Philadelphia Marathon Recap

Training Cycle Recap

Very late in the spring I hired a coach. Very shortly after that I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon. My poor Musician finally broke down and agreed to the race. He knew first hand from drying my tears, how badly marathon training had gone for me in the past.  It wasn't my original intention. I didn't like the marathon distance. I had two very rough training cycles, struggled with the long runs and was injured by the time I got to the start line of both of them. After I finished Philly in 2015, I swore I would never run another one. I thought I hated the distance.

Coach Silver Fox gave me some pretty tough workouts but the hardest thing he asked of me was to slow down. I know the training methodology, I've used it with my athletes but I never applied it to myself.  I never wanted to. I liked running hard, all the time.  It seriously was THE HARDEST thing to run the easy paces he assigned.  But I did it. I knew I had to be all in if I was going to pay for a coach to tell me what to do. I mean, I did have my moments of negotiating a different run or forewarning that I'm having some rough days and need to leave the emotions on the road but for the most part, I decided to just "trust the process".

As I began racing some of the fall races, I reaped the benefit of this training style.  I ran 2 of my best 5ks since 2015!  I didn't expect to see much difference when it came to the marathon. Boy, I was wrong but I digress.

Over the course of the summer (a very hot, humid NE summer) I found myself looking forward to my long runs. Coach Silver Fox progressed me slowly because my biggest issue, besides hating the distance, was never having a successful run over 14-15 miles.  I would stay at one distance for 3 weeks, have my step back week and progress to the next distance.  It worked really well for me. He also took me to 21 miles, which helped me mentally more than anything.  When I finished that run I knew I could complete the marathon distance a few weeks later.

The other big change I made this year was in my fueling. I've used Gu and Huma. Both were ok but not for the longer distances.  I talked with a couple of the awesome Sub30 ladies, and they both strongly suggested Tailwind. I had people say "Getting the fueling right is a game changer" Holy crap, they were 100% right. It took some trial and error. I knew the 100 calories of the gels wasn't enough for me. Using the recommendations on the bag of Tailwind, tips from different reviews and some trial and error, I determined that about 200 calories an hour of Tailwind works great for me.  That makes a VERY sticky sweet liquid. I would drink 100 calories before my LR and then I would take a tiny sip about every half mile. It works amazingly for me to have the constant influx of fuel vs the dump of 100 calories at once with the gels.

I had two big worries going into this race (besides all the normal race freakouts). We had a 2000+ mile road trip to Missouri (to see our son graduate basic training) and back to Philly, the week of the race. And the weather. November can be so fickle.  While we were in Missouri, the Northeast got hit with a Nor'easter that dumped 12+ inches on home.  At that point, I had no idea what to expect for race day.

We arrived in Philly 4 hours later than expected but after 22 hours in the car, I was still feeling really good.  I still wasn't really thinking about my race. If you read my post, Breathe, you can see why I was still keeping the lock on that box. On Saturday we went to the expo and then I raced back to the finish line of the 8k to cheer for some Fox Den/Sub30 friends.

Fox Den Dinner
Then that night we had a Fox Den dinner at a nice Italian restaurant downtown. Coach Silver Fox had an athlete who rocked the 8k that morning and had two us of running the marathon the next day and one of the local Foxes came into the city to eat with us.  BA Jersey Girl came in from about an hour away to cheer for me and be a Sherpa for whatever I may need (with glorious GF muffins in tow), so she joined us at dinner also.

Coach Silver Fox, IPA Runner and I 

I didn't spend much of taper thinking about my marathon. I was too focused on a deadline at work and getting to see my son. When we arrived in Philly, I had a chance to meet with Coach before the dinner.  We talked about the race. I had no time goal defined. We had agreed early on, the main goal of this one was to finish well, whatever that could mean.  My Musician and I had discussed this many, many times in the previous months as to what "finish well" could look like for me and what type of time I may be able to accomplish.

There was no true time goal but Coach and I both had the same time expectation based on training. I shouldn’t say he had that expectation, he felt I could do that time but didn’t want me to feel any pressure. Time was not the main goal of this one. 

Flat Kirsten 

I was chatting with my Fast Bitch's group on Saturday night. Prof Badass asked what my goal was.  

