Friday, November 22, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report!

"Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one" Bobby Knight

First a quick update as to the last few weeks of training. Things went generally well and I was extremely relieved that my 30km long run went more than smoothly. I felt great throughout and I could have continued no problem, plus my pace was close to marathon pace. Just the perfect run. It was a definite confidence booster and I knew I would be able to do this marathon! did it go you ask. ;)

A great view of the New York city skyline on our way to Philadelphia!

An important part of this whole marathon experience was the fact we were there to celebrate my Super SIL's 50th birthday. Our group included her husband/my brother and her two brothers, one of which ran the marathon with her. Together, those three boys are extremely funny and definitely kept the pre-race jitters at bay. We had a blast at the Expo and then we all went to see The Rocky statue. It was so much fun to watch the boys do the Rocky run up the steps (filming and playing the music at the same time :)) - of course, my SSIL and I also ran up the steps...doesn't everybody! So a very relaxing and fun day before the big DAY.
                                                 At the expo!                           Up the steps!

Overall, everything was in place for a great marathon: the weather was perfect (low 60's and sunshine), I slept relatively well, I carbo loaded and was able to get all my breakfast down, I wasn't actually feeling too stressed. In a way, it's like I was in denial about going out and running a marathon! 
My gift to my SSIL for her birthday marathon were these matching "Sole Sister" hearts that went on our running shoes. That way, even though we didn't run together, we were linked!

We left the hotel wearing some throw-away clothes and feeling excited. However, I could tell that I was having a hard time remaining calm and relaxed. Not so much stressing about the race, but worried there'd be a big line-up when we arrived (there is now a security check) - there was no line up. Then, worrying I'd be late in my Corral, so not able to just relax as my SSIL and her brother were doing a warm-up jog - I was not late at all. Still, the start of the race was again, perfect! My SSIL and her brother were with me and my SSIL showed me a quote she'd written on a piece of paper that was all about enjoying the run, we hugged and teared up a bit and then they went up ahead. For the first time ever, I was going to listen to music during a race, but I waited until after the first mile. I had downloaded some new songs and was looking forward to the boost of hearing them during the later miles. 
My goals: A = finish somewhere between 4:45 and 4:50
                B = finish under 5 hours
                C = finish!
Then, we were off. The first few miles are never easy, but usually, my lungs warm up and my pace increases after about 20-30 minutes. However, by mile two I realized that I didn't seem to be able to increase my pace to where I was hoping to be. It was steady, but slower than I hoped. Then, around mile 6 or 7 there was this long uphill incline and I was starting to feel mild pain on my right side. I knew that this usually led to a painful side stitch. By the time I reached the steeper climb at mile 8, the side stitch was a problem. I tried running through it as much as possible, but I had to stop every few km's to press against my side and bend forward in order to try and loosen the tight muscles. Luckily, by mile 10 or 11 it passed and never came back! However, at this point, I knew that the A goal was not going to happen and that the B goal was going to be tough. I wasn't feeling strong and mentally, that was tough! I tought about all the hard work I had put into my training over the last year and of the people who encouraged me. Also, because we were crossing the runners that were ahead of us, for quite a while, all I did was search for my SSIL and this kept me focused on something outside myself. It was such a boost to finally cross her around km 32...she went to high-five me, but I told her I needed a hug...I teared up a little as I watched her go. I could see that she was doing great and I was so happy for her! By then, I was aware that I could still come in under 5 hours and I knew it was all going to be about mental toughness at this point. My music was not much help as many of my new songs never came on (I use an ipod shuffle) just didn't help me as it had when I did my 30km training run. However, there are two mantras that I often use, one I use more while I train - see image below.
A friend had this made for me, as she had seen it on my fridge!

The second mantra is one I use during a race, when I'm starting to want to give up or panic a little inside - "Keep calm and run on". Everytime I would tell myself to just keep calm, it was enough to make me notice that my body was fine...I was okay! Definitely better than some of my other be honest, it was early in the race that I started thinking that I would not be racing this distance again.

Then, I'm at 39km and looking at my watch and all I'm thinking is, "Just keep running Anne", "Try and come in under five hours", "You'll be so disappointed if you give up now". Then I'd walk a bit and think, "I will be so pissed off if I come in a few seconds over five hours". Then I'd run again...but before I reached the 40km mark my Garmin died. It was almost a relief..."Oh well, I'll just try and run as much as I can". Finally, I heard the announcer and the crowd and I knew the finish line was near. I just gave it my all and hoped for the best.
A few meters from the finish line - turning towards my brother's call.

