Anne the Accidental Marathoner

Pink PomPomsThe pink pompom emoticon  got a serious workout on the Up & Running Alumni forum last weekend as we tuned in to read a hotly-anticipated race report — Anne from Adelaide had ran her first marathon in Philadelphia.

Both Julia (who coached Anne for the race) and I had followed her progress via text updates and cheered like crazy dames when we got the message she’d crossed the line. Anne’s been such a dedicated runner and treasured member of the Up & Running community since our very first 5K Course in Spring 2011. And we were so chuffed when she was up for sharing her race report here on the blog. I get a huge lump in my throat every time I read her last paragraph. That’s what it’s all about, baby!

Take it away, Anne…

Welcome to Philly!

I was up at 5am after a poor sleep. Had my planned breakfast and out the door. My husband Michael drove me into the city where the traffic was hardly moving. Just as we managed to get to the expressway exit they closed it. I didn’t think I’d make it if I didn’t get out of the car. So I followed the lead of all the people in the surrounding cars and got out of the car and left everything I didn’t need to run with and walked down the exit.

Very quickly I was surrounded by runners… lots and lots of runners. I think there were close to 30,000 of them. I found my way to the orange zone. Queued for an age for the loo. Eavesdropped on conversations. Shivered wildly. Wondered if I was going to be far too hot in my long sleeves once I started running. Lots of music – theme from Rocky, naturally.

I wanted to try running with the pacer but it was hard to get close to him, but I could see him in the distance with balloons. A large number of runners who should have run the NY marathon were given places in the Philadelphia marathon, adding to the excitement.

A beautiful blue sky day. Such a great city to run through. It looked fabulous. The half marathon and marathon were run together, so the first half was really quite crowded. I gave up trying to run with the pacer mainly because I thought my pace was fine and it was taking all my concentration to try and stay with the pacer, in the distance, rather than enjoying the city and the extraordinary vocal multitude of supporters. It was hard to get past runners as well.

I walked through the drink stops when I got a drink. Took my gels as instructed by Coach Julia. Stayed on the pace to get me to my goal time. Did endless km / mile calculations in my head. I run in kilometres, and use my GPS in kilometres. The course was marked and timed in miles, and not every mile was marked. I had a wrist band that I got at the run expo that had a breakdown for each mile for my goal of 4:30. This stuff I love! My family had signed up for SMS text updates – they came in kilometres!

I knew I was going to have to stop to use the loo at some stage and decided to just before the end of the half marathon. I thought the half runners would be holding on and that there would be fewer facilities on the marathon leg given the smaller number of runners. And the queue wasn’t very long!

Listened endlessly to Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine” and a whole lot of bad 1980s dance music that I never usually run to. I felt good at the end of the half. Although I surprised myself with an audible groan when the course split for the half runners to head to the finish line and the marathoners to continue on. I was behind my goal time at this point by about the time I’d stopped at the loos.

Just past half way
Just past half way. Love that smile!

I saw Michael which was exciting. Shortly after I saw my favourite sign, and there were a lot of good signs. “Shut up legs” – the catch phrase of Jens Voight – the cyclist adored by so many including me. I slowed and had a quick laugh about Jens with the woman holding the sign.

By this stage the front runners were already heading home. They were coming down the hill I was heading up. It was such a privilege to see them up close, and distracted me for many kilometres. I’d still never run more than a half and wondered how long I’d feel good. Somewhere in the mid 20’s I started to feel less good, but still okay. I thought I’d see my family somewhere between 30 & 35km and I’d stop for a minute then. I couldn’t see them – five adults and four kids. They should have been leading up to the turnaround point, so I had two chances to look for them. I was quite disappointed not to see them, but hoped they had seen me – but I was fairly certain they weren’t there (and they weren’t, some problem with the train and they missed me by minutes – they brought Australian flags with them!). I was losing time by this point. Still running the hills though which made me so happy to be trained by Julia.

I stopped to stretch at two drink stations, one 8km from the finish and one about 4km from the finish. I had thought that once I got towards the end I would get another burst of energy. I won’t download my Garmin until I get home, but I don’t think that is the case. My muscles were really starting to hurt. I had also thought it would be an aerobic strain towards the end, but it was more the muscles. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The spectators at the end were great. It seemed so far to the finish line from the 26 mile marker!

I was so happy to cross the finish line, mostly so I could stop running. Then it seemed to hurt more to walk than it had to run! I got a heat blanket and then my lovely medal. Some water but couldn’t contemplate any food. Saw Michael. Had a little sit down. My final time 4:42 and some seconds, well outside the time I was aiming for, but still a PB!

It was still quite cold and I just wanted to get inside, so I walked unbelievable slowly to a point where I could be picked up by Michael.

So I am the accidental marathoner. It was never my dream to run a marathon. This is something that has come about in such small steps, and I am so grateful for it. I know if I had set the goal to run a marathon 18 months ago I would never have managed it. But I thought I’d give 5kms a go.

The eagle has landed
The eagle has landed

Are you taking on the mighty marathon in 2013 and want an expert coach by your side? We’re now offering private coaching with Julia with customised training plans and unlimited support – find out more here.