My one and only marathon of the year and first as a "local". I had a couple of goals for this race; 1) improve my marathon time and 2) if all is going well target a 3:15 finish.
I really didn't have too many doubts that I would be able to beat my best marathon time (3:37:48), but I definitely questioned my ability to get a 3:15 (7:27 pace). The day began a bit cool, but perfect temps for a run. There was a bit of a breeze, as I would discover later, but all in all a great day.
Things started out quite well. The miles flew by and I was hanging around in the 7:20-7:29 pace. The first 8ish miles of this race are awesome. It runs through downtown Philly including Old City, Midtown, and University City. The best part of the run is the long straight-away down Chestnut St; tons of spectators, lots to look at and an overall festive atmosphere.
The race continued into Fairmount Park and into the beginning of some rolling hills. The first decent hill just past the zoo (mile 10), hurt me a bit and it took me about 1/2 a mile to recover, before I settled back into rhythm. At this point, I was still running strong, feeling good and on track for 3:15.
I hit the halfway point at about 1:37:54 (3:15:48 finish time, nice!) At this point in the race, the runners thin out quite a bit as the half-marathoners turn for the finish. The race also, moves away from the city and away from the spectators towards Manayunk. As I ran through Fairmount Park's rolling hills, I began to feel my energy drain. I also felt (or so I thought) a bit of a headwind. I gutted out a couple more decent miles; 14-15 (7:24, 7:23). Then my body started complaining. Mile 16-7:38, 17-7:41, 18-7:59, 19-8:09...yikes! Hit the turn in Manayunk and much to my horror, this was where the real headwind was! Mile 20-8:08, 21-8:17, 22-8:29, 23-8:48...come on, just hang on...I chanted as I kept getting passed by other runners and my body resisted every step...mile 24-9:13, 25-9:16...sudden and nasty hamstring cramp that caught me by surprise. I stopped running and hobbled for a bit, before running again. As I approached the finish line; I saw the clock at 3:29 and was determined to cross the line under 3:30. I pushed as hard as I could and finished just under at 3:29:56, whew!
What had begun so well, just fizzled at the end. Again, I have nothing to blame it on except my nutrition. I did finish better than last year, but I feel as though I took a step backwards this year with my eating habits. I've used excuses to succumb to my cravings and the results speak for themselves.
What's next? Finishing a week totally off, then give training a new start. My next big race will be the Virginia Beach marathon in March, where I am determined to not let my poor nutritional practices be the cause of my shortcomings.