It’s been a long time coming, but I finally ran my first official race. On Sunday, I got down to business and ran the Philly Love Run in good ole Philadelphia, PA. Was it a challenge? Of course, but it was well worth it. I am extremely proud of myself and had a pretty awesome time figuring out what running a race actually involves, so here’s my recap of everything that went down.
Packet Pick-Up: How would I describe packet pick-up? Somewhere between horrendous and atrocious. It honestly was horrible. It had been raining/snowing/sleeting non-stop all day and I could only get over to the pick-up area at Xfinity Live at 2:30ish on Saturday. Little did I know, there was also a Flyers game going on at that time, so traffic was GOD AWFUL. It literally took me an hour to get into the pick-up area. I had no idea where to park and finally found a sign that told me to go to lots S or P. Everyone was going to parking lot S, so I chose the parking lot less traveled and went to P…which ended up being a good half mile away from the actual venue. Once I slogged through the weather to get there, the tent was outdoors, sad, dark, and flooded. I picked up my bib, shirt, mug, and bought some ear warmers and got the heck out of there.
I spent the night at the Sheraton in Downtown Philly. It was located a half mile from the starting line, which was more than ideal. I woke-up at 5:35 and downed some pancakes topped with PB2 that I had packed. Then, I spent the rest of the morning hydrating my brains out. I was not going to get caught unprepared, no matter what.
Pre-Race: We headed over to the course at 7:30ish and it seemed well stocked with all of the essentials. A massive amount of port-a-potties with short lines, which was A+. The corrals were set up kind of arbitrarily. There were signs stating estimated finish times, but it wasn’t a staggered start. Also, it was freezing. Literally. It was 31 according to my phone, and I was wearing three layers, long pants, and hot hands in my gloves (which is the move if you are ever running outdoors in chilly temps. I even brought a spare pair and gave them to a girl who didn’t even have gloves because I wasn’t looking for anyone to get frostbite). The national anthem was sung 7 minutes before we started, which I found to be a little awkward because then we all just stood there and waited for what felt like years because it was so darn cold.
Course: The race got kicked off and I started my watch as soon as I crossed the starting line to be as accurate as possible. I also decided not to listen to music for the first little bit because there was so much going on. The first 4 miles were a loop through Center City Philadelphia and it was gorgeous. There weren’t a ton of spectators out, but the few that were were especially energetic, so that was awesome. To be honest, I zoned outtttt during the first four miles. I tried to stay near the 8:00 pacer because that was kind of the time I had in mind, but things went all over the place. The second mile, following the pacer mind you, rang in at 7:22. I was really trying to start off slowly, so I was not happy about this one, but I decided to follow my body, my breathing, and my watch and just calm down and run at what felt comfortable to me.
I passed my lovely boyfriend at mile 4 and it was so motivating. He smiled at me and was so excited to see me that I felt on top of the world. Once again, I zoned out as we headed out down Martin Luther King Blvd. The views were beautiful. We ran right next to the Schuylkill River and past all of the crew houses and it was amazing (albeit extremely cold and windy). I zoned out again for miles 4-7 until I faced with the most difficult part of the course.
Mile 7 came in like a wrecking ball, y’all. While I was trotting away, all happy, realizing that I was more than halfway done with this excursion, I was quickly brought down to Earth by this mile. It was all uphill. And when I say uphill, I don’t mean slightly uphill. I mean like I checked my Garmin after the race and we climbed up 300 ft in a mile uphill. It was a killer. I decided to slow it down, brace myself, and get up that hill as painlessly as possible. All the while, I was chomping away on a ShotBlock because I knew I had to get some fuel in me and was praying that there would be water at the top of the hill because I needed some salvation.
Spoiler alert: there was not.
Once I got to the top of the hill, although there was no water, but there was a nice sense of accomplishment met with an even nicer decline that allowed me to regain some of that time that I lost. I started to worry that I would get a cramp from taking my fuel sans water and that fear was realized, but I just tried to breathe and made it down the massive hill (really a mountain if you ask me #midwestgirlproblems) to a watery oasis.
I took some sips, threw my cup on the ground like a badass, and made my way back on the course. As my watch beeped 9 miles, I figured that the rest of the course was a straight shot back to the start and I prepared for that. I saw people on the other side of the road running in the opposite direction and thought, “wow look at how many people I’m ahead of!”. Come to find out, they were all ahead of me and had already turned around. This was, for some reason, very disheartening to me.
I persevered though and kept on track aching for that finish line. I knew going into this the last three miles would be the hardest. They always are. It’s when your body just says, why are we still doing this, time to stop. And you have to fight with everything you’ve got to make it feel normal, but it just doesn’t. I decided to take my time. I tried to run on feel and not look at my watch and I actively slowed down at the last water station to really drink the water and make sure I was ready to go, but nothing would prepare me for that finish.
Mile 12 was the worst. My legs were just so. tired. I didn’t want to do it anymore, but that’s the funny thing about running a race; you can’t just stop. You can’t stop and have someone just come pick you up. You can’t walk home. You just have to keep going and know that it’s almost over. So mile 12 was horrible. I contemplated stopping to walk many times, and I passed a lot of people who chose that route, but I was determined to kill it at the end. I told myself, just keep it together until the last half a mile and then you can kick it in to high gear and you’ll be done.
Finish: I hit that last half a mile and I just couldn’t finish strong. I had started my watch right at the starting line and for some reason it was always around a tenth of a mile off and I couldn’t see the finish line, so I didn’t want to go all out only to be nowhere near the end. The last half a mile was uphill (of course because why wouldn’t you make it that way) and the finish line was around a turn so you couldn’t see it when you were running straight on. If I had known where it was, I might have had a stronger finish to be honest because once I rounded that last curve and saw that bad boy, it was pedal to the medal, guns a blazing, all out sprint to pass the finish line.
I finished official time in 1:44:56. My watch said 1:45:04 for 13.22 miles, but either way I’m pretty proud. My goal was to finish in 1:45 or less ideally, but realistically I was going for under 1:50. This was my first half after all, and I wanted to give myself some leeway in case of unforeseen variables.
Here were my splits:
- Mile 1: 8:09
- Mile 2: 7:22
- Mile 3: 7:40
- Mile 4: 7:53
- Mile 5: 7:52
- Mile 6: 8:02
- Mile 7: 7:57
- Mile 8: 8:53 (that hill. that darn hill.)
- Mile 9: 7:47
- Mile 10: 7:50
- Mile 11: 7:55
- Mile 12: 8:00
- Mile 13: 7:55
Overall, I was mostly consistent and I can’t be mad about that because that’s what I trained for. More than anything, I was surprised that I finished no where near the 8:00 pacer. I assume he finished before me, but I couldn’t tell you for certain. All I know if that I finished pretty much at 1:45 flat which is 8:00 pace…
Regardless, this girl ran 13.1 miles and, you know what, I’m proud of myself. Running 13.1 miles is never easy. Racing 13.1 miles is a whole different story. The point of racing is that you are giving it your all and that means you’re going to be uncomfortable. There are very few activities that you go in to thinking “this is going to be really difficult, but it’s going to be worth it” but running is one of them. It’s humbling to be able to test your body’s limitations. When I went in to the race, I didn’t really know what was going to happen, but coming out of it, I now know that I’m capable of more than I ever thought possible.