Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Philadelphia Recap: From Fable to Finish Line

I won’t bore reader(s) with a mile by mile breakdown. I won’t discuss the lack of porta potties or nickpick my every step.  I hate recaps like that. You’re not going to get a weather report or a grid of my Garmin times. You can read any Philadelphia Marathon recap for that. This was my marathon and the apex of a very long, very personal journey.

Let’s rewind to about six weeks ago when I was huffing and puffing my way through a solo 20 mile training run. It was not going well. I was achy, hungry, and tired. My legs and head were not cooperating. Either my legs would stop or my mind would stop telling them to go. My Camelback was annoying the crap out of me. Everything was annoying the crap out of me.

And then I got a stone in my damn shoe. It’s one of the cons to trail running. Red clay provides a softer surface and therefore easier recovery but comes with little stone terrorists that jump into your shoes and make every step way more painful than necessary. Good lord, I hated that stone. No matter how I shook my foot, it would not come out of my sneaker.

I started to think of the fable, the Princess and the Pea. If I remember correctly, the Prince was searching for a true princess but everyone he met was unfit. Let’s  have Wikipedia finish the tale:

The story tells of a prince who wants to marry a princess, but is having difficulty finding a suitable wife. Something is always wrong with those he meets, and he cannot be certain they are real princesses. One stormy night, a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince's castle. She claims to be a princess, so the prince's mother decides to test their unexpected guest by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds. In the morning the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed; which she is certain has bruised her. The prince rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through such a quantity of bedding. The two are married, and the pea is placed in the Royal Museum.

I drew silly parallels between the stone in my shoe and the pea under the mattress. This occupied my mind for at least three miles. Perhaps I was meant to be Princess of Running by because of this stone in my shoe. My final thought was that if I could withstand the annoying pain of a stone in my shoe than I could indeed run a marathon.  So, maybe I was no princess or prince but a very determined runner with a goal. Also, I had to get home.

This faulty logic or wishful thinking became somewhat of a mantra as I headed towards the marathon. Some runners rely on mantras just as “just do it”, “pain is temporary, pride is forever” “you’re lapping everyone on the couch.” Me—I modify childhood fairy tales. Regardless of the method, the motivation and determination were there. I knew that if I could endure that stone in my damn shoe while running along the Delaware Canal, I had the mental toughness to endure the 26.2 miles of the Philadelphia Marathon. I did have doubts though because that is a pretty shaky mantra. But I think a significant amount of self doubt when contemplating running 26.2 miles in one day is probably just good common sense.

Fast forward to November 20, 2011. The day I ran my damn marathon.

very nervous at the start

I’m standing nervously  in my corral, just waiting for my turn to cross the start line. I point to it as we cross and say, “You’re my bitch. I’ll see you later.”And I did. Five hours and 10 minutes later, I ran under the finish line with tears streaming down my face. I did the whole thing. It wasn’t easy. But I never thought I couldn’t do it. After three years of running and 18 weeks of dedicated training, I knew I could. I knew there would be awesome parts and I knew there would be sucky parts. I knew there would be a wall and I would have to push through it. I knew that the crowds in Manayunk would be awesome and that those final 6 miles along Kelly Drive would be a knock-down-drag-out-gut-wretching-soul-searching-stretch of pain and drive that defines champions.

somewhere around mile 6. 

I can’t even say the marathon itself was hard. It wasn’t easy. It was challenging. It was overwhelming at times. Even the thrill of a personal distance record at mile 21 couldn’t negate the fact that I had already run 20 miles and still had 5 to go.

around mile 14

My marathon really started at mile 15. The first half was fun and served more as 13 miles of anticipation for the real deal. The second half. It was like the first three seasons of Lost, a lot of build up and questions which alluded to something way more sinister and crazy coming.

The wall came at mile 18. I pushed through it. My legs didn’t want to move anymore at mile 22. I made them. My heart was beating so hard and fast at mile 23 and 24 that I had to slow down to control it. But I did. My feet were on fire for the majority of the race but I ignored them. I was thirsty so I refilled my water bottle at the water stations and moved on. I was tired but I kept going. The only goal I had was to finish. 

Finally, I saw Boathouse Row which singled the end of this marathon! I was at or around mile 25.5 and only had a little more than a half mile to go. I was REALLY ACTUALLY SERIOUSLY  going to do this! The finish line didn’t appear as magically as I thought it would. Even though I had just run 26 miles, that .2 took forever. I followed the course and felt powered from the screaming and smiling faces. And just as that mythical finish line, the one I’ve been visualizing for 18 weeks, came into view, so did my parents, boyfriend, and friend along the gates. It was a dose of perspective. I mean, who needs finish lines when one is so blessed to have a group of people willing to battle traffic, each other, illnesses, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority to come watch me finish some journey they don’t necessarily get but want to celebrate.  

Hi Guys! I'm gonna go finish my marathon now!

There they were and there it was and there I went. To finish. To be a marathoner. To believe myself as a runner. To believe in myself.

There I go! Weeee!!! 

While I knew about the running part, the pain part, the hills and the course, I didn't really know what to expect at the end. A volunteer handed me a medal and a blanket. I grabbed a bottle of water. I didn't feel like a marathoner, yet. It felt real when, out of all the commotion and the bored announcer calling off generic mantras and names, I heard my mom's loud cry and saw everyone running towards me. The hugs and relief and pride and love made it real. 
My face is so ridiculous because I was crying.
That is what I look like when crying and showing off.

All I can say here is BAM! 

I have the medal, the t-shirt, the photos, and the waddle of a marathoner now. But I could have none of those things because I got huge hugs from the most important people to me at the end. I could run a hundred miles with pieces of glass in my shoe if it meant feeling that loved and special at the end. 

Lauren ran miles 20-25.5 with me along with most of my long training runs throughout. I could NOT have done this without her. 

I don't think I'll ever love another photo as much as I do this. NOTE THE MATCHING SHIRTS!

Love = wearing the same shirt as your girlfriend's parents.


  1. Congratulations Lindsey! I'm so proud of you. :)

  2. I could cry... You're the best!!!!! So proud :)

  3. Tears are welling in my eyes from reading this. It's so amazing. I'm so proud of you and proud to say I know you. You are awesome. Congratulations!!!

  4. How awesome! Congrats on becoming a marathoner :)

    Great recap...makes me want to return to Philadelphia and run that race!