After the hot day in Chicago last month, MM and I signed up for the Philly marathon with hopes for temperate conditions, good crowds, and a nice easy course. What we got was going from one extreme to the other. This is to no major fault of the Philadelphia organizers (though there is still work to be done on their end), mother nature decided her hand needed to be involved and the rest was history.
I knew it was going to be interesting when the sign on the highway said 22 degrees at 6am. A long cry from the 65 degree start in Chi-town. We wore multiple layers at the start and blew warm breath into our gloves to try to keep them from freezing on contact. Our feet were useless to stay warm amongst the frigid temps.
But we shed a layer or two and headed to our starting corral. We headed out on the day, which despite its farenheit reading was quite lovely and plodded through downtown Philly. Our feet defrosted around mile 2 or 3, which helped with turnover. We did not speak of it much, but we knew this would not be a fast day. I struggled with energy and hunger early and so GU consumption was up, but I longed for a giant salty pretzel or some oreos. Alas, not a fan in sight with one. The fan base was low, given the temps. Our superfans got wind burn of their own from standing along the Schuykill for so long during the day.
In Chicago we laughed as we doused ourselves at water stops and prayed for the next one to come. Here the water in the dixie cups was frigid and burned our lungs going down. We tried to drink just the same. But the extreme irony was definitely the ice. Never have I sliped and slided through a water stop that was a sheet of ice from the spilled cups. Literally, skates would have been appropriate for these stops. We both had moments of slipping and having to catch each other. Hilarious.
We rejoiced when we found the sun and our teeth chattered when it was shady. We just kept being thankful that we had each other and our health. We thought of our friends doing Ironman Phoenix, our friends in need, and those who had just lost loved ones. We counted our blessings. The wind picked up along the river both going out and coming back on Kelly drive, but the crowds in the four miles along Manayunk Main made the long out and back trek worthwhile. As did the beer from HHH at mile 18 and the animal crackers from the random dude at 21. Never in my life have I consumed beer in a marathon but it was the first beverage all day that didn’t have ice chips. My hunger was assuaged a bit as I nibbled my giant handful of crackers and it provided much hilarity at our post race meal. (The gist-my gloves look like giant oven mits and filled with animal crackers, plus my weakened mental state, I looked like something out of a pixar film….)
Having missed our crew at miles 15-16 we were “alone” for miles 12-25 but we just kept trudging alternating pulls on the hills including the new “&*tch” of a hill off Kelly Drive which was not pleasant. MM pulled the last few miles for us as pretty much every part of my legs had shut down from cramps and cold. She is a true friend to stay with me as my body was really weak at that point. We just kept trudging along the drive thankful for our names on our shirts and the positive attitudes of frozen fans. We finally saw our superfans at mile 25 where they gave us last minute courage to get up the hill. I was “done” but just kept hoofing, attempting to smile or gives a thumbs up to all that called our names.
As we crested the hill at 26 we entered the wall of sound and headed towards the finish, the sun shone brightly bouncing off our windblown faces. We crossed in not our best time, but definitely not our worst. Not making excuses because of the cold but recognizing that this was a day, after two years of being training partners, to share together. The time was not as important as the experience. And running two marathons in six weeks in ultimate extreme (in marathon standards) weather is quite an experience to remember.
I’m grateful for the messages, phone calls, and hugs I got yesterday as I ran my 9th marathon. My 10th will be as I cross the finish line of Ironman Madison next September. The support that I have received is amazing and I look forward to entering a new chapter of my endurance life in January. For now, I sit in defrost mode thankful for my friends and family and most especially the blessing I have to run.