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Race Report: Philadelphia Half Marathon

November 23, 2010

Happy, together, and not too sweaty, yet: my beloved BFF, Courtenay, and I near mile 4.5 of Philly Half Marathon on Sunday

I’m not sure I’ve ever been less prepared for–or less committed to–a race than last Sunday’s Philadelphia Half Marathon. It was both physical and mental. My legs had only felt decent for about two weeks after the thrashing they took in the marathon I ran six weeks ago, so I hadn’t done any sort of specific training. And I’m not downplaying my mileage: Two weeks pre-race, I set out to run 9 miles (typically, two weeks out from a half, I do 16 miles). But my legs hurt so much and I felt so tapped out, I only plodded out 7. The following weekend–race minus 8 days, when I should have been  tapering, not building, I did 14.5 miles. My single speed workout was a modest 20-minute tempo run 5 days pre-half.

Then there were the days leading up to the race. Hmmm, I did so many things wrong, I’m seriously considering blogging next week about, “10 Ways to Not Prepare for a Race.” So I’ll just hit the highlights (or, more aptly, the low points): worst hangover  in two decades 22 hours before the race and such poor hydration day-before that I didn’t pee from 9:30 a.m. until 4:25 p.m. (And then it was more yellow-sludge, than liquid! TMI, I know…)

Yet there we were, Courtenay, my best friend from high school,  and I, sticking our hands out our Philly hotel room window,  gauging the temperature as we suited up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Dire forecasts of freezing temps hadn’t panned out: The day dawned an exquisite fall day. Once the sun rose a little before the 7 a.m. start, the sky was a deep cerulean and the leaves left on the trees danced a shimmery jig. Thanks entirely to your comments on my post last week, Courtenay and I stuck together at the start. Our good friend Allen, another high school compadre, promised to station himself between mile 4 and 5. As we weaved our way through the crowd (despite the high density of runners, I was surprised by how well the throng surged forward), I let Courtenay set the pace. She had made it explicitly clear that if she sensed she was holding me back, she’d get irate…and she knew I wouldn’t be much happier. I was still convinced we’d run a 1:59 half together.

As we made our way excitedly toward Allen, both of us grooving to my BFF Half Marathon Playlist, I only glanced down at my Garmin 110 a few times. Except for a few times in mile 2 when we dropped below a 9:00-mile, I thought we were running at a conservative warm-up pace–about 9:20-9:30. Courtenay looked intent, but comfortable. We laughed as a Gumby-esque runner–a man completely covered in skin-tight green Lycra–passed us. Exactly where he promised to be, Allen snapped some quick photos. We each leaned in for a quick hug and kiss, and we were on our way. Within a few blocks, though, Court’s demeanor changed; she emitted a few grunts. When I asked her how she was doing, she replied, “Like I can’t run this fast for 13.1  miles.”  Oh, dogger, here I thought we were running a warm-up pace, and she was at ramming-speed. Given the race-strategy talks we’d had, it was all I needed to hear. I waved good-bye and went on my way. I was sorry to not be running together, but I wasn’t tailed by doubts. We’d hashed over the topic enough to be certain it was the right move for us.

About a mile later, as Usher crooned that the DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love and I high-fived grinning spectators lining Chestnut Street, I felt more elated than I have in almost any race. I ran in the glow of sun, spectator energy, and tunes. It was glorious. The buzz continued for most of the race–sure, it ebbed through the ho-hum part of course past Drexel University and again up the long, steady climb near mile 9, but overall I was giddy. I didn’t feel any pressure to set a record–my only goal was to finish in under two hours. After racing 26.2 miles last month, 13.1 seemed delightfully short. After mile 10, in stunningly beautiful Fairmount Park (it was so picturesque, I felt like I was in the French countryside near Versailles!), I turned on the turbo boosters and dropped my pace. I drew strength from the sweeping vistas of historic Boathouse Row across the Schuylkill River, reminded of the times I’d rowed races there in college. I crossed the line in 1:57:21 with Madonna singing “4 Minutes” in my ear, and I bopped along  to get my finisher’s medal. All my doubts and apathy were long forgotten: I was walking on air after running 13.1 miles.
(Mid-race, Courtenay had a recurring injury–glutes/hammies–flair up. Twice she stopped to try to stretch it out, but to no avail. She was fairly hobbled by finish line, crossing  in 2:14:02. But already she’s the one gunning for Philly Half 2011–her, me,…and Allen!)

