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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.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/24/2013 11:29

    Fantastic job, SK! I was really pulling for your sub-3 but I loved how this ended. My mom is a cancer + chemo survivor as well (26 years), glad to hear that your family is doing well. 🙂

  2. 11/24/2013 15:11

    Your races posts > everyone else’s race posts.

    Way to gut it out 🙂

  3. 11/24/2013 16:37

    Way to go! That is an amazing time!

  4. 11/24/2013 16:47

    I’m a big fan of the “go big or go home” race plan. My first marathon had a 20-min positive split, first half to second. I really appreciated everything about this write-up…the daring-do, the honesty, humility and GRATITUDE. So very glad your mom is here 🙂

  5. 11/24/2013 17:23

    Happy to hear about your race; congratulations on going for it!! I hate to even compare myself at all to you in running, but I couldn’t help but notice your split times — 1:29 & 1:36. This spring as I went for a sub-4:00, I ran 1:59 & 2:06. Even though I missed because I wasn’t in quite good enough shape, I’m so glad I tried for it.

    Wonderful, wonderful news that your mom is doing better!

  6. 11/25/2013 02:13

    You went for it, things got rough, and you still pulled off a hardcore time. Congrats and that’s awesome that your parents surprised you. Can I also say that the Philly course is set up for mental defeat? First we can see the halfers about to finish, then we see the elite guys flying back the last 10K as we trudge out to Manayunk and back again. Love the city and race but that course is challenging.

  7. Ewen permalink
    12/01/2013 21:39

    Happy to hear that your parents were there to see you run impala-like through the finish line. Also that your mum is doing well now.

    Yes, slightly agressive pacing for the not so dumb idea. 2:54 pace! 2:58 wouldn’t have been as exciting through the half or as dramatic at the finish so I’m glad you went for it. Much better story!

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