Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Part Two

So yeah, I slept good and was sound asleep when my alarm went off at 4 am.

I jumped up, realized what day it was and got right out of bed. I wasn't sure what to do first.

Bathroom first, brush teeth, wash face.  Make coffee and toast my bagel.  Yes, I packed my toaster and my own peanut butter.

I struggled with my bagel. I was only able to eat half of it and I didn't even try to eat my banana. I had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water.

I got dressed, pinned my number on and looked out the window. It was dark but you could see lights everywhere.  Especially the flashing lights of the police cars that blocked the roads.  It was a spectacular sight.

Mr. RWM woke up and asked how I felt. I told him I was good just wondering what the temp was outside. He asked Siri, how convenient.

It was 52 already and going to be 60 by the time I was finished running.  There was no way I was keeping the long sleeves on. I quickly changed to a short sleeve top.  I still put on my throw away pants, jacket and gloves.

Mr. RWM said he would be at mile 6, 13 and finish.  Good enough.  He wished me well and I walked out of my room to find Barb already at the elevators waiting for me.

The lobby was buzzing with runners. You would never know it was five in the morning.  We headed out and started our mile walk to our corral.  Security was very easy. We didn't have any bags.  The phone started buzzing and soon we met up with Diane and my friend Chris.
Diane, Barb, Me

We snapped some pics, stretched a bit and then waited in line for the potties for 30 minutes.  Not cool. From there we walked to our corral.  I ate my banana and had some more water. Waiting, I need to use the potty again.  We were moving though and I was afraid to get out of my corral.

The National Anthem was sung and was done beautifully.  I was very proud.
Waiting to go!

One of the things I liked about the start, was that each corral got a gun send off.  The mayor was also there high-fiving us and wishing us luck.  They started out with the theme from Rocky and then went into Sweet Caroline.  It was just so cool!

As soon as we crossed the line, we saw porta potties, no line. We decided to get it over with and stopped.

In and out and on our way.  About a half mile in, to our left, Mr. RWM and Randy were at the corner cheering us on. This was a surprise to us, and of course, I had to hug and kiss Mr. RWM.
Love these two pics that Mr. RWM snapped before heading down to the start. 

The start was crowded but very exciting.  I can tell you right now, and some of you already know this, I went out too fast.  In fact, Barb said we should slow it down a bit a couple times.  I was feeling so good though and couldn't help myself.

In mile two we saw this girl.  We didn't stop to ask at the time but happy to have found her story.

The crowd was really cool.  So much cheering and fun signs.  In mile three, we hit our first beer stop.  For real.  8:30 in the morning and some guys were handing out shots of beer.  Cops standing right next to them and no worries.  You got to love Philadelphia!  Oh, and no, we did not partake.

In mile four, something really exciting happened.  A girl running by said to me, "Are you the blogger?"

OMG, yes I am!  I couldn't believe she recognized me, especially since I change my outfit from the one posted on my FB page.

Her and her friends said they loved my blog. It was so nice to hear!  I asked her name, which BTW, was Nicole. No way!  I love when I get to meet one of my readers in person, but having someone know who I was in a large race, well, that is just something I will never forget!

She pumped me up and I may have run even faster. Ooops.

We were pretty close to the pacer for the 5 hour finish. I was happy with this.  I truly thought a 5 to 5:10 finish was possible.

In mile six, we saw Mr. RWM and Randy. They had a sign and big smiles.  Some pics were snapped and hugs and kisses were given.  It just thrilled me to see them on the course.

Remember our names were on our bibs?  Well, right after we left the guys, a man shouted my name and told me how good I was doing. He was the first of many strangers who would call out my name and cheer me on. It was so nice.

Miles 8 through 10 were the toughest miles on the course.  They are the hilly miles. I did not conserve any energy here. I ran up and down each one.  Still behind the five hour pacer and feeling good!

As we were approaching mile ten, I saw a little girl in a stroller with her dad holding a sign. I was sure it was Diane's husband and daughter. Diane, BTW, was in the corral in front of us.

I was about to say are you Diane's husband and ask how she was doing when who came up behind me? Diane!  It was so nice to see her and she looked great! I ran on as she got her picture taken and hugged her family but ran slow enough for her to catch up.  We got to run a little together and talk about our races. I was so excited for her to be so close to finishing her first half marathon.
This is me with the look of is that who I think it is? Didn't even know Diane was behind me.

