Well, a month and change later….but I am finally sitting down to write my race recap for my November 2020 marathon. My sixth marathon!
It will for sure go down as a unique marathon. It started way back in January of last year. I decided one of my goals for 2020 was to run a marathon. I was newly postpartum after baby #3 but I was ready to get back to work and back to running longer distances. So I set a goal for myself to run the Philadelphia Marathon in November. Little did I know there was a pandemic on the horizon (little did anyone know!), and by the spring all races for the remainder of the year would be cancelled. I was disappointed but not deterred. I thought why not just run my own marathon? And so that’s exactly what I did! I recruited a new and dear friend, Annie, to join me – and we dove into our training headfirst come July 1.
18 weeks later we were READY and excited for race day. We had planned our own route which spanned 4 different towns and passed countless friends’ houses, made our own race day swag, and armed our kids (7 between the two of us!) with noisemakers and signs. We were ready.
We started at 7am and were cheered on by some friends and neighbors at the starting line – which was the sweetest surprise. Mornings in November are pretty dark, so we didn’t expect anyone to come out. But a few did! It was really sweet.
Miles 1-6 flew by. We did a loop that we started almost every long run with so it felt easy and familiar. We even had to slow ourselves down a few times — our nerves and excitement were pushing us to go fast but we didn’t want to burn out. Miles 6-10 brought us through our hometown of Wyndmoor. We looped past my house twice, Annie’s house, then several other friends’ houses and then picked up a few friends who had decided to run with us!
Miles 10-16 are a little bit of a blur. A few more friends joined us – so we were a larger group. There was lots of chatting and the mood was light, maybe the pace was a little fast? It was hard to reign it in due to the larger group. But we ran this portion on Forbidden Drive – a trail in Chestnut Hill. Because it was a little crowded I was putting my mask on and off – which at times made it hard to breath. But still it was fun to be with friends.
Miles 16-23 are/were a dark memory. We climbed a huge hill at mile 16, and I honestly felt like I had an out of body experience. All my limbs went numb, my ears were ringing a little, and I was so thirsty. I felt like I had a horrible hangover – I kept chugging water but it was never enough to quench my thirst. But I knew Chris and the kids were waiting for me at the top of the hill. That kept me plugging along. Chris had my “go bag” waiting with lots of extra Nuun tablets (I ate one whole to try and give myself a jolt of energy from the electrolytes!), cold water, and coconut water. We refilled our bottles and then got moving again.
We saw more friends along the way during the “dark time” which was a boost but I just felt like I couldn’t get going. We stopped for a longer water break at mile 19 and again I had more nuun and a bunch more water. It was hard to get going again but I was determined to trick my body into feeling better with a positive mindset.
At this point, our group had thinned to just Annie, me, and our friend Nick — who helped me out big time with stories about birds and eggs in San Francisco during the gold rush. No that was not a race-hallucination he really did tell us those stories and it was a fun thing to focus on.
I kept telling myself to focus on the mile I was in, think about one step at a time, but I was having a lot of trouble getting into a groove. I had underestimated the challenges of a self supported marathon. Having to memorize a route and think about every turn and each next road/milemarker was REALLY hard. I never realized how much of a help it is to have a marathon route that’s all planned and marked off FOR you during a “real” race. It was hard to get into a groove with each mile, because I found myself constantly thinking about the next mile. I didn’t want to miss a turn and mess up our mileage – god forbid we end up at 25.2 not 26.2! OY!
Another thing that I didn’t expect would take such a toll was the constant back and forth between road, sidewalk, and side-of-the-road grass. Hopping back and forth, in and out to avoid traffic took a lot of energy! And other things like pausing, even momentarily, at stop lights or cross walks, was difficult. Just another thing that you don’t have to worry about in an organized race!
At mile 22 I had to walk for a while. I was struggling. I texted my husband and told him I was having a hard time (which actually resulted in something adorable – wait for that later). I was thirsty, I was tired, I was getting bummed out.
But at mile 23, our friend and neighbor Brad came to run with us. His wife Maxi was also in the area and she came with HUGE, cold bottles of water. It was big boost. Brad was wearing a hydration backpack but instead of water he had packed a speaker! So he played us music and just helped push us along. We also got a car escort for a 1/4 mile from a friend of Annie’s who blasted the Rocky Theme song and honked the horn…it was impossible not to feel upbeat!
At that point I decided I needed to really take control of my mindset. Yes I was struggling, yes I was hurting (I was still getting weird tingling in my arms and neck), but I had trained for this day. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish and there was no way I wasn’t going to do it without a smile on my face.
And that’s exactly what I did!
Miles 23 to 26 were still hard but I plugged along. We ran past my house one more time – my sweet kiddos were outside cheering. They were blasting music which my husband told me later he decided to do when he got my text saying I was struggling. He went down and dusted off an old bluetooth speaker and cranked up Firework by Katy Perry (which is L&H’s favorite song!). They were all singing and dancing along. It was SO sweet and gave me a charge for sure.
Mile 26 was a rush of emotion. I remember at one point grabbing Annie’s hand mid stride and saying “we’re going to DO IT!” Just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes. I also need to give a shoutout to Brad who played the Free Willy Theme Song as we ran through mile 26. It made me laugh and for sure was one of my favorite race moments.
As we approached our neighborhood I remember feeling like I could run faster and faster. Finally we made our last turn, and that’s when we first laid eyes on the finish line…..and it took my breath away.
The whole time we were training Annie and I kept building up a finish line vision in our heads. The ideas were always prefaced with “wouldn’t it be funny if….” and “oh my god imagine if….”. But when we turned that corner it was as if everything we had ever joked about or imagined come true. A crowd of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors had all gathered (masked of course….because 2020!). The finish line banner that the twins had painted was stretched out across the road, folks had noisemakers, there was music blasting, everyone was cheering….and then as we crossed the finish line confetti shot up into the air out of mini cannons. IT. WAS. EPIC. It was the most perfect ending — a DIY marathon wrapped up by a picture perfect finish line.
It was the most unique marathon ever. I loved it (a starting line right outside your door? no bathroom line? No portapotties? What’s not to love!) but it was also really really challenging. I can’t wait to race with 1000s of other runners again, hear crowds cheering at every mile, laugh at race signs. Those things are all amazing parts of a race experience. But, no still — even without all those things – no marathon will ever top this one. MY marathon.