Philadelphia Marathon( 65 reviews )
- 5 miles/8K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
- Event Website
Eric RayvidNew York, New York, United States
On Sunday November 17, 2013, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, my second marathon in 14 days.
Here's what I did wrong.
I set a time goal and told anyone who would listen what it was, I wrote it on this blog many, many times and when I got to the starting line, I started to feel like maybe, just maybe I had made a mistake.
My goal was 3:45 -- a full 6 minutes faster than my fastest marathon back in 2011. AND, almost 15 minutes faster than the New York City Marathon on November 2rd.
But I nailed it! I crossed the finish line at 3:44:06 and am still floating on a cloud thinking about it.
Here's what I did right:
The weather forecast for the day had been a bit schizophrenic as I stalked it the previous week, sometimes calling for rain or not and a high of anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees. Dressing for the race was a crap shoot. I decided to go with just a pair of shorts, T-shirt (the same I wore in NYC) and conceded with a running hat figuring that even if it got warm, it wasn't going to get too hot for a hat.
And it turned out I dressed almost perfectly. In fact, I did almost everything perfectly for this race.
Runners were asked to prepare for increased security measures and were told to be at the start village no later than 5AM to have plenty of time to get through security. Being the neurotic runner I am, I was there by 4:45 so I wasn't a happy camper when the start area didn't open until 5:15.
Turned out getting through security was pretty easy and took less than five minutes which meant I had quite a while before the race started.
I was in the Black corral, so I was pretty far up front for the start. When the gun went off, the elite runners lit out and they held us back for a few minutes, I assume to keep the course from getting crowded.
I had my GoPro with me but only pulled it out at the start of the race. In the back of my mind, I still thought I might be able to PR this thing regardless of the negativity I had leading up to the gun.
I had a hard time regulating myself at the start. I wanted to keep my pace close to 8:40/mile for the first half and then speed up a bit for the second half (negative splits). Theoretically, this is the smartest way to run a race. I know it flies in the face of convention; one would think it's easier to go fast at first and slow down for the second half, but it’s actually the opposite. I'm not sure of the science behind this, but I'm here to tell you it works.
I started the race running comfortably so by the time we got to 10K split my time was 53:57 (~8:41/mile) - I had executed an almost perfect plan. I only had another 20 miles to go.
Then when I crossed 13.1 at 1:53 (~8:37/mile) I was seeing a trend I liked. I was a little shocked and psyched when I hit the half way point and was feeling as good as I was.
When we split off from the 13.1 runners, we followed the Schuylkill River for almost the entire second half - pretty flat with little rises of a few feet here and there. As I mentioned, I was feeling pretty good and decided to put some time in the bank as I knew the feeling wasn't going to last. From mile 13 to 19, I dropped my pace to an average of 8:13/mile and for two miles was actually right at or below 8:00/mile!!
My 30K split (~18.5 miles) dropped my overall pace to 8:30 which was putting me in contention to beat my goal. I started having visions of the bragging rights I would own if I crossed ahead of my goal time. But more than the bragging rights, I was starting to feel really proud of what I was accomplishing.
Then, when I hit mile 19 the negativity started creeping in. My hips were starting to complain and the "why are you doing this?" thoughts were edging into the back of my mind. Every professional runner will tell you that the marathon is a mental race. The best racers in the world are people who are able to ignore the pain and negativity that literally EVERYONE deals with. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they are super-fast and train to win races.
I'm not trying to compare myself to the professionals or even the elite racers, but the one thing I did perfectly in this race was push the negativity out of my head. It took some doing, but when I hit mile 19 and I couldn't fathom spending another hour pounding my feet and body on the course, I started concentrating on the people cheering, I distracted myself with the bands, or the signs or staying away from the rowdy kids near Manayunk trying to hand beer to runners. And when that stopped working, I put my headphones on and cranked up the music. Between Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good," "Rocky Mountain Way," The Allman Brothers' "Nobody Left to Run With" and Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" I was able to sing along or just listen to the guitars serenading me until I was no longer in a negative space. Thank GOD for music! I listened to those four songs twice through until I reached mile 25 when the crowds started getting thicker and the cheering louder. When I saw that, I pulled out my earphones and trusted them to get me across the finish line.
At mile 25 the sun peeked out and it started getting hot, I remember thinking to myself, "just eight more minutes, you can hold on for that long."
There's a slight hill at the end of the 25th mile which was a little disheartening, but I got to the top without too much pain. When I crested it, I assumed I'd see the 26-mile sign. I don't know if I missed it or it wasn't there, but the next thing I knew, the finish line was in front of me and I crossed it with my watch reading 3:44:06.
I could barely stand it, I had pulled off, for me, an almost flawless race. My overall pace for the race was 8:32/mile which means I slowed down a little from 18.5 to 26.2 but WHO CARES! I BEAT MY GOAL TIME!