Here is me saying, OMG, yay!!!

We ran together until we had to split up. Full marathoners to the left and half marathoners to the right.  I will be honest friends, it took all my courage and mental strength to not go right.

It only got harder as we got closer and could hear the crowd and the announcer.  I still had 13.1 miles to go and was wondering what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this.

I started to feel better once we were away form all the excitement but disappointed because I did not see Mr. RWM. Turns out he saw us but I was not on the same side as him. They did get some pictures though.

Can you find me?  

At mile 15, I needed to use the potty, again.  I stopped and Barb waited for me. I ran up and saw an open one and headed for it the same time a man was going for the same one. A non runner.  Technically, he was there first, but come on, I am running a race!  He realized this before he went in and said, oh, you go ahead, you are running.  Thanks stranger.

I ran up to Barb and we went on our way.  The five hour pacer was ahead of us but still in sight.  Barb started to run ahead of me and I couldn't keep up.  I didn't know it at the time but she was having some issues and just felt better not slowing down.  I was no longer running with her but had her in my sights.

We were on Kelly Drive and this has us going to Manayunk and on the other side of us were runners coming towards us with only a few miles to go.  I watch them as they all passed. I tried to read names and check out some of the cuter outfits.  I started to beat myself up when a pregnant women passed me and a women dressed in a Rocky robe, complete with boxing gloves.

I know, run your own race.  You don't know their story, well I didn't care. I was mad.

By the time I was in mile 17 and crossing over the falls bridge, I was feeling like I had enough. I couldn't see the five hour pace guy anymore. I was discouraged. Then Barb ran past me going the opposite way.  I lost my running buddy.

I had music, but was fine without it. I was getting closer to a cheer section and heading into Manayunk.  I knew when I hit the 20 mile mark there would be a turn around and then just 6. 2 miles to go.  I was regaining my composure here and enjoying the energy from the crowd.  At one water stop, I was offered a brownie, something I don't usually enjoy.  I took it anyway and it hit the spot.

Manayunk was cool because of the crowds, sings, the cheers and the music.  I was feeling good again and realized that the 5:30 pacer did not catch me. I was still ahead of him and I ran on not sure if I would be able to catch up with Mr. 5 Pacer.

That hope was dashed when I needed to find a porta potty and quick!  I have never needed to go the bathroom this much during a run before. In fact, I didn't even stop once when I ran my 20.  This third stopped killed me.  I had to cross the road to get to them. I was quick but knew I lost even more time. What the heck!

This was mile 22. I felt better and at this point I turned my iPod on. I listened to three songs and turned it off. It just wasn't what I needed. I turned my thoughts to all the messages I got from my friends and readers. So many wonderful and l encouraging thoughts and advice. I tried to remember all of them.  This got me through for most of the last miles.

As I was approaching mile 23, I was running behind a man who I hadn't seen before.  He was running towards a guy who was standing off to the side cheering him on. He pulled over and hugged this guy and just started crying.  This got me all choked up.  The marathon is a very humbling experience.  It is true when they say the person who starts the race, is not the same person who finishes it.

I was in tears passing this man, real ones.  I was running past a group of Black Girls Run who were there to cheer on their running friends.  (BTW, they must have a huge chapter in Philadelphia because they were everywhere on the course and they rocked the cheering!)  This group was close enough to see my tears and they cheered for me like I was part of their family.  They knew I hurt and was struggling but they also knew how close I was to the finish.  I thanked these ladies for being on the course. I needed them at that moment and will never forget them.

I did talk to a few people once I stopped crying. One of them was a girl who was running a marathon in each state.  She was about halfway through the country but had not run in Rhode Island yet. We talked about some of the races here and we went back and forth passing each other until the finish.

While running, I had so many thoughts going through my head. There were definitely some negative ones, but for the most part I focused on happy things.  How in 2011, I couldn't even run one minute. And here I was, mile 24 of a marathon.  I thought about all the people I have met along the way.  So many special running friends. And with every new milestone of my running, I became a stronger and more confident person.

I thought about my family and friends at the finish line.  They endured so many hours of my non stop running talk.  So much time away from them getting in my miles.  My one track running mind.  They supported me every step of the way without any complaints.

I wondered how the kids were holding up. How long had they been waiting for me? This worried me bit.

When I saw the flag for mile 25, my head was spinning. I hurt, I was tired, but my adrenaline was pumping. I was on fire.  I was going to finish. The volume of the crowed was incredible and I couldn't get enough.

