"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Philadelphia Marathon 2014 - Back With The Vengeance

I have been unlucky when it comes to road marathons. While I have excelled at other distances this particular one was my arch nemesis. After several bad road marathons last year, I've decided to make the 2014 Philadelphia Marathon my only real road effort this year (double marathon in Roanoke doesn't count). I wanted to be injury free, and ready to finally break 4 hours that has been haunting me from my very first marathon. I was back with the vengeance.

First of all, I know this post is almost a month late, but none the less, here it is. For some reason, after each race I am either very eager to write about it, or not eager at all. I have noticed that if I've had a really good race, I am less inclined to write about it. It is as I feel that there is nothing to say of value. I got ready, I raced, and it went well. Blah. Why would people want to read about that. In an effort not to annoy everyone with that kind of stuff, I will try to focus on the mental aspect of this race. Yes, I am a very mental person.
Expo time
Making the Philadelphia Marathon my only road marathon this year put some pressure on me. This was my only chance this year to break the elusive 4 hour mark that I have been chasing since my very first marathon. There have been injuries, weather and mental break downs among other things, and that is why I kept missing the mark. Even going into this race, I wasn't 100% confident (told you, mental).

For some odd reason, going into the race week, I wasn't feeling any usual pre-race jitters or nervousness. It is almost like I've made a peace with my mind. I was going into the race with a very relaxed mentality. Considering that this was Amy's A race, as she wanted to BQ, there was enough pre-race nerves going around the house. The plan was to stick with Amy and 3:35 pace group. Crash and burn or run for glory. You can read all the details about Philly and Amy's race at her post.
It is early but I am ready
Rushing into the corral to find our pacer was annoying, as we didn't have enough time to go potty one last time - lines were just moving too slow. First mini freakout. Well, what do you know, after they said go, it took us almost 10 minutes to cross the start line, so really we should have stayed. However, we wanted to be next to the pacer and keep up with him. The first part of the marathon goes through the heard of Center City. It is a beautiful section to run through, yet at the same time very narrow. Many runners, including myself add many points of a mile through the city as you are constantly dodging people. The Philadelphia Marathon does not enforce the corrals so there are many slower people that want to start ahead. Sorry, but you should not be running 12min/mile or walking in first few miles. If that is your plan start in the back. All I could think is, this is very annoying. Move out of the damn way. Mind you, I am not like that most of the time, but I realized, when trying to hit a certain goal, it gets annoying. Second mini freakout. I was also thinking, damn it I have to pee. Third mini freakout. At mile 3 I stopped and peed which took about 30 seconds. It was worth it. Freakouts done for now.
Oh, hi!
That stop made me lose Amy and the pacer, so from that point on I was chasing the clock and my little pace sheet. I was doing a lot of math in my head every mile. My watch was always few tenths of a mile off from the official marker, but I was still on point with my pace. I was feeling confident. Mantra of, "this is just an easy 20 mile training run, you will do speed work when you get to Manayunk", kept going through my head. I breezed through the first 13 miles even with several large hills that I completely forgot about. The real mental challenge at Philly comes as you finish the first half, and you are running by the finish line. Why do races do that? Such a cruel joke. This was my 3rd year running Philly, and so far every year I have been further and further away from the Art Museum when the lead runners go past me which really gives me a boost as I know I am progressing.

I despise the short loop over the Falls Bridge, as I see it as pointless junk miles, but this year, I was surprisingly fine with it. Having all my mental energy focused on the time goal, must have erased the negativity toward that whole section. As I inched closer to the finish line, my pace started getting slower. I was on the edge of going too hard, and keeping it at the red line. Small twinges of cramps reared their head every once in a while. I knew I had to keep it steady or risk blowing up. As my pace slipped that 3:35 mark went away, but in my head I was good. I wanted to break 4 hours remember!
Fuel!
Miles ticked away as I made my turnaround in Manayunk. I knew Amy was few minutes ahead and that she would be getting her BQ which made me very happy the whole time. The familiar sites went by, Falls Bridge General Grant statue, the crew stands, boat houses and finally the Art Museum. I was in the home stretch. The chip was off my shoulder. I broke through my self imposed physical and mental barrier. For the first time in my road marathon career I felt I had a good race. I knew I gave it my all, and while the pee break cost me few seconds, it really wasn't important.
We did it. BQ, PR and First Marathon for Amy's sister Cindy.
As I was going toward the finish line with my arms outstretched, I heard the mayor say, "Emir is coming in for a landing". I did it 3:40:37! I finally had my marathon PR!
I did it!
Until next time. Cheers!

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