Redemption in Philadelphia

Time continues to escape me. The holidays are here, 2012 is quickly coming to an end, and all of those promises that I made to myself to write more often have been broken (I’m hoping this new blog layout will reinvigorate my writing). This is somewhat unfortunate because I have had such an exciting few months where I’ve teetered on the edge of a breakdown in my doctor’s office after being told I couldn’t run on a tibial stress fracture to bouncing back stronger than ever.  That injury was a blessing in disguise and led me to shatter both my 13.1 and 26.2 goals.

I set my sights on the Philly Marathon back in the spring after an abysmal first marathon in March. I wanted (and needed) redemption. I had to run Philly and I had to run it well – for no one else but myself. I trained. And then I trained some more. The summer was brutally hot but I was determined. Mentally, I was approaching a dark place no runner ever wants to reside in. Running was becoming a chore; I was exhausted. Injury overcame me at my weakest point and I knew I had to take a deep breath, step back, and reassess. In late September I told myself that the races I had planned for the next two months (Ragnar, Mohawk Hudson half, and Philly) would be for fun. No pressure. Or so I thought.

I felt better than I ever had. I felt renewed – physically, mentally, emotionally. I ran Ragnar. A week later I ran my half with a pre-injury goal of sub-2:00 (my previous time was 2:01) still fresh in my mind. I decided that merely grazing the 2:00 time wasn’t enough. I reassessed midway through the race and knew I had more in me. How much exactly? 1:54:49.

And then there was Philadelphia. I wanted this marathon so bad. I knew I could eke out a 4:30 (hopefully) and so I switched corrals during the expo. Anything more than a 4:30 was a bonus. My longest run had only been 16 miles and training post-injury had gone well but I didn’t know what lurked beyond that. The uncertainty was unnerving but also exhilarating to throw caution to the wind and tell myself to just relax and have fun.

It’s been two weeks since Philly. Two weeks that I have let everyone know I ran a marathon, I trained for a marathon, and I ran my fastest marathon – and that I blew any previous goal I had set for myself out of the water. I have become THAT person. Short of wearing that medal everywhere I go, yes, everyone on the planet knows that I ran the Philly Marathon on November 18th.

In 4:15:23. A 45 minute PR in 8 months.

If you would’ve told me I would run a 4:15 this year I would’ve thought you were crazy. A 4:15 after several setbacks? Even crazier. But, this is what happens when you believe in what your body and mind are truly capable of and the results of that symbiotic relationship.

Philly couldn’t have been any more blissful for me. One of my closest, dearest friends from Long Island was with me and we had a blast that Friday night carrying on, laughing until our bellies hurt, and drinking beers (carbo loading, of course). Then there was Melissa, my Ragnar team captain who I’ve become friends with over the past year, who came down to visit family and also support me. She is one of the most encouraging people I know and while she wasn’t running, she planned on jumping in for a few miles at particular mile markers. Unfortunately, I completely missed her at all of our planned meet up points but knowing there was the possibility of seeing her on the course made me insanely excited. Needless to say I was ecstatic to see her at the finish line.

And then there was all of you. Whether we are friends in real life, keep in touch via Facebook, or are running buddies on Twitter, the support was overwhelming and heartwarming. This is where I draw all my strength, not from hill repeats and fartleks.

I channeled all of this support for 26.2 miles which led me to run negative splits (I had to make up for a porta potty stop, you know), never once hit the wall, and never once feel pain. The miles ticked by, almost effortlessly, and that’s when I just knew that November 18th was MY day.

I have thought long and hard about what to write in this post and originally, I wanted to detail how I spent those 26.2 miles, how important nutrition is (what worked for me, and at what points in the race), and how, despite having to stop at mile 6 to use the porta potty, I still managed to blow away my expectations. But, this race was on a whole other plane for me. Is it possible to have a runner’s high for 26.2 miles? Is it possible to feel something greater than that high, something that transcends all else, emotionally, mentally, physically? It is.

Something happened out there on the course (or maybe it was within me) that was far bigger than myself and any training I put into this race.  Maybe it was because I had an amazing support system and friends by my side. Maybe it was because I agreed and committed to fundraising money for Every Mother Counts. Maybe it was because I had a fire deep inside me to excel, beat the odds, and make this my best race yet. Or, just maybe, it was all of the above. I have never cried during a race before but when Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” came on my playlist at mile 25 I couldn’t help but tear up (thank you, Melissa). This was my moment – I was redefining possible.

I’ll leave you with a montage of a few pictures taken that day. Never underestimate your abilities.

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7 thoughts on “Redemption in Philadelphia

  1. Wow Kristin. Excellent. I am talking about both your race and your writing. I also love how you fit redefining possible in at the end. Congrats on a fantastic race and a for having a moment that has lasted so much longer than the 4 hours and 15 minutes it took to create it. I know the feeling. Philly was awesome!

  2. Wow just incredible! Congratulations on an amazing marathon time! I am curious to know more detail though like how you did food and drink ect during the race. And you say your longest run was only 16 miles? I freaked because my longest run was only 20 miles … hmm I need to know more about your training! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jessica! Dr.’s orders said no longer than a 16 miler. I was skeptical at first, thinking that I could at least squeak in an 18 miler but decided against it. I always carry a fuel belt – 2 10 oz. bottles (w/diluted Powerade/Gatorade since that’s what most races offer) and made sure to stop for water/Gatorade at nearly every stop. I alternate w/Honey Stinger waffles and GU (either Roctane or Chocolate Outrage because of the caffeine) approx. every 5 miles. This seems to work best for me although I will definitely experiment w/raw foods in my next training cycle to help prevent GI issues which I always seem to have despite testing various food/drink leading up to and during the race. E-mail me if you have any further questions – happy to answer!

  3. You legitimately just had me in tears. I am so encouraged and empowered by this. You are amazing!

    You wrote this beautifully. I felt all of your emotions.

    I can’t wait to run with you someday. Just cheering you on from afar is no longer good enough.

    Thanks for comment above about nutrition. I’m still trying to figure out what works for me.

    GREAT JOB!

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