I was running. I was crying. I was looking for my family.  I saw the finish. I heard my name.

I looked and saw Mr. RWM waving his arm at me trying to get my attention.  He had it! He started snapping pictures and I just ran.

I was very focused on the finish and did not see anyone else even though they were right next to the mayor screaming for me. I high-fived the mayor for the second time of the day and crossed the line in 5:23:10.

It has been hard for me to come up with the right words of how I actually felt in that moment.  Some are obvious, I was so very happy and I hurt.  But that is just a small portion of what was really going on in my head.

I did something I truly dreamed impossible.  Something I said, I would never do. I was a changed person.  There are very few things I worked this hard for and for so long.  This was a year in the making.  Not just the 18 weeks of training, but from that moment in San Francisco, when I watched members of Haley's Sweet Sixteen cross the finish line of their marathon, I knew, without a doubt, I would run a marathon in 2013.

Picking the right marathon was another story.  I had said after Nike that I had missed my chance to train with a group and run with friends. But when I decided on Philadelphia, it was my friend Connie who told me that Philadelphia was MY race.  I was meant to be there with my family and friends, in a city that I love so much.  Not running the Nike marathon was not a mistake, it just wasn't the right one for me.

I was filling out a a running question and answer for AMR and one of the questions was, What is your dream race?  I had to be honest and say that I had just run it on Sunday.  I know there are beautiful and amazing places in the world but for me, running on the streets that I grew up on, knowing my family and friends were there to cheer me on was exactly what my dream race consisted of. So many memories and good times.

Once I was in the finish area, the first thing handed to me was my medal. It is so big and so beautiful.  Then I got a space blanket. I was so happy to wrap it around me.

My sister, who had Gracie, was still cheering for me. They couldn't get through the barricade but they walked along with me on the outside.  I was handed a Macy's bag filed with food. I thought this was a great idea. At a few races, I found myself struggling with my space blanket, trying to hold my water bottle, and eat a banana all at the same time. The bag made it easier.  There was still a tent with food and more water and chicken broth which was nice.

Gracie had flowers for me and she ran over to the barricade and climbed through to give them to me.  I was so surprised to get flowers. She stayed with me and together we walked to the family meeting area.
Nothing was stopping Gracie from getting to her Mama!

Another great moment.

Once I was with everyone, I just broke down and started crying. There were tons of pictures taken and many, many hugs.  The love and support that I was given cannot be matched.
My reasons for everything.

One of my greatest and oldest friends, Dawn who took time out of her day to see me finish.

Tired and happy finishers.

Me and my dad. There were plenty of pics with my mom but for some reason, I don't have any.

My favorite photo of the day.

We had a half mile walk to the car. We were moving to a hotel closer to my Mom and Dad's house.  We went straight to the hotel for a much needed shower.

I couldn't help but think about my time and where exactly I lost it. I felt good, physically, for most of the race.  It did get hotter than I would of liked. The sun was beating down from Manayunk until the finish. This did not help me and I think slowed me down.  A few negative thoughts crept into my head too. That also did not help.  Could I have finished in five hours? I don't know. Would I do it again?  Right now, I say no, but I have learned to never say never.

My Garmin, BTW, read 5:16.  Three potty stops really hurt my time.

I was moving slow but feeling better than I expected.  Once we were all together again, we ate Philly cheesesteaks and had a couple beers all while watching the Eagles game.  I can't think of a better way to end the day.
Yes, I ate the whole thing.

Barb and Randy were driving back to Ohio Sunday night.  I wished they were able to stay longer but they had to get back to the kids.  I don't know how Barb did it.

I was in bed at 7:30 and asleep by 8.  I am pretty sure I smiled the whole night.

We are home now and it took me quite some time to get through all the messages and emails.  The virtual support was just as amazing as the live support.  I have said this before, but thank you for being there for me and following along on this amazing journey.  I started this blog as a sort of diary but it makes me smile that so many of you are here and reading.  I love meeting you in person and hearing your stories.  Please continue to share your journey with me as well.  You keep me going as much as I hope I keep you going.

Run Strong, Think Big my friends! ~ Nicole


  1. Moving time, non moving time, who cares? You ran a marathon woman!!! (oh yeah and your posessed Garmin worked the whole time!) You better still be smiling!! Congratulations and I am very proud of you! You did it and if you do it again or don't do it again, wait to make that decision. Bask in the joy and pride of accomplishment, and that I ran a freaking marathon, feeling. You are a marathoner and you can do anything.

