It seems I have been at a loss as to where to start. I don't know if it should be with my promise 2 years ago, my grandfather's battle with cancer or the start of the race....
I guess, I will write it like Star Wars and start somewhere in the middle.
Earlier in the year I had run a 30K in Pennsylvania and won my age group, so I found it only fitting my season should end where it had all began...in PA.
It was 6:30am. I was standing in line for the P.O.P. in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps (most know it as the Rocky steps) bouncing up and down to keep warm. There were a hundred P.O.P's but 20,000 competitors. The line was about 30 people deep and moving slower than any other P.O.P line I had ever been in! I had gone to the bathroom 4 times already that morning, but my nerves had put me in line one more freakin' time. I was getting nervous. I was in the 3rd corral of the first wave. I heard many people around me talking about wave 2 start time at 7:11 and hoped against hope they would let me cut as they had asked my wave.."1 for God's sake...I need to go NOW!!", but no luck. I waited and waited. The Rocky theme song started and 1st call for the 1st wave went off. I was not going to make my wave. I debated just skipping the trip, but between the time I had already waited and knowing I would NOT make it through 26.2 without the stop kept me in line. New plan needed...hhmmmmm??? Screw it, I would just hit the P.O.P. and start at the front of the 2nd wave as it seemed it started around 3:50-4:00.
At last...sweet relief!! I stripped my warm-ups and made the semi-mad dash for the start line about 400 meters away. My BF had decided to run 16 miles that morning so he was right there with me brining up the rear. We made it into the corral and started weaving through a lot of freakin' people! It was taking too long. We jumped out of the corral and ran up the sidewalk through the spectators until right before the start and jumped back in, but it was too late. The 2nd wave was already off! I was behind the 5 hour pacer! I stopped to re-tie my shoe 3 times never thinking once about what lay less than 20 feet ahead of me. "C'mon focus Heier..get in the game!" The BF was panicking as swarms of runners were going by wondering if we were going to ever start this thing. No deep breath, no one last thought, I just wiggled my foot to make sure it felt okay, adjusted my sunglasses and punched my start button on my watch as I crossed into my first Philadelphia Marathon.
Mile 1 began heading straight for the heart of the city and all it's awesome architectural buildings. Unfortunately, I was on a mission. I had no intention of taking anything in, but water, gatorade and gels that day. I weaved my way through people, then I weaved my way through more people. Oh boy, this was impossible. I left the road and got up on the sidewalk running behind spectators. It was just too crowded. I couldn't afford to waste energy running all over the place. Mile 1 8:41. It was too slow, but I figured I wouldn't be on pace for a few miles anyway.
I knew my effort was right where I wanted it and hoped I just needed time to settle in as I approached mile 2, 8:19. Right on pace, only 24 to go. I came upon the first aid station, but the first few tables were completely empty!! I nearly crashed into a guy that STOPPED to wait in line for heaven's sake to get a drink. F#ck that..I was not waiting. This was a marathon, not a fast food line!!! I looked over to see my BF was still tagging along to keep an eye on me.
We ran out of sidewalk here and I stayed to the far right as the course, for the most part, runs clockwise the first half. The first 3 miles were nice and flat as I clocked a 7:58.
The crowds were insane and NOT thinning out. It seemed as if it was a slow motion 5k and people were still trying to get position, surging all over the place. I reminded myself to keep my effort even. Even effort resulted in a 9:29 for mile 4. I heard people all over commenting on the slow mile and word was garmins had beeped over a minute ago for 4. Relieved I was still on pace I wondered if 5 would be short.
Somehow however, when I saw mile 5 my watch did not record the split, but I think it was around 6:40ish. Oh hell, I'm not gonna lie. I was so focused I missed mile 5, 6,7 and 8!! The next aid station had a line too. "Oh shit!" What was I supposed to do? I couldn't run this without aid? My BF was still lurking. He is way faster, but he was hanging back. He yelled at me to keep going and stay to the right and he would find me. I skipped my 2nd aid station. A minute later he was at my side with a cup of water in his hand for me (THANK YOU BF)!! I took it and my first gel. I was relieved as the hills would begin at mile 6.75 and I knew the map showed them continuing on until 12.5. I didn't have time to look for the mile markers.
The race is advertised as "flat and fast." It is NOT flat!! We climbed the first significant hill and I saw my family. I knew they would be there and I threw up my arm so they could see me in the madness. My mom gave me a wave and a shout as I passed. I kept reminding myself "every mile counts" and looked at my left hand were I had written my grandfather's name.
***My grandpa had been diagnosed with late stage lymphoma last year and was literally fighting for his life. It had seemed very bleak, but he had persevered and won. My aunt, who was running the half and I knew if he could we could. This race was for him.***
We continued out by the Philadelphia zoo for some more hills. There was another hill with people standing at the top with big green hands on and signs that said "YOU MADE IT TO THE TOP!" I worked the downhill as best I could keeping my feet low to the ground trying not to brake and slap my heels. We made a left and we hit another hill. I was ready though. I continued to climb up the hills feeling no signs of fatigue on the uphills, focusing on keeping my heartrate in check. Again "every mile counts," and check my left hand, move forward...repeat. Miles 9, 10, 11 were done in 8:02, 8:42 (took my second gel), and 8:03. Somewhere my BF had run off to pee on the course (he didn't use the P.O.P at the start like me..heehee!!).
Mile 12 wound us back toward the start and under the bridge, so I heard tons of screaming overhead, but not wanting to get distracted I chose not to look up. The road was really cambered here and the BF was bearing the brunt of it as I was closest to the curb and it was a little flatter. We also came upon this really stinky guy. Let me tell ya P-U!!! I actually surged a little to get around him as the smell was just too much for me. Mile 12 8:16.
The noise was getting louder and the crowds were growing exponentially. I was almost to the half. I wanted to be at 1:48:00 at the half. I was relaxed and felt good. I had broken my race up into 5 mile segments, so I was more focused on getting to 15 than 13.1. I had less than 3 miles to my next gel. We split from the half marathoners as we reached the art museum. They turned left and we were sent straight a few hundred feet to a clock in the middle of the road that you make 180 degree turn around and come back up the other side of the street. Reached the official clock and split my watch. Half time 1:48:21.