Yesterday I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon, my 11th half marathon and third best finishing time. I was very sick during the weekend, so starting and then finishing the race was in question to begin with. As a result, I’m really pleased with my race. To cut to the spoiler, I didn’t PR or beat my brother, but ran a good solid race and once the nausea I’d been fighting subsided, had an absolute blast. If you’ve thought about signing up to run this race before, do it. It’s a really well run and well supported event. There were big stretches I ran with a grin on my face from ear to ear.
So, like I said, I wasn’t sure this one was going to happen at all. Saturday morning I woke up feeling really awful which persisted through the day. I get incredibly bad cramps that often escalate to making me physically ill and feverish from the pain if I can’t get ahead of it with medicine. No such luck on Saturday. After being sick late Saturday morning, I rebounded enough to spend the day walking around Philadelphia with my family, which was awesome. We visited the expo at the convention center and collected our numbers and fuel for Sunday. My brother, who has lived in Philly since attending UPenn, took us to a huge indoor market where we had blueberry pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice with bacon and hash browns. Carbo load city!
After walking most of the day, we went for an early pasta dinner at La Viola West. I tried gnocchi for the first time, with basil and ricotta cheese in a tomato sauce (but it was more like juicy tomatoes than traditional sauce, which I liked). After dinner I faded fast and headed to bed early with a double dose of painkillers, praying I’d be back to normal by morning.
Sunday morning was ugly. I awoke viciously nauseous and afraid I would be sick, which would mean trying to run completely empty. In hindsight, I can see the whole situation is a little silly and I may have been better off cheering from the sidelines, but Chris, Cait, and I headed out from our hotel in Society Hill for the start area at 5 AM. The security lines were efficient and quick and we jumped in a bathroom line early enough that we were ready to go about an hour before the gun. I still felt iffy, but wanted to try anyway, figuring that I could bail at mile seven when I saw my parents if I couldn’t finish.
My cousin Leigh and I were assigned to the green corral, but ended up in the front row of the gray group instead, which was one group back. It was very cool to be the first off the line, though! The crowd support was amazing right from the gun and definitely perked me up. We didn’t have a strategy to run together, but are pretty consistently matched, so I figured we would see how it went. When we ran our first mile at 8:10 and mile two was inching into the 7’s, I knew I had to back off. If I wanted to reach mile seven, let alone the finish, I had to be more conservative.
For the first four miles of the course, the music was constant. There were official cheer zones set up intermittently through the course with DJs and huge speakers and they were turbo-appreciated by this runner. The course was crowded, but because I vowed not to spend the morning weaving, passing, and basically wasting energy, they didn’t bother me. I stayed put and plugged along.
Around mile five or six, we turned onto a long stretch of Chestnut Street and it. was. cuh-razy. Talk about a rock star’s welcome. The crowds were several people deep and everyone was going nuts. The signs were super fun and the cowbells were in use liberally. Our race numbers had our first names on them and the crowd was happy to encourage us by name. When one happy fan called out, Go Jillian! I turned to give a thumbs up and was shocked to see an old TNT friend cheering me along. After a total excited freak out, I was on my way and happier than I had been all morning. I rode that wave into the University area, where I saw my mom, dad, and sister-in-law rooting me on. Raha told me you’re only right behind them! which meant Leigh was close and Patrick had passed me, and while a little bummed (what, I’m being honest, and competition is okay, right?) I just wanted to run my own race and wasn’t sure I had enough in me to chase anyone down. A half mile after I saw my crew I checked in with my body, as if making the final decision to finish this thing and kept at it.
Miles eight and nine were long slow hills, but also the best because we ran down Drexel University’s frat row where rowdy college kids were out in full force. I didn’t stop for a beer (thought about it) but loved the music and beer-soaked aroma that followed us up the hill. The mile nine hill was lonelier, though I caught up to Leigh and chatted for a bit. We headed up a slightly steeper climb into a park that I’d heard a man warn his friend about earlier: this hill will slow you down. Still, the tough stretch meant we’d get to make the return trip down.
I checked in with my watch at this point, wanting to hit mile 10 before my time clicked in at 1:27 (it was an arbitrary time, but stuck in my head for some reason). When we reached 11, I calculated that if I could run 8:00 pace for the rest of the race, I’d have a shot at my PR, which is currently 1:52:03. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have it in me yesterday, which was fine. I ran well and felt okay, but had absolutely nothing left in the tank for a late race kick. I busted out two miles around 8:07 and 8:10, crossing the finish in 1:53:22.
Even though there were about a million things I was loving about this race, the best part was that all of my siblings ran it, too. It was Corey and Patrick’s first half marathon and they did amazingly well. I was so, so proud of them. I was especially proud of Corey because she really randomly decided it was something she wanted to take on in the spring. She doesn’t love running, but made it happen. Patrick’s finish was a huge accomplishment, too, but he’s super athletic and fit, so switching from his usual training to incorporating long runs wasn’t a huge stretch. (Left to right) Corey finished in 2:28:58, Patrick in 1:48:30, me in 1:53:22, and Cait in 2:14:09. Totally awesome.
Pile on the Miles Challenge Update: 55/110 miles, 17/30 days (Halfway there! 55 down, 55 to go!)