Here I am with my SSIL who knows that she reached her A goal (4h32m59s). She had the perfect race! Myself, I still do not know my time at this point.

As we are walking back to the hotel, I'm pleased that I never let myself give up and just kept pushing. However, I know I will be VERY disappointed if I come in over five hours and yet, I have a feeling I did come in over five hours. Just as I am entering my hotel room, I get a text from my daughter - "4h58m35s = under 5h!! Yahoo maman!!! I love you and I am so proud of you!!!" She had checked the results :) I was so, well relief is what I felt at first...then proud and excited. Relief that I didn't let my mind take over and then proud that I pushed through even though I didn't really have any "easy" miles, even at the beginning. 

So, although I was convinced that this was it for me, no more we're driving home, my SSIL says that her brother told her that Hamilton is flatter than Philadelphia (which is really not that flat)...and my reaction was "Oh yeah?!" followed by "I can't believe I just said's been one day and already I'm sounding interested in doing another one"'s a disease I tell you!

Here I am with my brother. I am so proud of him. He has been working hard to try and run his half-marathon under two hours. Finally, at age 53 and four years after getting the flesh-eating bacteria in his leg, he completed his half-marathon in 1h59m!! As Diana Nyad said: "Never ever give up"!

Finally, my body has recuperated quickly and well, which reassures me that I was well trained for this race! Now, my goals for this winter into spring training season is to work on speed. I've always had this barrier that because I have severe "eosinophilic" asthma I should focus on long distances. Since I started running four years ago, I have completed seven official half-marathons and two marathons. Any time I ran a 5K or 10K race, it was part of an endurance training program and never because I wanted to improve my time on those distances. I am was convinced that I don't didn't have the lung capacity for short "fast" races. So, although pace remains relative...I have decided to focus on speed work and to try and finally run a 10K under one hour, but the ultimate goal is under 59 minutes. As for a future marathon...who knows, maybe Hamilton in October 2014 ;)

Thanks if you took the time to read this whole thing...your encouragement has always been much appreciated! BTW - note the prednisone update in the sidebar...I have finally broken my record for number of days off prednisone...YAY!


Robin said...

Congratulations Anne you did great especially with having such a hard time at the start of the race. The last few miles of the marathon are so difficult mentally, and it's really hard to push through. So glad you were able to do that and make your sub 5! Congrats to your brother as well. You are both very inspiring. Awesome!!

Kate Geisen said...

Oh congratulations!!! Mental toughness is WAY harder to hold onto than physical. I struggle with that a lot. But you totally overcame!!

It is a disease, lol. I keep thinking about another marathon. One of these days...

Char said...

Congratulations. That's such a great achievement!!

Teamarcia said...

Congrats Anne! You pushed through the pain and knocked it out of the park. I'm so proud of you for hanging tough in those last miles. Marathons are HARD! But you're right you were well trained and that makes a huge difference. I love that you're already shopping for another one!
Congrats to your SIL too and your bro for his sub 2--awesome!

ajh said...

So many exciting things in this post. Yay to the days without prenisone. I know I spelled that wrong. Yay Yay for the marthon and Yay Yay Yay for getting in under 5 hours. Sounds like a great trip. A super huge yay for your brother. What an accomplishment!

Have you read Louise Penny's books?

Paul said...

A great effort.. You were living! 8)
Ur bro an inspiration!

Unknown said...


and also to your brother

Caroline said...

Never give up!
Bravo ma chere Anne!
Quel accomplissement!
Be proud!
Ok a quand une course en Californie?!!!

Jill said...

Ah, look at you!! You did it; I am SO very happy for you!!!!!!!!!!! (add 400 more exclamation points). :)

Congratulations to your brother and SSL - looks like the whole family is pretty damn inspirational. So cool!

Rest up, my friend - looking forward to your speed training posts soon! :)

bobbi said...

Anne!! You did it!! Congratulations!! And you did it on a day you WEREN'T feeling strong, which is way more impressive!

Congratulations! Can't wait to see what's next for you :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Anne....what an amazing accomplishment!!! You inspire me so much to push my limits and try new things. Thank you! :)

Unknown said...

Hi Anne,

Thanks very much for sharing your experiences and congratulations on your achievements.

My team and I are working on a innovative solution to help people with severe asthma. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind chatting with us about your experiences and thoughts. If so, do drop us an email at :)

Really looking forward to hearing from you.


Paul said...

Hi Anne,

How are you? Still running...??..keeping the asthma under control still?


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