Philadelphia Half Marathon – The Actual Race

OK, now for the good race deets! I just got back from a 45 minute easy run that should have been done earlier this morning with this girl. Unfortunately Abbey decided it would be a good idea to try having gluten filled stuffing for thanksgiving dinner last night. How much could it hurt, really? Hubster had to leave for a work trip at 6, I was a little sad to begin with, and I just couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving without my family AND stuffing, which happens to be my favorite of all the Thanksgiving foods. We ate over at our neighbors and what I should have done was try a new, gluten free stuffing.

But adventurous kitchen Abbey has lately been replaced by i-just-wanna-run Abbey, so I didn’t. No, I had a large serving of Hubster’s stuffing, which is both delicious and deadly to a gluten free girl like myself. I slept for upwards of 14 hours last night because I was too uncomfortable to do anything else and woke up feeling like POOP. So I postponed my run and while I certainly felt much better at 11, I really missed the company. No more gluten for me. I get it.

The Journey to 2nd Place: 1:47:18

Unfortunately I didn’t get my A goal of a PR, but I did run well enough for “2nd place” (i.e. 44oth place) and my Oiselle Rundelicious Top is en route! I can’t wait! I was really jonesing for the Trials Hoodie, which was my PR prize, so I’ll have to set a new goal for that prize. Here’s how the race broke down:

Pre Race:

Hubster, Jamahl and I were lucky enough to be staying a brief 1/2 mile from the race start, so we made the extremely intelligent decision to head down toward the start a half hour before the start, not check any bags, and make our last potty break the oh-so-luxurious bathroom in the hotel lobby. This worked PERFECTLY. I was able to start the race without having to pee, which was one of my biggest goals. I was nice and warm with my homemade arm warmers and GoodWill sweatpants and sweatshirt.

Homemade arm warmers, complete with thumbholes. They’ve got nothing on Oiselle’s, but they did the trick!

I sloughed the sweats right before the start and was perfectly warm/cool. The anthem was played and I teared up a bit, and right then I knew it was going to be a good day. I remembered my non-time based goals: Run with Joy, Be Present and Thankful, and Run Hard.

Miles 1-3: Finding the Groove – 8:02, 8:47, 7:00 (23:50)

Obviously there were some mile marker problems here, because there is no way I ran a 7 minute mile. These miles were actually a little stressful and uncomfortable. I was still getting into the groove, trying to find my zone, and worrying a little too much about pace. The 8:47 didn’t help, and most of mile 3 was a mental battle between trying to speed up and realizing that I was already running at a pace that was a little more difficult than it probably should have been, then freaking out that an 8:47 mile felt so “fast”. I kept forcing the positive vibes – joyful, present, thankful and tried to ignore the clock and settle into a groove. When I hit mile 3 in 23:50 I knew I needed to chill a little bit and that most likely the mile 2 marker was just off.

Miles 4-6: Pure Joy – 7:59, 8:03, 8:04 (47:57)

These miles were awesome. I was in the groove and this was over a great part of the course where the crowds were plentiful. For a while I was running on the right hand side and lots of people were cheering for me because our names were on our bibs. Thank you for cheering for me, strangers! The vibe was awesome and I had a smile on my face for most of these miles. Around the end of mile 6 I felt a tap on my back and then a “GO TEAM ETP!” as one of my fellow teammates, and fellow seizure sufferer, passed by me! She was running the full marathon and absolutely killing it, looking like a rockstar. I was so proud, and it really gave me a boost. She has had multiple seizures during the training cycle leading up to her marathon and is such an inspiration.

Amidst all this positive energy there was still a small thought in the back of my mind that my pace was a tad too fast. But it was in these miles that I decided to commit to the pace and hold on as long as I could.

Miles 7-9: Starting the “Race” – 8:00, 8:18, 8:12

I took my first gel in mile 7, which was a little later than normal (foreshadowing) but I had been sipping some gatorade at the water stops so I felt like I was ok. The mile 7 stop was brutal because it was on a slight incline and first I spilled half my gel on my hand opening it, then I choked on my water trying to gulp and run. My water stop skills were definitely rusty. I was spluttering and starting to feel a little fatigue in my legs but I pushed it out of my mind and powered through mile 7. Miles 8 and 9 were uncomfortable miles, there were several uphills and I was quickly realizing that I did not train enough uphills. There aren’t many hills where I live in Cleveland. I was very proud of my mental state though – even as I saw my times slip a little I was confident that I could rope it back in, and I knew I was still easily on pace to PR.

