Philly Marathon: The Impossible

3:26:36. 15 minute PR. 26.5 miles of smiles.

Headed into Sunday, I didn’t want to obsess over a certain number or qualifying times. I had an idea of what a good day could look like. I had a moonshot goal that I floated through my mind in daydreams and on long runs. I had a pace I practiced in my long runs and workouts. Based on a recent best half officially at 1:40:XX, my moonshot wasn’t realistic. But it wouldn’t be a moonshot if it was.

My wildest dream was 3:25. Something even Joe said, hmmm, probably not. Minus a porty a potty stop (1:23, longer than the mile 16 proposal at NYCM 😂) and I would have had it.

Gel 1
Gels – Thief of 1:23 of my time in Philly

Earlier this year I scrapped goal after goal, DNS’d race after race following a, seemingly, never ending slew of injuries. In hindsight, I had done everything wrong – I had the work ethic to chase down crazy goals but not the restraint or knowledge of how to do so. I was stubborn, overconfident and greedy. Philly 2017 made me greedy.

Philly 2017 – 3:41

I ran Philly in 2017. I was proud of myself. I’d just started consistently* running a few months prior, but felt I could do more than 3:41 with a massive positive split. I jumped back into training 2 weeks later. Too much, too soon, and mostly too fast. I was convinced that I could do it all; I was convinced that my body was invincible.

*consistently, as in not just a few miles here and there to lose weight.



I broke my body down for the first few months of the year – from an IT Band injury to a hamstring strain that turned into a tear – everything hurt. I kept running on the torn hamstring and ultimately strained my quad and had unbearable pain in my hip. It was hard to sleep or stand on that leg. On my commute to work, I was limping. Eventually, I was forced to take a month off. It was hard. As much as I love seeing others succeed and accomplish their goals, I was sad to be unable to chase any of my own. It felt unfair. I worked hard, I put in so many hours.

I logged as many hours as I could cross training. I was a stickler for doing my PT exercises. I worked to fix the problem spots and learned how to keep my body strong.

First run back from injury in May

In May I was able to run 2 pain free miles, I was elated. But when I started a marathon plan in July, it proved to be too soon. I decided to spend the next 4-5 weeks running slow when I could; even stopping to let my body heal when I needed. To compensate I found the hottest parts of the day, knowing I could run slowly while reaping the benefits of my HR skyrocketing in the heat. I stayed dedicated to strength training, cross training and PT exercises.


Early fall, I decided to train until I felt ready but knew Philly would likely be my best option. I also didn’t tell anyone my plans, not even Joe knew until 2 weeks prior – I wanted to put my head down and work without distraction or pressure. The last few weeks I worked my ass off, logging 15 hours a week of various training. I threw everything I could at doing well.

The week before the race, I was excited but antsy. I raced 2 halfs during my training and wasn’t particular happy with my time, I almost started to doubt how I’d do. I focused on the workouts that left me feeling confident and on wanting to race strong. I spent a majority of the week anxiously checking the weather, hoping we wouldn’t get assaulted with 40 mph winds this time. Wind is the one element I’m weak against. I didn’t really think much about the actual race itself. I planned a few outfit choices, brought a variety of gels and decided what to wear and “eat” the night before.

The day before the race, I did a shakeout run to cheer on my friends running the half. I loved seeing my friends happy and accomplishing their goals. Afterwards we spent most of Saturday hanging out with friends and relaxing – some nerves started to creep in but I didn’t have much time to think about them. We had a quiet dinner and headed back to the hotel so I could get ready.


Getting ready consisted of perfecting my playlist, painting my nails and rolling out a bit of nagging calf tightness I had been having.

Sunday I woke up around 3 AM. After an hour laying in bed I got up to get ready. I spent a decent chunk of this time scrolling through cute animals on Instagram, and sipping my coffee. It’s a simple mindless activity but it was distracting, fun and cheerful.

Pre-race coffee is must. Also these pumpkin spice clif bars. In the past year, every single race I’ve done – I eat this beforehand. I buy several boxes of these to ensure I don’t run out.


The security line was fairly long to get into the start area and I had left a little late. At bag check there were more really long lines. With 5 minutes to go, I still hadn’t checked my bag. This is when the anxiety set in. I also had to pee. Thankfully I was able to check my bag, dart to my corral, climb over the barricades and into my corral before the gun went off.

It took about 5 miles to really settle in. Once my feet were no long numb I started to feel really good. I focused on all the times I’d see my friends, when I’d take a gel and most importantly being ridiculously grateful for each time one foot lands in front of the other.