This is what I sent them: 

A goal: Finish well (that's a very fluid goal. Mostly in my heart it means that when I cross that finish line I am more or less looking forward to the next race. I really want to fall in love with the marathon after this cycle has been so great.)

B goal: is to finish even just slightly faster than my PR which is 4:59 or something like that.
C goal: is to finish around 4:45

It was really cool to go back to the Fast B's group afterwards and read what I wrote.  

I woke up Sunday before my alarm went off at 4 am.  I couldn’t stop crying. It all hit me that morning. I was so excited. What the hell?? HOW am I excited about a marathon???  I kept thinking about Fast B friend and how much she loves this distance. I was thinking about Meb and how I read when he started he didn’t like the marathon either but kept at it. I have this one and Maine and figured if I didn’t love it by then, I was done. BUT with my training cycle I was already loving it. I just needed to write the last chapter. 

Race Recap

I always have a cup of oatmeal with a bit of maple syrup on it before long runs so I had packed that for my prerace breakfast. I could barely eat half of it because I was so nauseous. My Musician kept trying to calm me down. I was really restless and ready to head out, even though I still had a ton of time.  I got everything on but put all my outter layers, leg warmers for my arms, gloves, extra buffs, Tailwind, water bottles and empty hydraquiver bottles (I was wearing my hydraquiver filled with all the pictures) in my clear bag for security. Then we headed out to find the security lines.  My Musician and Tink walked me to security, made sure I got in without any issues and then went back to the hotel till it was closer to go time. 

He always walks me to my races

As I was walking in, I met up with a woman, it was her first marathon, she was really excited and nervous. Of course I filled her in on Sub30 and gave her a silicone band. I saw her in my corral but that was the last time I saw her. 

My coach also has a private FB group for his on-going athletes and for those he has written a targeted training plan for. IPA Runner and I are both in what we all call the Fox Den. We all keep each other accountable and we share our workouts and progress with each other.  IPA Runner and I talked at dinner about our goals and paces. Coach had given us both similar paces for the race so we decided to run together for as long as we could and agreed to run our own race if the other faltered.  IPA Runner has been a bit faster in his training runs so I knew I'd be holding on as long as I could. 

I finally found IPA Runner in the corral. I was SO happy to have someone to run with.  He was wearing a neon yellow hat since the temps were in the high 30’s, no wind, very thin cloud cover.  The weather was perfect for a marathon. Little did I know then that his hat would become a beacon for me.  

We lined up behind the 4:40 pacers. We both had a time of 4:45 ish in our heads and figured we keep them in sight.  Those pacers took off really fast. We didn't even try to keep up with them.  IPA Runner was doing manual laps on his watch and I was letting my garmin run. With just a couple miles, my watch was really off the paces, so I'm not sure what my splits really were.  

I was a bit worried about the pace but I knew if I was alone I wouldn't push it as much. I was really grateful to have someone pushing me but I also wasn't out of my comfort zone. 

We saw My Musician and Tink about half mile in and the rest of the Sub30 crowd was at the mile one mark.  I was still feeling good but then between mile 2-3 I really needed to stop. I really had to pee when we were still in the corral but by the time we got near a porta potty, it was our turn to go.  When we saw the first grouping of porta potties I knew I'd better stop.  The line was really long. I went to run behind them but all the guys were lined up back there.  That wasn't going to stop this country girl. There was a small clump of sparsely covered pines and I just jumped between them. IPA Runner got about a quarter mile ahead of me but I quickly caught up with him.  

We were still keeping a really good pace. I was comfortable at the pace so far. I kept thinking I’d really pay for it the second half but I wasn’t going to dwell on it. I concentrated hard on running the mile I was in.  

