2013 Philadelphia Marathon Race Report
In the weeks and months leading up to this one, I wasn’t as hungry for sub-3 as I could have been. I didn’t put in the training necessary to execute it and found myself simply prioritizing other things. Still, I’d had a few encouraging runs before tapering, and a semi-dumb idea took hold starting about a week out from the race: that maybe I’d accumulated enough lifetime miles to get away with a little bullshitting in my training and still eke out sub-3.
Part of me knew this idea might be ludicrous. Part of me thought 3:10-3:15 might be a more reasonable estimation this time around. I hadn’t done enough work, didn’t have the benchmarks to know for sure…
Standing on the starting line, though, I knew unequivocally that if my first mile landed in the 6:40s, I was going to chase 2:59 and hang on for dear life until I couldn’t anymore. I don’t run marathons often enough to justify doing them “for fun” in the half-assed sense, so although my training hadn’t been indicative that this was a decent idea, I saw no harm in going for it. This was marathon number five for me, and I generally tend to play my races pretty safe, so it was a nice change to throw caution to the wind for a few hours. I knew there was a substantial chance I’d bonk hard and suffer through the second half of the race if I started with those 6:51s in mind, but at a certain point you have to say, “F*ck it, I’m taking a risk today.”
You all know the drill. I went out too fast, of course. I was averaging in the 6:40s until well through the half, and was on pace for sub-3 until mile 18 when my legs commenced with spasmodic cramps. It was eight-point-two miles of leg-buckling crampy not-sure-if-i-can-actually-finish agony from there. Not sure why, exactly – perhaps it was a combination of the warmer-than-usual temperatures and the product of having grossly overestimated my fitness for the first two-thirds of the race. In any event, I took that risk and didn’t run a particularly intelligent race. My half splits – 1:29 and 1:36, respectively – relay this fact effectively. Reflecting on the effort, I suspect that had I raced more thoughtfully, I might have PRd by a hair: perhaps somewhere in the high-3:01 to low-3:02 range. But where’s the fun in that? It would have been too close to three hours. It would have left too much room for What Ifs. I’m happy I didn’t play it safe.
Anyway, I clung on for sub-8:00s in the final miles and stumbled through to a respectable 3:05 finish, which I’m honestly thrilled with. The last hour was categorically miserable in the physical sense, but I was delighted to be out there shouldering the loneliness burden of the last 10K, working through it two minutes at a time, and savoring the leg cramps in a hate-my-life-right-now kind of way. At mile 24.5, I looked over into the crowd to give a feeble thank you wave to whoever was cheering my name… and saw that it was my parents, who completely surprised me by coming into town for the race! Naturally, I would have rather them seen me coast past, focused and impala-like, on pace for a 2:58 in lieu of the cramp-legged suffer-shuffle they witnessed, but it doesn’t matter because what struck me in that brief, hazy glance to the roadside was my mom’s full head of hair and how this time last year she was the one doing the real suffering, the chemotherapy, the bad kind of What Ifs, and this year there she was cheering next to my dad, the one who got me hooked on this running madness to begin with, and who taught me that sometimes in races you gamble, crash and burn, and you’re damn lucky to be out there regardless.