Miles 10-12: Hoppin’ on the Pain Train – 8:30, 8:04, 8:27

In Mile 10 I questioned my existence. After 3 miles of softly rolling hills Mile 10 brought with it a mac daddy hill. Well, in reality it probably wasn’t that bad, but after 9 miles at a slightly-faster-than-it-should-have-been pace and extremely low training mileage (20 miles a week, anyone?) with a significant lack of hill-presence left me staring at a veritable mountain in mile 10 that seemed to go on forever. I cursed. I contemplated walking. Luckily as soon as the thought entered my head I cursed it out. My quads were not happy. But it the back of my mind I knew that after this hill it was smooth sailing, everything else was flat or downhill. And that’s what kept me going. That and William Riley.

William Riley is a little boy I learned about at the ETP dinner the night before the race. He has a rare kind of epilepsy and thus far they haven’t been able to find a medication/medications that control his seizures. His life has been thrown into disarray, and his parents’ lives as well. Two of his father’s coworkers offered to raise money for the Epilepsy Therapy Project and they, along with William’s parents were at the dinner and shared their story. Let’s just say things got emotional. This was exactly who I set out to run in honor of 2 months ago when I decided to run this race for the ETP. Meeting those people and hearing their story made me acutely aware of just how lucky I am, and made my goal to run for others that much more real.

So as I was dying up that hill I remembered William, and I ran for him. I ran for his parents and for hope, that they will someday find a medication that allows their son to live as normal a life as I do. And when I saw the 8:30 on my watch at the 10-mile mark I was happy, and I knew that I only had a 5k left. I hit the 10 mile in exactly 1:21:01 so I knew I had 25:17 to run a 5k for a PR. Easy peezy, I thought.

Mile 11 had a huge downhill in it, and while I embraced it as it was happening it absolutely shredded my quads (more foreshadowing). I still hadn’t taken my second gel, and as I passed the water stop in between 11 and 12 I was too lazy to get it out of my pocket. Pretty sure this is why mile 13 happened. Mile 12 was a pain fest, but when I passed it in 8:27 I knew if I could run the last 1.1 just slightly faster than that I would PR. French Fleece here I come!

Mile 13.1: Things Fall Apart – 9:45

Ouch. This last mile was frustrating. Here is, pretty much verbatim, what was going through my head:

Hold On, Pain Ends. Hold On, Pain Ends. Hold On, Pain Ends. Hold On, Pain Ends.”

I am strong. I am killing it. I am awesome. I can do this. I am joy. I AM RUNNING SO SLOW! MOVE LEGS! WHY IS EVERYONE PASSING ME!?!”

“Come on Abbey, do this for William. Do this for pride. Do this for french fleece. YOU WANT FRENCH FLEECE. GO GET IT.” – my thought path literally went this way, and ended with french fleece. That’s just the way I work.

“Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more, that’s the only way I know” (Jason Aldean son)

“Find strength in pain, find the joy Abbey, come on legs just a little farther, just a little faster.”

“MY QUADS ARE GOING TO EXPLODEEEEE! Hold on Pain Ends. Have Hope. Come on Abbey”

“Here’s the split. Go GO GO GO GO COME ON GOOOOOOOOOO”


mouth open, head up, pure death.

Notice: Shorts are in place and beautfiul. Thank you Oiselle.

When I passed the line so many thoughts filled me head. I was happy, and proud of my time but I was also disappointed and acutely aware of how close I was to PR-ing. At the same time though, I knew that I really gave it all I had. Some people might see that last mile.1 and say I gave up. But I know my head had done anything but give up, my legs just were not listening. Right after I finished my quads started getting crampy and I think that not taking that second gel really hurt me. The more I think about it the more I wish I’d sucked it down. But the reality of the situation is that I was running 20 miles a week. My longest long run was 12 miles, and the lack of endurance showed to me. My lungs had more to give but my legs were tapped out.

And that’s the beautiful thing about running to me, how every race leaves you with a fire to improve. To fix your mistakes. To run more, faster, harder. It’s on like donkey kong.

Hubster, me, and Jamahl post race. Jamahl’s first race and Hubster PR’d in 1:33 and change! AWESOMENESS!

6 thoughts on “Philadelphia Half Marathon – The Actual Race

    • Thanks so much! And thanks for visiting. The arm warmers are super easy to make and I got the socks at GoodWill – $1.79! I was kind of attached to them though and didn’t want to throw them away 🙂

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