We made our first turn away from the Delaware River and headed back towards the city. Some idiot stopped in the MIDDLE of the race course to take a picture with who they were running with. IPA Runner and I had been looking down and ahead a bit watching our footing when I looked up just in time to shout to for him to look. I was pissed (and so was he) that someone just stopped in the middle of a friggen race to get a pic. Move to the side, make sure behind you is clear, i don’t know...but for crying out loud, realize you’re not alone on the course! (Ok, off soapbox)

We ran by a church that was handing out the silicon bands. I tried to grab one and missed. So I bent down and grabbed a neon green one as I ran by one on the ground. Then I saw a neon pink one and grabbed that one too. Probably not the wisest decision to bend over while running but I got them and added them to my fuel bottle. (the one I keep on my fuel bottle, is the one I gave away to the woman I had met)

Then we turned onto Chestnut St. This street is one you really have to be careful on. It's narrow, which condenses down all the runners into a tight pack and the road is not really well taken care of. IPA Runner and I kept shouting out hazards to each other so we didn't trip on the ankle breaking potholes.  Then we saw the big Sub30 group and My Musician and Tink had joined up with them.  Seeing them all what a big boost.  

Between mile 7-8, my GI freaked out on me.  I ran behind a tree, again. I was less than a 10th of a mile away from catching up to IPA Runner again, I could have shouted out his name, when my stomach decided it wasn't done freaking out on me. This was a much longer stop at a porta potty. I believe this was right around the mile 8 water stop.  

Panic and a bit of despair was squeezing my throat and pressing down on my chest.  I was confident I would not catch up with him again. The last time trying to catch up took a lot out of me.  I knew I had to run faster than we had been holding to catch up but I also knew I couldn't run TOO fast or it would take too much out of me. 

The hills were steeper than I remember but thankfully I live in hilly NY, so I run hills all the time. I kept moving up the hill and it I kept trying to see his neon hat.  When I got to the top, the course weaves and goes around a fountain, and I could see the runners ahead going by as I topped the hill. I thought I caught a glimpse of him more than a half mile away.  I felt that wave of defeat roll over me again. I actually slowed to a walk, arms hanging and on the verge of tears. Somehow my feet started running again and I picked up the pace, still determined to catch up. 

What goes up, must come down.  There was a glorious downhill.  I ran hard. I love downhills. I could see IPA Runner right up ahead. I couldn't stop grinning and I just ran next to him for a minute grinning, waiting for him to look over and see me. I don't even have the words to express how happy I was to be back with my teammate, who was also keeping me moving.  I was a bit exhausted right then. It took me THREE miles to catch up this time.  

I was fading. Somewhere between this point and mile 13 I started falling behind. IPA Runner yelled at me to keep up.  We had agreed from the start that we would run together as much as we could and would leave each other if needed. I was pretty sure this was going to be the point. When he yelled at me to keep up, I somehow was able to pull back beside him. 

As we ran through mile 12, the road had a deep camber to it. It was really hard to run on.  There weren't as many people in these miles. This was one of the tough miles. We hit the half marathon mark, I hit the lap button on my watch and saw we'd run a 2:20 1st half.  We looked at each other and had a brief conversation about how the second half was not going to be as fast.  Mile 13 was a very long mile but near the end of it we some of the Sub30 cheer crowd. I was really disappointed to not see My Musician but I knew he was probably getting our hotel room packed and loaded into the car.  

There were a lot of runners coming into the finish line.  When I ran this race in 2015, that moment crushed me but this time I barely noticed them. I was blown away by how many people were lining the sides of the course. It was amazing and overwhelming. 

The miles from 14-19 are kind of a blur. This part is an out and back, the turn around is just after the mile 20 mark. The marathon in 2015 kept popping in my head about how horrible I felt at this point. I'd mentally do an evaluation of how I felt and then i'd tell my mind to shut up because even though the miles were dark right now, I felt way better than last time. 

Around maybe mile 15, Coach, Mrs IPA, Speedy New Englander and Relentless Runner met us and ran with us a bit. Coach and Mrs IPA were on bikes and went farther ahead to check in again. For the 4th time my GI track freaked out, again, and Speedy NE ran ahead to find an open porta potty. That was just the impression I wanted to make with the first time meeting Speedy NE. 

I then worked on slowly catching up with IPA Runner, one last time. I really didn't think I had it in me to catch up this time  Mentally I was really struggling. I could sense him struggling some too.  I drank some extra Tailwind. All I could do was just focus ahead of me.  There's a small area where the two sides split. This was the start of my darkest mile.  We were pretty quiet at this point. No more chatting or looking around at the city or other runners. We were all running business.  

