Race Report: The Philadelphia Marathon

I had my best running year ever in 2012.I had run my first sub-5:00 marathon in Grand Rapids in Octover 2011, then I built and built and built on that throughout 2012…I ran a couple of half marathons (first the inaugural Lansing Half, then the Park2Park in Holland), ran PRs in both, ran a PR in the 5/3 River Bank Run, and ended my racing year by knocking over 50 minutes off my marathon PR in Grand Rapids.A 4:06!

That got me thinking about qualifying for Boston, and when I looked it up I saw I’d need to run a 3:25…or about 40 minutes below the PR I had just run (AKA over an hour and a half over my previous PR).“Hm,” I thought, “I’m getting faster, maybe it’s not outside the realm of possibility.Might take me a couple years to get there, but someday.”Ah, hubris, thy name is Matt.

Fast forward to April.Camilla and I had decided to visit Whitaker in San Francisco, and I used the trip to do the Big Sur 21-miler.We got in a huge fight the day before, I slept about 2 hours, and I proceeded to have the worst race of my life.Hills, hills, hills.Just a miserable experience.I chalked it up to a tough course and all the other ‘stuff’ swirling around that weekend.

Memorial Day weekend, 2013, and the Bayshore Marathon.I knew I wasn’t going to run my Boston qualifier that day but hoped to match my 4:06.Nope.Made the halfway mark at 2:01 but faded late to a 4:20.Slightly disappointing, but I knew that Grand Rapids was my goal race for the year.PR’d the River Bank Run again, PR’d the half at the Seaway Run…I thought that a sub-4:00 was still a possibility.

Turned out that Grand Rapids was out – we had a wedding in Chicago that weekend.So I searched for another fall marathon and found Philadelphia.My sister lives there and I’d run it before, so it was an easy choice.Ran all summer and fall prepping, including a pair of 20-milers.One of them was troubling, however…Gazelle sponsored a 20-mile ‘final’ long run for GR Marathon participants, and I joined in.I ended up doing some walking.Not much, but some, and at the end I essentially collapsed.Usually I will walk it out at the end of a run but this time I couldn’t go another step.I laid down on the grass for 20 minutes, staggered to my car, laid down for another 10 minutes, and threw up in the parking lot (for the first running-related time ever).SO weird.But did another 20 miler a couple weeks later and everything was fine, so I chalked it up to a queasy stomach I’d had all day.

Which brought me to the Philly starting line.I’d had another lousy prerace night’s sleep (maybe 4 hours, tops), and post-Boston security stuff meant we needed to leave my sister’s house at 4am to get to the line on time).Had eaten fine, knee felt fine, stomach was fine, weather was perfect.

I held back for the first 6 miles or so, and still felt okay…but at 9 miles it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to be doing a 4:00.Or a 4:20, probably.I wasn’t laboring (yet), but I wasn’t gliding, either, and if you’re already looking for mile markers at 9 miles, the next 17 are not going to go well.They turned out to be terrible.I was taking longer walk breaks at 12 miles and passed the half at about 2:10 (or so…I honestly have no idea).I threw up at mile 16.At 19 I was dizzy and lightheaded and seriously thinking about finding medical attention and dropping out, but I walked it out for a half mile or so and labored on.From that point, I was trying to run half miles and walk tenths between, which I did for a while, but I was totally cooked.

I finished in 5:02.A total disaster.

Ah, aftermath. How I hate you.I had read a Runner’s World column entitled “Bask First, Analyze Later” this summer, and I tried to do that on Sunday.Tried really, really hard…sorta succeded, but not entirely.The sheer misery and hardship of the race kept me from feeling too good about it in the immediate aftermath.Camilla is telling me that I should stick to the half (which, it should be noted, she did…her first ever.She’s pretty awesome).It’s more manageable, training-wise, and I simply don’t get as freaked out mentally before and after a half.

She’s wrong, or, rather, I’m not going to do that.I may or may not continue to do one or two marathons a year, but I know one thing for certain; after my great 2012, there is no damn way that my last marathon will be THAT one.It was just too much of a failure for me to finish my marathon career that way.And honestly?A half just doesn’t motivate me the same way…not that it’s for wimps, or anything like that, but it’s simply not as much of a challenge.I’ve seen people completely waddle through a half, but it’s simply not possible to do a marathon that way.On some level, that’s ego talking, but it’s also a recognition that I need major motivation to keep moving.

Dad died at 52.I might, too, but it won’t be because I was out of shape and didn’t take care of myself.