Philadelphia Marathon! You Did What???

I clicked my iPhone as I approached the 10k split, "Dial Jason D" I commanded to Siri.  See, I knew that Jason and his lovely wife Dorrie were positioned just passed that point."Dialing Jason D" Siri replied! Jason had never received a phone call from a participant on course running a marathon before. He answered somewhat concerned. "Jason" I exclaimed. "I need to shed this long sleeve,  Can you grab it from me as I pass?" "Sure thing" he answered..  On pace, feeling great, I gave it to him...

6 days a week, 20 weeks of training.... and it all comes down to a single day!

I've done everything right. I've awoke every morning at 4 AM for my runs. I've hit my paces on my specific workout runs (Yasso 800's. speed work, intervals, etc) and completed all my long runs.

This is the discipline and determination I CAN control.

What I cannot control are the conditions on race day and and particular issues I may awake with or the weather that is among us!

The weather the day before the marathon was beautiful. Perfect in every way for the half marathoners running that morning! But a severe cold front was moving from the north that was threatening cold weather, winds and maybe even rain or snow.

That's not what I was hoping for!

As the days past the rain was no longer an issue but the wind was happening. Hey! headwinds happen but I was hoping for some tailwind too! Equal distribution, if you will!

It turns out that the prospect of of a tailwind on the back 6.2 was hopeful. I was hopeful.

My goal and training was for a 3:15. I honestly cannot even believe I am writing this. Up until just a few marathons ago, I was a 3:45 marathoner at best, But my times started to change for the better when I began to change the way trained.  Even still, I cant fathom a 3:15. It just seems so far out of my reach.

So we all know the typical three goal plan, which what comes up when the main goal doesn't look like it's going to happen. Mine were; 1. 3:15, 2. Sub 3:20 and 3, Just qualify for Boston (Sub 3:23)

I arrived in Lansdale PA, on Friday evening to home of friends Jason and Dorrie, whom were graciously puttig me up for the weekend. Lansdale is about 40 minutes outside of Philly and to my surprise Dorrie said they would be getting me to where I needed to be all weekend and they had everything under control. Once I arrived and parked my car. It never moved again, they are the most gracious hosts and best friends ever! Dinner and beers were on call for the evening!

The Race

We arrived in Philly, cold and windy at temps of about 33 degrees that felt like 29 with the wind chill.
We parked in a parking garage and I got myself organized. UCAN, Phone, Headphones, Handheld. Bib... got it.. ready to roll!

We had heard that security was tightening up and had made participants of the half marathon the day before dump any water or any other liquid that was not in a factory sealed bottle and were not allowing more than a liter through. That's crazy! So I had my UCAN powder already in two bottles and I had a sealed 1 liter bottle of water. About two blocks from the garage I realized I didn't have the bottle of UCAN mix for pre race. We walked back to the car and got it. Oh man.. that could have been bad.

We made our way to the port-a-potties and I did the usual pre race stuff.

Waiting for the start is the worst when its freezing out.

I wasn't over dressed. Brooks tights with shorts over them. Two layers of short sleeve tech and a half zip pull over. I had my OBRC beanie and some medium weight gloves. I new that a few miles in I would warm up.

I talked with Heather, my running partner on the phone a few minutes before the race and she offered some last minute inspiration. I went back to the port-a-john for one last draining and then said goodbye to Jason and Dorrie.

I made my way into the Maroon Corral. This was the first corral behind the elites. I thought they would let the elites go first and then release us about two minutes after but they released us with them. I had barely made it up to the 3:15 pacing group before the race started.

Bill Rogers, 4 time Boston marathon winner sent us of with a blow of the horn after "Runner's Set.." from the RD of the Philadelphia Marathon

20 weeks of training comes down to the next few hours and with more than 12,000 runners in the corrals.... we were off!

I decided to go out with the 3:15 pacing group and quickly realized that the lead pacer was running too fast for a 3:15 marathon. I had taken the last two days off and my legs were fresh. So while I felt good and the pace seemed fine... it's treading on dangerous ground. Running just 10 seconds faster per mile than goal pace can have very negative drawbacks later in the race, like hitting "the wall". That would not be good... for anyone!

Mile one ended up being a fine warm up pace but mile 2, this guy had me at a 6:52 pace! This was way too fast. I only need to be at a 7:27 for a 3:15. I decided to drop back a little but still wanted to keep them in site! By mile 5 I was a 7:16 overall pace.. I did not need to be right with them at this point anymore as they were definitely going to fast.

It was around mile 5 I was starting to get warm. I would normally not even think about taking off any layers but I knew Jason and Dorrie were just past the 10k split. I thought if I could get this half zip off I would be a little cooler as I progressed into the race.