At the 10k mark – I knew it was my day – I’d been waiting 364 days for this

At mile 15.5 the only pain I had started to seep in – my stomach twisted a bit in a familiar way. I focused on finding the next porta-potty and the second I spotted it was one of the happier moments of the day, I gunned it as fast as I could knowing I’d recover a bit during the stop. 1:23 later – I hopped back to it. This left me bit scared to take my next gel but since I was able to pee, I would be able to hydrate more and it would sit a little better. I still only managed to get one more gel down.

I was in a daze until mile 17.50; when I looked at my watch thought only 2.5 miles until it’s time to get to work. At this point I focused on catching up to the people who had passed by during my port a potty stop. I still felt amazing at this point.


When I got to the mile 20 turnaround I knew I’d be close to seeing my friends again. For once, no negative thoughts or doubt beating me up. Instead I thought about other people, people who’ve been inspiring, I thought about how I hoped my other friends running were doing well. I did a lot of math in my head as to what times were possible at this point. I only looked at my watch to countdown how long until I’d see my people again. I’d practiced this pace, I knew it by heart. At mile 20 the plan was to chip down as much as I could but I was feeling really great so I didn’t push a lot. I somewhat regret this, but I had such a great time just enjoying the race; an extra minute wasn’t worth it this time around.



Once I got to mile 24 I started to feel a little tired, but knew I’d see my friends any minute so I didn’t think too much of it. At mile 25, I got the best surprise ever and saw them again. I was starting to think maybe I had missed them or they got held up getting to that point. That was all the boost I needed, I made a pit stop to hug Joe and then it was time to head home.



I pushed the pace, I was still feeling remarkably good (probably too good) so when my watch hit 26, it was time to gun it. I still had half a mile left as I’m really bad at tangents but this was my cue to hit the accelerator. I looked down briefly as I hit the finisher chute, 6:45 pace, I’m going to come in under 3:27, I still have gas in the tank, gun it.

philly-marathon-2018-finish-lineI don’t remember finishing, I  paused my Garmin, and was so overly/oddly emotional that a volunteer hugged me (I think she thought I was upset). Before I grabbed a water or banana or stopped hyperventilating – I called my mom. I don’t even remember what I said or any of the conversation.

Looking down at my phone to see texts from friends the second I finished was incredible. I was so happy to know they were following me along.

Injury after injury, missed races, deferred goals, and sitting on the sidelines – I came with a renewed perspective.

I was the happiest person you could find out on that course. In every picture from the race, you’ll either see a goofy smile, a heart sign or fist pumping. I let the crowds boost me forward, cheering with them, ripped through downhills and didn’t think about the hills – even the one at mile 20.

Made a friend at mile 14. Wore this smile for the entire race. It was a good day.

The best recap of the race was the text I sent Joe after finishing: “I’m so happy. I ran strong and felt great except for the few miles I had to poop. So I stopped to poop”.

What would I do differently/What could I do better? The low hanging fruit would be my diet and time management. I’m going to aim to clean up my eating 8 weeks prior to my next race and look for time in the day to squeeze in a quick gym session where I can – strength is so important! In the beginning I may have modified too many workouts because I wasn’t sure I could do it, next time I want to just give it a try.

What worked? High volume, longer long runs with workouts in them, 20% max at a hard effort, focusing on speedier speedwork in the beginning then reigning it in to just below my moonshot goal pace, STRENGTH TRAINING to prevent injury. 60 miles per week seems to be a sweet spot, while going up to 70 was beneficial – it’s not realistic to hit over and over in a training cycle because of the time it takes. I had zero social life for 8 weeks – or much outside of work and training.

What’s next? I don’t think back to back to back to back marathons are the best idea for me, so I’m focusing on speed and shorter distances. It’s a break from high mileage and a literal change of pace. It’s also something that I’m really excited about trying.


I set a goal that I dreamed up, just out of reach enough to feel impossible but just within reach enough to push me to it. I worked hard, shut out the distractions that I could shut out and truly felt believed in myself for possibly the first time ever. It worked and I’m happy about it.

I’ll be back in the fall for Chicago, then if a 3:2X buffer is enough this year I’ll do Boston in the spring. Feels incredibly strange to say that, it wasn’t even on my radar as possible especially not 2 years ago when I was so out of shape I could barely hang on for a 3 mile jog.

For 364 days, I kept showing up.


3 thoughts on “Philly Marathon: The Impossible

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