After a whirlwind three months of training, the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon has finally come and gone. Our journey started as a fun way to spend more time with co-workers and together outdoors during the pretty weather while doing something we loved. Jon and I took advantage of the chance to explore the area all around us by running our long weekend training runs in a new location every week. We were able to see the Radnor Trail, two different beach trails, Washington Crossing State Park, Fairmount Park in Philly (where a portion of our race was), Ridley Creek State Park, Valley Forge National Park, and the Schuykill River Trail north of Philly. We put a lot of miles on the car as well as our shoes. It was a fantastic training experience with highs and lows that made for several months of adventurous spontaneity. Like all good things training must come to an end and the race must be run, so last Friday afternoon we took the train to the Philly convention center to pick up our bibs.
The expo was gargantuan and full of people. It was a runner’s dream to see all the best brands under one roof giving out samples. I dragged poor Jon all over the place going from one booth to the next acting like a fourth grader. I was so excited to show him certain brands I liked and products I had already purchased. We also ran across quite a few “dream” products that I not so secretly asked to be added to my Christmas list. Poor guy. After the expo it was just a waiting game until race day on Sunday.
Side note: I still think it’s really weird that races are run on Sundays here. It makes for a really short recovery time before heading back to work on Monday.
Sunday morning we caught the 6:50 am train into the city where we met Jon’s mom and then walked towards the Art Museum. The streets were already closed and people were everywhere. This was by far the largest race either of us had ever run and it was intimidating to see so many runners. (I always wonder if other people feel the same in those type of situations)
We found the start line and our corral just as the first group of pros started. Way back in corral 17 we still had at least 30 minutes before we were able to begin so there was plenty of time to visit with friends and take a few selfies. All of a sudden we were in front of the start line and the count down began. Once the horn blew, utter chaos erupted all around us.
We started off way too quickly, letting adrenaline and the thrill of weaving between people take over. I felt so fast passing so many people who were hardly moving. Of course they were all much smarter than me by exercising their patience and saving their energy. I immediately regretted my decision to attempt to get ahead and already had a stitch in my side by mile one.
It took me a long time to get my breathing regulated again and I paid for it in energy level. I slowed down significantly and started the negative mental spiral. Luckily this was a Rock and Roll race so every mile and a half (give or take) there was a tent with a band! I loved rounding a corner and hearing another band approaching. It was fantastic for morale and entertainment along the course.
The terrain was mostly flat and the surface was entirely asphalt. We ran down the city streets of Philadelphia where traffic normally zooms past. It was an eerie and thrilling feeling to run down major roads knowing how busy they usually are.
Somewhere between mile 3 and 4 Jon and I cordially separated so he could run his pace. Fast forward about 11 miles and we somehow managed to find each other right in time for mile 12. I have never been so happy or relieved to see that man in my life. We were both struggling thanks to the humidity, crowded conditions, and having been running for a double digit amount of miles so having him next to me was the best feeling in the world. All I wanted to do was walk but before I could slow down enough to do so, Jon grabbed my hand and we started up the final hill. The race ended in a slight climb and a tunnel of spectators. It brought tears to my eyes to see so many people cheering for strangers and helping us cross the finish line. We crossed the finish line together at two hours and eighteen minutes.
After we finished, we were handed our medals, water, and more snacks than we could carry. We found our meeting spot and dug into our food while waiting to meet up with Mimi. It was so encouraging to have friends and family there to share this experience with. We had custom signs made for us (thanks Mimi!) and friends to hug along the way.
As time progresses away from the finish line, I become more proud of our accomplishment. There are a lot of people who can run 13.1 miles but not many that can say they did the entire experience with their spouse. Jon and I started and ended this entire experience together while becoming stronger physically and emotionally as a team. We depended on each other for motivation, support, and entertainment through this entire journey. We made new friends, got to know co-workers on a more personal level, and grew closer as a couple. For us, this was not just a half marathon but a growing experience that has made us better people.
Every race teaches you something about yourself and this one was no exception. I am so thankful for all of the amazing support we received over the last few days and will never forget it. Now I am ready for some rest time and the opportunity to work towards a new goal.