    1. Thank you my friend! Yes, the Garmin worked, it's a miracle! And a miracle that I finished. LOL No, really it was just awesome!

  2. Every single step I could feel your race. What a beautiful recap. Beautiful. I know the tears at various points. It is SO emotional and such an other-worldly thing to finish. The bathroom stops, the cheering of family, friends, strangers, The music or not. The sun, the heat, the cold, the wind, the elements combining with our spirits. You will do another. You've got it in your blood now. You are pumping and strong and awesome. I am SO SO SO SO happy for you. SO happy! xo

    1. Sharon, thank you so much! Your post brought tears to my eyes and I so thankful to know you!

  3. Amazing, Nicole! I'm so proud of you- the marathon is an incredible accomplishment. You did it!!!

    1. Thank you Laura! It really was incredible and I loved it!

  4. Best recap I've read in a long time, I can never remember that many details! You totally earned that medal, and did an awesome job at the race. Now you just have to decide what to do next!

    1. Thank you! Well, so far I am signed up for 4 half marathons next year. But I don't think I will run longer than that, but you never know...

  5. Loved reading your journey! very proud of you and your amazing accomplishment, Nicole!

  6. What a beautiful telling of your marathon story. I felt myself filling up. Congratulations on a huge and impressive accomplishment. You should be so proud.

  7. I am out of breath trying to keep up with you! I love my city (home) and so glad you ran such an amazing race!!! Awesome recap- you are amazing!!!

    1. Thank you so much! It was so awesome being in my home town to do this. I loved running there!

  8. I was not able to read this amazing, beautiful story last night and now, sneaking a few moments from my desk, I read with joy and my eyes filled with tears.

    Yes, this was YOUR race! If it took six hours, seven, who cares? You finished a FULL MARATHON! You did it. A seemingly unreachable goal was indeed within your grasp. Yes it was hard but your dream was realized. I submit it is all the more valuable for your having struggled through the difficulties you encountered, both the setbacks in training and the hard moments on the big day.

    Looking at the beautiful photos brings more tears. It is obvious how proud your family is of you, as well they should be, and you of yourself.

    I cannot describe the pride and joy I feel for you at this moment my dear friend. I'm thrilled that you were able to achieve your dream in your home town, with your family, with your friends, those who were present as well as those who could only be there in spirit.

    Whether or not you decide to do another, you are among an elite group. You are a marathoner.

    Can you beat that?

    Love, Connie

    1. Connie, your comments always warm my heart! Thank you for being there with me though all of this. You are such a wonderful person and friend. You are a huge inspiration to me and I am so blessed to have you in my life!

  9. Congratulations on a great race (and report)! I actually got choked up reading it. Philly was my first marathon, too (9 years ago). I swore never again. Now I'm preparing for Boston, my 4th. Never say never...

    1. Wow! Yay you! Thank you for reading. Philly was a great first race! Will this be your first Boston?

  10. What a great recap...this was my first marathon as well and I am enjoying reading others recaps just to make the day last a little longer! Congratulations on a great race!

    1. Thanks! Did you just run on Sunday too? Congratulations!

  11. Congratulations on a great race! This was such a wonderful recap, as well; this was my first marathon as well and I am enjoying reading other peoples recaps just to make the experience last a little longer!

  12. Nicole, I loved reading this! I had tears in my eyes!! You did such a good job - how are you feeling? Congratulations on a job well done. :))

    1. Thank you so much Debra! I am feeling really good. Better than I thought I would. I haven't run yet, but will be back at it with my normal Monday run. Looking forward to it!

  13. So super duper proud of you!!!! WOW! Loved reading all of this (somehow I missed on Facebook where you posted so I just started stalking till I found these posts - lol). I think you are amazing and so right that the marathon is more than just the running. It's accomplishing something that most people will never be able to accomplish. You are amazing. Congrats girl!

    1. Thank you so much Clara! It was truly an amazing experience but not sure I can pull it off a second time.

  14. Nicole,

    Amazing recap! Congratulations, marathoner!!! I'm sorry I missed you and I hope to see you at another race sometime.

    1. that would be so cool! We will have to keep up with each other for sure. Thank you!

  15. So awesome! Congrats:) I love that so many people came to cheer you on and support you. You are blessed:)