Last weekend, I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I’ve been signed up for this race for awhile, but it was surprising how the race weekend just snuck up. It’s been a shameful five years since I’ve been to my “first city” and while I knew it would be emotional, I didn’t realize just how much so.
I’ll be honest – I didn’t train very hard for this race, at least not specifically. I’ve been busy getting back into riding seriously, which has taken up a lot of my time, energy, and lactic acid allowance. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t go running at least a few times a week, and most of my ground training for riding has been super-intense sprint workouts and heavy lifting circuits. Cross-training would have to be the name of my game.
After a long wait at the very cold start, we were off. It’s normal for there to be a buzzing of energy before a big (40,000+!) race, but this was special. They played specific music for the major contingents – “New York, New York” for the New Yorkers who had been admitted post-Sandy, some Bon Jovi for the Jersey folks, and some Rocky for us Philadelphians (or Philadelphians-Emeritus). In the crowd before the race took off, everyone was making friends, saying who they were and where they were from. I loved the sense of camaraderie.
Anyway, down we trotted, past the Science Museum, my old apartment, and City Hall; through Reading Terminal and past many restaurants I once haunted; all the way to the edge of the city and the Ben Franklin Bridge.
I can’t explain how happy I felt. Here I was, running mile after mile, and I had the most ridiculous smile on my face. It was amazing seeing these extremely familiar sights, even if only for a second. The people were as welcoming as the places, and I felt that I had the full support of the city.
Eventually we got our pass through Penn. By “through” I mean “past that corner with the worst dorm on campus, that colonial American History building that opened right after I graduated, and the law school,” but it was better than nothing. I shouted out “SCHOOL!!” to my fellow racers at that point, but no one appreciated it much (and I had just been listening to girls talk about how fun the Ann Arbor marathon is because of all the students!). Whatever. Penn, I love you – and the energy from seeing my alma mater carried me up our first big hill.
After that, we had a long trip through Fairmount Park, which was the hardest part of the race. It was finally “warm” outside, it had the biggest uphill, and it had little in the way of familiar landmarks. But somehow my freakishly good attitude (and endorphins) carried me happily through. I was laughing at everyone’s jokes and somehow avoided the “road rage” that I tend to experience while trying to weave through people.
Mile 12 was special for me not just because we were one mile from the finish, but because I caught a great look at Boathouse Row and the Art Museum, which were my homing beacons during years of rowing and running up and down this river.
And what do you know, I PR’d this half! Many thanks to sprint workouts, tough equestrian cross-training, and the power of a good attitude. It was a great lesson in “mind over matter.”
After the race, I spent 2 hours waiting at the finish line for Colleen to finish her full marathon. It was freezing, but worth it to be standing close to Mayor Nutter (whom I had supported in 2007) as he high-fived finishers. I wonder how many people high-fived the man without realizing who he is! Mr. Mayor, I want to let you know that you put on a fantastically organized race, the best I have seen! The B.A.A. could take a page out of your book.
I’m so happy I ran – and still amazed at the ridiculously positive attitude I was able to keep throughout. While I was on the course, I saw people advertising a number of different motivations for their races; everything from supporting loved ones with an illness, to benefitting inner city students, to the simple promise of cheesesteaks.
I can’t say I’m very different from the cheesesteak folks. As much as I loved my running tour through Philadelphia via Memory Lane, all I wanted when we finished was this: