Race day has come and gone. I write this sprawled out on the floor of my living room, Marfa next to me sniffing my medal. The Philadelphia Marathon experience was unlike any other feeling, moment, or series of emotions I’ve ever encountered. Emails poured in from co-workers, one of our gallery interns, friends, and family Friday before I hit the road to Philly. I was shocked and touched by the love and support that was extended to me.
Saturday morning- my 26th birthday. I woke up seeing November 17th on my Garmin and grinned… finally 26 years old! Meghan and I headed out for an easy 4 miles around Manayunk, her neighborhood that would transform into miles 18-21, just twenty-four hours later. I felt strong, I felt confident… but I still remember thinking, “Am I really doing this? Am I really ready for this?” The rest of my birthday was kind of a blur. Laura and Meghan woke me up singing happy birthday, we headed to the expo with Meghan’s parents (HUGE congrats to her dad, Chuck, who ran Philly in 4:45:00!), and finally gathered back at Meg’s apartment for a delish feast joined by members of our college cross country team; some ran the half, others the full. One-by-one everyone left knowing we’d have to be up by 4am to prep for race day and head to the start. Meghan, Laura and I did our pre-race ritual; fashion show in our race gear to make sure everything we brought felt comfortable… you shouldn’t have any surprises with your gear on race day. With our clothes comfy, SPIbelts packed with GUs and gels, and our breakfasts laid out (pop-parts/pretzels for Meg, pop-tarts/banana/coffee for Laura/bagel with butter and jelly for me) we all headed to sleep. Even then, I still thought, “Tomorrow can’t be race day already.”
Sunday morning, 4:15am- alarm went off and in came Meghan to make sure I was up. I awoke to a soaked shirt and hair… cold sweats stained my shirt. I was confused and wondered why everything I was wearing was wet! I remember vaguely my dreams from the night before: nothing scary or out of the usual, but something had me sweating… oh, I don’t know maybe the 26.2 miles that lay ahead? I didn’t have to think that morning as I ate, put in my contacts, got dressed, etc. I was on complete autopilot. I laid everything out perfectly. The last thing I remember was throwing out the rest of my bagel… and then, I was stripping off my sweats in the Green Corral listening to the National Anthem. Still, I didn’t feel particularly nervous… in fact I think I was pretty quiet. Laura, Meghan and I hugged and the rest was history…
Miles 1-7: Complete blur. The City of Philadelphia knows how to support! The streets were lined with folks holding signs, cowbells, and horns. The first three miles was spent dodging people and gaining position. I caught Matt cheering on a corner around Mile 5 and my family was proudly standing at mile 6 with “Melia Loves Aunt Pammy” signs. Mile 7 was just outside of University City. Laura let us know this is where she’d say goodbye and stop to walk/run the remainder of the half. She was a trooper, sticking with us and giving me the support I needed to head out there. The second she trailed off I thought, “OK Meghan, it’s you and me, time to get into the thick of things.”
Miles 8-18: Again, total blur. Meghan and I chatted through a lot of these miles… about college, about her job, about how she needed to keep me motivated and alert during the hill climbs. We headed out on Kelley Drive… because it’s a major road; this is where the course got more quiet- only bikers really could gain access to these parts so cheerers were around, but in patches. As we cruised into 13 the course divided the half runners and the full marathoners. One woman yelled our names (they were printed on our bibs) “Meghan and Pam! Running like this is nothing! You guys look so strong” and I felt strong!! I felt so good, but I knew 16-18 would be a struggle for me. I routinely enter a mental block once I hit 16 miles… I warned Meghan of this and she talked me through those mile to keep me focused. Meghan veered off to pee just before the Manayunk Bridge… she told me stick to the left and she’d hustle to come and get me. I felt like I was almost falling asleep at this point so I actually started slapping my cheek a bit. I said out loud a couple times, “Stay in this, Pam. C’mon wake up.” A man next to me must have seen Meghan leave for the bathroom and me talking to myself because he came up behind me and said, “don’t worry… she will be back.” And she was… on to Manayunk, familiar territory…
Miles 19-25: I’ve run with Meg enough to have this part of the course memorized. Her apartment is right in front of mile 20… all the stood in our way of hearing her mom, roommate and work friends yelling for us was the last hill of the course. Meg talked me through it and just kept saying, “You need to fight, you got this… just over this hill is my mom and then the miles will fly by.” And fly by they did. I felt such a high entering Manayunk and Main Street that for the first time it clicked what I was well on my way to achieving. I could feel the tears welling up as Laurie, Jess, and Scott screamed for us. Meg’s mom slipped me a handful of M&Ms (I was SICK of my gels by then, and Meghan grabbed a beer! ha-ha). I swallowed 5 or 6 and thought, “OK, home stretch here we go!” I felt the energy until mile 23. I didn’t crash, my stride was still strong (despite how I felt) and Meg kept saying, “You look so strong Pam you’re not showing me that you’re too tired to do this” so we kept pushing on. I did slow up a bit off of 4:00:00 pace. I had a 30 second melt down where I kept saying how sorry I was to Meg for falling off pace. I had built up a 1:25 minute cushion the whole race; by at mile 23 it started to slip away. Meghan had nothing but words of support for me, and knew just how to calm me down (as always.) She talked to me through 23 and 24 saying how proud she was, how I didn’t look to be struggling, and that we would get “home” right after 4 hours and not to worry… I ran the race of my life and that’s all that mattered… and then she said it, “Pam, we are here.”
Mile 26-26.2: My sister and Ryan screamed by name just in front of mile 26. When I saw the flags and we passed Boat House Row I knew we were close but I couldn’t see the end… only people. I asked Meg where we were and then I saw the finish line in the distance- .2 to go. We gave one another a high five and I remember telling myself to take it all in; not to sprint to the end, just to enjoy this moment and freeze it in my mind. Hold onto it for as long as I could. I immediately burst into tears and coasted through the finish. I’ll never forget that moment… I already want it again.
The Philadelphia Marathon was the experience of a lifetime. My family met me at the finish. My mom and I cried and I was met with the love and support from my aunts and uncles, Matt, Heather, Lewis, and Laura. I had done it. 15 weeks of 5am wake-ups, 20 miles on a treadmill in Aruba, tempo runs during stressful weeks of work… it was all worth it. My official time was 4:03:31. I’m overjoyed, I’m proud of myself… I’m itching to train for another.
To everyone who has cheered me on and supported me during my training: THANK YOU. To my friends on Daily Mile that commented and encouraged me after logging each workout, THANK YOU. And to the folks on WordPress who are new friends to me, THANK YOU… please keep reading 🙂