Yesterday I ran the Philadelphia marathon. What a great race during which I got my ass kicked. My goal was to keep the 8 minute per mile pace and finish at 3:30. I felt great during the first 10.5 or so miles and kept-up with the 3:30 pace group. Actually the 10 miles passed like nothing and I did not even realized we were already running for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The crowd support in the city was just amazing. Then I had to take a short bio-break and fell about 2-3 minutes behind the pace group. I resumed the pace and picked it up a bit on the downhill to bridge the gap. I ran another 2 miles at about 7:30 to 7:45 pace and could see the 3:30 pacing group balloons in distance. But then I had to slow down and take a minute walk. Not sure if that was mental or the increased pace was getting to me. I resumed running again and started to do math - you know like when you should be running and instead you do a lot of thinking. Yep - that was the mistake number two.
I decided that maybe I should forget about the race time and try to enjoy the time outside. This may sounds like a mistake, but I consider it one of the best decisions of the day. Then I made a pact with myself - I'll run for a mile (or about 7-8 minutes) and then walk for one minute. And I'll keep doing it until the end of the race or until I pass out. And so I did it (well I finished not passed out). It worked quite well until about mile 19 where I needed to extend the walk to 2 minutes, get gels, electrolytes and water to regain composure. For some reason it was hard for me to keep hydrating - the weather was cold and drinking cold water was not helping much.
After mile 19 it is all a big blur - beer aid station, the crowds cheering all the way on the main street in Manayunk, somebody handing out brownies, gel aid station, someone playing harmonica (or was I just dreaming at that point?), thinking about how bloody hard this marathon thing is, cursing myself for signing-up for it, and then being happy that I'm part of something this big. Wow it was emotional roller-coaster. In any case run-walk worked very well and although I was slowing it was not that bad. Around mile 23.5 I got passed by the 3:45 pace group and just knew I do not want to cross the line with next pacing group (the 4:00 crowd). I dug deep, still did the run-walk but tried to do more of run and less of the walk. Then it was only a mile and I could feel that the end is very close. The last kilometer was just plain amazing, people cheering, all the noise and I started to pass people that were struggling on the uphill. I guess the run-walk method saved me some energy for stronger finish (it was not a strong finish, I just had little more in my tank than the people I passed).
I crossed the finish line in 3:55:06 (chip time) and was glad that I was done. First thought after crossing the line - OK next time I'll be better prepared and do the 3:30. Now only if my legs did not hurt so much and my ankle was not giving me the trouble. Congratulations to everyone who finished yesterday. It was quite cold one for my taste - especially the stretch by the river.
If you want to check the details of my race here is link to the GPS map and other stats.
One addition that you can not miss - as you can imagine we have heard the Rocky song more than one time on the race day.