I clicked my iPhone as I approached the 10k split, "Dial Jason D" I commanded to Siri.  See, I knew that Jason and his lovely wife Dorrie were positioned just passed that point."Dialing Jason D" Siri replied! Jason had never received a phone call from a participant on course running a marathon before. He answered somewhat concerned. "Jason" I exclaimed. "I need to shed this long sleeve,  Can you grab it from me as I pass?" "Sure thing" he answered..  On pace, feeling great, I gave it to him.

Yes!! Much cooler, more free! I feel great!!

Looking at my paces they look inconsistent for each mile, but as I look back... There were hills. I always slowed my pace up the hills.. motoring up hills trying to keep on pace is not a good idea and a great way to fatigue out your quads.. So I slowed.

Mile 7    7:16 Pace
Mile 8    7:33 Pace (Hill)
Mile 9    7:06 Pace
Mile 10  7:33 Pace (Hill)

The hills were rolling and at some points long a gradual. Taxing on my legs. Slowing helped to conserve the energy needed to go on still holding on to that 3:15. Still on Pace.

At the expo I came across a product being sold called "Race Dot's", Magnetic bib holders to use as an alternative to safety pins. I hate safety pins and for as long as I can remember I've always used a SpiBelt that had bungee cords to hold my bib at waist level. I NEVER put my bib on my chest.

Well, the Race Dots seemed pretty cool. I bought a set and thought I would give them a try.

Around mile 10.5 for some reason I look down at my shirt... "Holy Shit"!! "Where is my bib??"

At first I thought maybe it blew off of me, the magnets did not hold the bib because of the wind?

Seconds later, I realized what I had done! I literally gave my bib to Jason, along with my half zip!
Several F bombs ensued! I'm doomed I thought. I'm going to get pulled off course! I'm running with no bib and the 13 mile split is fast approaching!! What am I going to do??

"I've got to call Jason!" I thought!

Siri, of course decide she no longer wanted to work. I tried and tried but she would not dial.
I pulled my phone out of my FlipBelt and instead of calling Jason first, I called my running partner!
Heather was tracking me and at this point I was not sure if I would even get my bib back and would literally fall off the radar. She would be worried.

She answered.

"Heather, I just fucked up, big time!!" I exclaimed.

While she totally understood what a big mistake it was, she calmed me down a bit and set my mind at ease. I know this is why I called her. She's good like that! The perfect partner!

We said goodbye and she wished me luck!

I called Jason and he answered. "Jason.. You have my bib!! I gave you my bib with my shirt! Where are you??"

Lucky for me he was at mile 14! This means I would not get my 13 mile split recorded but I would get my bib back!

So far this mishap was not good for my mental game.. it has had me so distracted and stresses that I had no idea what my pace had been or anything.

They called out my name as I approached and they threw the bib on me with those Race Dots and I was off. Except the bib was kind of off place on my shirt.. as I ran away from them I tried to fix it.. immediately, one of the magnets came off, leaving only one holding the bib on as it blew like crazy in the wind. Now I thought the wind would surely take this bib with it and it would be gone for good! I cannot win!

I worried over 2-3 miles with this bib, barely holding on with the one magnet and now it looked like the bib was slowly sliding out from it as the magnets seemed to be getting closer and closer to the end of the bib.

"Fuck it!" I thought! "I'll just hold it!"

And so for the first time ever in the history of a marathon... I'm most likely the only runner to ever hold his bib in his had for like 11 miles!

The good thing was, I no longer had to worry about this stupid bib any more. My focus, after what seemed to be 7 miles or so of "Bib Distraction", was now back on the race.

My pace had definitely slowed after mile 13. The bib situation had taken a mental toll on my race and was now thinking a 3:15 was probably unrealistic. I was 3 seconds off pace now running at a 7:30 overall average but I was also running in the high 7:30's to low 7:40's.. So I knew I was going to be loosing time as the race continued.

Plan B in full effect!

Sub 3:20 was now the "new goal"! If I could maintain an average pace of 7:35 or less I could quite possibly hit a sub 3:20 witch would still give me both a PR and a BQ for 2018... even though I have no plans for running Boston in 2018. But I still at least wanted to qualify!

Headwinds were getting heavy. Fall leaves blowing in the wind put a visual on the gusts that would just slow my pace down to a fighting crawl, it seemed like.  My body was starting to hurt. Legs were drained. I had taken my second UCAN dose at mile 13 but I never seemed to have got my second wind from it. I was just trudging along, desperately trying to keep my pace sub 8 minutes. By mile 18 I wasn't even sure a sub 3:20 was in cards. More like a 3:25 at best... as long as I didn't stop and walk.