Best friends, vest friends: heading over to see Allen for a brief respite

22 Comments leave one →
  1. KarenM permalink
    November 23, 2010 5:00 am

    Great report, Sarah! How did the rest of Courtenay’s race go?

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 23, 2010 5:21 pm

      Thanks for asking, Karen. In the middle of the night I realized I should have included that in the post…but then I forgot to do it when Iwoke up. I included post-script today. Court ran 2:14:02 due to injury flare-up.

  2. November 23, 2010 5:07 am

    Cerulean? You made that color up! Sounds super fancy!
    (Thanks for filling us in on the race. Glad it worked out well for everyone. Have great Thanksgiving!)

  3. November 23, 2010 5:18 am

    Great job SBS! I’m glad you guys decided to start out together and that you are good enough friends to respect each other’s wishes for pace and not holding back. It was great meeting you at the expo. Sorry if I was yapping on and on as I was nervous to meet you and do my first 26.2. Thanks for all your great last minute advice, especially about continuing to fuel up during the 20’s miles when my stomach was sloshing. I finished 5:39:47 and except for my IT band don’t feel awful 🙂

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 23, 2010 5:22 pm

      Congrats on marathon #1, Ellen!! Glad I was able to provide a nugget or two of good advice. Wasn’t it the MOST awesome day for a run!??! Celebrate yourself.

  4. Alecia permalink
    November 23, 2010 7:39 am

    Congrats to both of you on a great race!

  5. November 23, 2010 7:46 am

    I so love when 13.1 feels more like 5k—it’s all perspective isn’t it? Congrats to both of you. I am loving the purple. And Madonna’s 4 minutes is always good too.

  6. November 23, 2010 8:10 am

    Glad you were able to run some of it together and good enough friends to be able to separate when the time came.

  7. November 23, 2010 8:22 am

    Perfect. 🙂

    Great report, glad you got to share it with your bestie and with us!

    I really do think 13.1 is the perfect race.

  8. November 23, 2010 8:51 am

    congrats, sarah. great race!!

  9. November 23, 2010 8:55 am

    so fun! It’s the best to share with a bff 🙂

  10. November 23, 2010 9:51 am

    awesome, Sarah AND Courtenay! sounds like a fantastic way to spend a morning. i’ve got my eye on this race in the future too…so thank you for the RR!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 23, 2010 5:24 pm

      Michelle–While no race is perfect, I was incredibly impressed with the Philly Half. SUCH a gorgeous course and the crowd support was incredible. The “fans” were so jubiliant–I loved all the high-fives I got. Really a great race.

  11. November 23, 2010 10:27 am

    Sounds like a “fun run” 🙂

  12. November 23, 2010 12:22 pm

    Enjoyed reading this…nice pics of the 2 of you, what a nice thing to share! Not every BFF run a 1/2 marathon at the same time!!!

  13. November 23, 2010 2:39 pm

    Lovely recap!!

  14. Iliana Zuniga permalink
    November 23, 2010 3:57 pm

    Yay Sarah! Thanks for sharing this with us!!!

  15. November 23, 2010 4:34 pm

    Great recap … and race! How fun to run with your BFF! I haven’t done my best training for my half on Thursday – thanks for giving me hope.

    Oh, its also nice to know you can recover from a pre-race hangover and bust it out!

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

    • bowenshea permalink*
      November 23, 2010 5:25 pm

      Have fun in your race on T’giving, Wifey. That big meal will taste all the better for it!

  16. Kami permalink
    November 23, 2010 8:38 pm

    I loved the race too. Not my fastest, or most prepared for, but it went by so fast. I run in Philly all the time, but never this race and the course was wonderful. Glad you enjoyed our city too!

  17. Amy Bailey permalink
    November 23, 2010 9:29 pm

    Great race! And a hangover!?! Especially impressive … and shows you’re human!

  18. November 24, 2010 6:24 am

    I know all too well this past year how it is to be ill-prepared it is to run a race, mentally and physically. I think the stength of great friendships running with you is an amazing thing when your heart’s just not there – great job on the race, Chica!!

    I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your dear family!!

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