As we got closer to the turn around I could feel IPA Runner fading more. I think the extra Tailwind helped me, even though I knew that meant I wouldn't have enough to carry to the last couple miles. I had begun to visual the turn around and how I was going to feel running the last 10k and the feelings of crossing that finish line. He fell a few step behind. I slowed a bit to try to keep with him. 

I had to make a decision. It was the hardest moment of my marathon. We train for 6 months for one race. I gave up weekends with my family. I have given up hours of sleep to get out and run early. My family sacrificed so much so I could get runs in, we modified vacations and summer gatherings. I knew I had to run my race. In a short race there's no way I could have or would have continued on. But for a marathon, I had to run the race I had in me that day. I yelled back to him. He said he was coming. I looked back and saw he was a bit farther back.  I knew he still had time for his PR and knew when we got out of Manayunk, Coach and crew would be there to offer support also. 

I get really fired up in short races because well, they are shorter and easier to leave it all out there. But when I hit that turn around, I felt a fire I'd never felt before. I hurt. I was very chaffed. I was tired. I wanted to stop. As I did the quick math, 10k left, I knew I had the chance to hit one of my (mostly) unspoken goals for this race.  I almost started crying right then because of the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm me. The energy in that part of the course is off the charts.  It helped fuel that fire. As I moved through the crowd and out of Manayunk, I was singing, out loud, with the music the residents were blaring.  I finally put my headphones on, turn the music up all the way and sang and danced the next couple of miles. I seriously thought the marathon had finally drove me to insanity because I couldn't stop grinning ear to ear.

Three songs came on that I clearly remember.  "Whatever It Takes" this one has been my running song for the last year.  "Rise" came on and was a huge motivation for me and then "High Hopes" came on at just the right time to give me a boost of energy when I was fading. I kept comparing the distance to the road that I run every single day.  When I hit 4 miles left, I couldn't help but grin even more. I could do this. In my mind, it was from the park to the flags and back. Easy peasy. I refused in that moment to think about the fact that this 4 miles was at the end of a marathon.

Suddenly there was Speedy New Englander and Coach Silver Fox running by my side.  Coach is not supposed to be running right now but he ran with us just long enough to check on my status.  I was so nauseous and Speedy NE said that's right where I should be. I was sure I'd throw up when I crossed that finish line.  He was streaming FB Live in our running group and as we approached a water station, he peeled off the course till I got through it. Those few seconds his back was to me were the most glorious because I stopped running and walked, maybe 10 steps at the most but mentally it gave me just a tiny break.  As soon as he started to run around, I started running again. There was no way I was going to let him or FB see me walking right then. I couldn't help but laugh though at how silly those few seconds were in my head.

I was really beginning to struggle. My body hurt. This cycle has taught me a lot about how I face the tough runs. I just keep looking ahead with a pinpoint focus on the road. I kept visualizing My Musician at the finish line and how wonderful it would feel to cross that finish line and meet my goal.

Speedy New Englander peeled off from the race before the last 1-1/2 miles or so.  My GI was screaming at me again but I knew there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.  The crowds were getting really thick again and I could not stop grinning.

When I got near the end I could hear BA Jersey Girl and My Musician screaming at me. I was so happy they were there.  I was blown away that I'd hit my goal. I just couldn't believe.

I've learned a lot of lessons since spring.
I can run the hard miles and not quit.
I can run the long distances without falling apart.
I can endure the long, lonely miles without music or company and enjoy them.
Most of all: I learned I can run a marathon and enjoy it.

Wait a minute, let me sit here for a moment. I just ran 26.2 miles and I crossed that finish line smiling. I just ran 26.2 miles and enjoyed it, even the hard miles. I just ran 26.2 miles and I'm looking forward, already, to the next cycle and marathon.

Without the unending support and love of My Musician, there's no way I could have trained for a marathon. Without a coach who is a good fit for what I need, I wouldn't have had a fun, challenging training cycle that got me injury-free to the start line. And without my teammate and friend, IPA Runner, to run the majority of the race with, I would have fallen way behind with my stops!

After a really great cycle, this truly was my victory lap. I didn't race this one, that will come later.

This was my victory lap.

Enjoying what has become my favorite city


  1. So. Dang. Proud. of you. Congratulations on a phenomenal race and training cycle. Loved your recap!

    1. Thank you so much <3. It means a lot to me. It really was an exciting day too!


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