group. Now you can rest for a few more years before your next marathon!

    • Thank you so much Pam! I’m so happy for everyone in our group. It was a perfect weather day for a marathon- even though I felt so fatigued near the end. I’m all for resting for a bit now!

  5. Congratulations!!! It was so great to finally meet you and Meri! So glad you had a great race. I’ve found that the best ones happen when I don’t stress over time, I run by feel and try to have fun. Somehow, I manage to run my best times that way. Love this race–it’s really a great one. Hope you’re enjoying some post-PR rest!

    • Thank you Karla! I’m so glad we FINALLY got to meet in person too! It was long overdue – and I’m so glad that you had such a wonderful race. And I agree, when I don’t stress about time or goals I tend to fare far better. Hope to see you again soon! 🙂

  6. It was so fun to spot you – thanks to Instagram flat runner photos the night before I knew what you were wearing and picked you out of the crowd earlier in the race, but I was too far to say hi. So it was great to see you and get to chat! I was so out of it in a fog after the race. Congrats on the race, I loved it – so many cheering spectators!!!

    • I’m SO glad we got to meet TWICE during this race. Your smiling self was a huge pickmeup in Manayunk. I still can’t believe we forgot to take a pic – that just means we need to run another one together 🙂 Congrats again on a solid run!

  7. Congrats on your PR!! I ran the Half for the first time this year and loved it! The crowd support was amazing and I would totally do the run again because of it. Great race!!

  8. What an amazing recap! Congratulations on a great race – I love that you came “home” for this race. It’s clear you enjoyed every second.

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  10. AAAAAHHH I WANT TO RUN THIS RACE! All these recaps are making it sound amazing! And if I run a marathon I want it to be in my old hometown. Was the course super tough? And congrats on your PR! It sounds like you all had a ton of fun!

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