...and I wanted too!

For a moment I thought "This is Erie Marathon all over again" I remember keeping my pace in that race until mile 19 and then hitting the wall. It was everything I could do just to keep a running pace going. My quads had blown out. I was hurting and I remember Heather had come running by me at mile 23, turning and yelling "Fight for it Shane, You have to fight for it!"

If she was here.. If she was by side right now.. she would tell me that again.

So I decided to fight for it!

At this point the course was an out and back from mile 14 to 26, with the turn around at mile 20 on Kelly Drive, an open, long, winding and hilly road that runs along the Schuylkill River and into the neighborhood of Manayunk. In some parts I would get excruciating headwinds and at other points the tailwind was a gift to be treasured! However it was somewhat disheartening to see the Mile 24 flag on the opposite side of the road when I was only at mile 16. I would be a very hard push of 8 miles before I would even reach that point.

And so I pressed on as I watched the elites come running by. A pack Kenyans leading the way.. and shortly after I could see where some had fallen back. Still more strong runners were a mile or two behind them. I could see the suffering on some of their faces. This was not an easy marathon course and with the weather conditions, not easy to run it, no matter what pace one ran.

But it was not raining so.. we all had that to be thankful for!

At mile 18 all I wanted to do was get to mile 20.. get to the turn-around. I wanted to see the people where I was.. the runners behind me, not the ones in front of me. I needed a shift in my mental game!

Finally! Mile 20!

A mere 10k to the finish! Ha!! That's a long way and a different 6.2 at the end than from the first for sure! But this is where Heather's "Fight for it, Shane!" stays at the forefront of my mind! Keep pushing. Embrace the pain and keeping moving! Don't stop!

Now was the time if there ever was to just live in each mile. Just get to the next one. That's all I have to do. Do not waiver.

When I crossed mile 20 I was at an 8:12 pace. headwinds had slowed me down considerably but as I turned, the wind was now at my back. I picked it up and got down to a 7:41 for mile 21 and then a 7:47 at mile 22.. even with the wind at my back though, there was no denying that I was fatigued and struggling.. I was getting slower with every mile... Mile 23, a 7:53 pace and now creeping into the 8's on mile 24.

But as I crossed mile 24 they had the clock up and it read 3:03:??. I thought okay.. if I can maintain a 7:30 pace for the next two miles.. that's 15 minutes.. plus the 3 already passed, I could pull off a 3:18 marathon.. This just may be doable!

"Fight For It, Shane"!!

If there was ever a time to dig deep and embrace the pain.. it was now!

As I crossed the mile 25 flag I had managed to eek out a 7:38... not where I needed to be but an improvement as my perceived effort was feeling a lot faster.. this was a struggle to get to..

"Fight For It, Shane"!!

The clock at mile 25 read 3:11:00 on the dot! 9 Minutes, I've got 9 minutes!! I can do this!!

I picked it up and got down to a 7:28 pace for the last mile and then for the last tenth was at a 7:18 pace. it was all I could do and as I came across the finish line the clock read 3:20:06...

I thought I had missed it!

Immediately upon crossing the finish line there was a police jeep on the side of the road and I went to it and leaned over... "I'm going to throw up" I thought! I dry heaved a couple times, shocked that no fluid came out. An officer came right over and another one brought a wheel chair and instructed me to sit down in it.

I did!

I raised my hands and arms over my head for a minute or two, talking with the officers. When I felt better I let them know and headed off to get my medal and make my out of the finisher's chute!

I got some water and the first thing I did was call Heather! She answered. "You did GREAT! 3:19:38!!" "No... 3:20" I said before remembering that the clock was gun time, not chip time!

Awesome!! Holy Crap.. I cannot believe it!

That was so hard! Never have I fully embraced the pain like I had just done.. Never had I made such an insane mistake as giving my race bib away... never I had I held a bib in my hand, running a marathon and now the taste of victory (not the original plan, but getting my marathon still, down in the teens) never tasted so sweet!

Approaching the Finish Line!


About to be finished!

I finally found Jason and Dorrie and we went back to the car and drove home. I had a hot bath followed by a hot shower and spent the rest of the day celebrating!!

Not entirely, but I had achieved what I had set out to do!!


  1. Incredible. Kudos for keeping the focus despite all the distractions about the bib. Glad you at least realized it to get an official time.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Yeti 100! Our first 100 Miler

How I Got to the Marine Corps. Marathon.

Dam Yeti 50 Miler!