Sassafras’s 2019 Philly Marathon Report

Sassafras and I both ran races in Philadelphia in November 2019. Since we only saw each other in passing at the expo, we decided to interview each other about our respective races. If you missed it, here is my race report as told to Sassy.

When did you decide to run the full at Philly?
I decided on Philly over a year beforehand. I was getting marathon FOMO (would that be MFOMO?) while watching the 2018 NYC Marathon on TV, combined with Facebook memories of my 2012 Indy Monumental Marathon. I looked up reviews for good November races, since that had served me well before. I kept this idea under wraps for a bit, and registered in February 2019 after getting a solid 10 miler under my belt.

What were your goals for the training cycle and for the race itself?
My goal for the training cycle was straight forward: regain my marathon fitness. I hadn’t successfully completed a marathon since 2016. Despite the challenges I faced – my dog dying, spraining my ankle, balancing everything – and having to scrap my planned mid-cycle half marathon, I would put this one in the “yes” column.

For the race itself, I did not have a time goal, not even a secret one. I hoped to stay with my friends as long as we could and/or until we got sick of each other, but primarily I just wanted to finish and to do it with a smile.

What were you thinking about race morning?
I woke up really excited to run. The weather forecast had looked dismal all weekend, and I was pumped to see less rain than predicted.

I had been pretty nervous about making it to the starting line, particularly when my lone 20 miler didn’t go well, but I was ready to go. Unfortunately, since it had rained overnight and my Kinvaras have a lot of ventilation, my socks were soaked by the time we started. One of my friends who raced the half on Saturday very nicely tried to go buy me new socks at the merch tent, but 1) they weren’t open yet and 2) when they finally acknowledged his persistence, he found out they didn’t have socks. But overall, I was hyped. There were five of us doing the marathon and I was feeling the love.

What was it like coming back to the marathon after a long hiatus?
After 3.5 years off full marathons and two DNFs in the interim, I felt a sense of excitement and accomplishment just making it this far. I was still nervous about the race, but ultimately knew I had it in me.

How was the weather? I know it was drastically different than what I faced Saturday.
Oh, man. The weather was a little bit of everything. It started off lightly misting, then switched to a steadier rain, then briefly cleared up before cycling back through rain, to freezing rain to snow.

What moments during the race stand out in your mind?
As I referenced earlier and as you know, during my only 20 mile training run, I got separated from my friends and became irrationally upset. [Angelica’s note: Hey, who hasn’t become a little irrational while running 20 miles?] I had had a solid 18 miler the week after that, though, so I was pretty sure I had worked through whatever mental hurdle I’d hit on the 20. During the race, I split from my friends when I stopped to use the portapotty. I was initially chill about being separated from them, and knew better than to try to make up time. If I find them, I find them, I thought. But then, as the miles clicked by and I was still by myself, I started getting more and more down about it. When I finally found my friend Annette at mile 11, I absolutely screamed her name and started sobbing in joy and relief! She was like, “Please, girl, pull it together.” She had to hug me to calm me down, even though neither one of us are huggers. Then I was fine! I just had to get my feels out early. And you know, when we got separated again in the late teens, I was good with it.

Meb Keflezighi, Bart Yasso and Des Linden were the celebrity runners at this race. As Annette and I approached the halfway mark, I saw Bart Yasso cheering on the sidelines. I realized I should look for the others and lo and behold, Meb was to our left! He high-fived us and then I said “Hey Meb! This totally sucks!” I mean, it did! It was raining pretty hard at that point. I didn’t think to take a selfie with him, but I hope our little encounter made him laugh.

I have to give it to the crowds in Philly. Even though the weather was miserable, they were out in droves. It was super uplifting to see all the fun themed cheer stations. They really went all out! They also had lot of fun extra snacks for runners. I took some pretzel sticks and a beer.

The race shirts had the map on the back. It seemed like an inordinately high number of people were wearing them. This really helped me! I would state at their backs to figure out how far we were from the turnaround. Since approximately miles 15-25 were an out-and-back, we also got lots of time to see the rest of the field. This helped as a way to pass the miles and search for my friends.

Overall, the course was lovely! I really liked how we got to go by so many historical locations and murals. I adored most of it, except when the precipitation turned wintry for the last 4 or so miles. At that point, I just wanted to be done.

What are you most proud of?
Really letting myself enjoy the process and finishing with a big grin on my face. It was my second-slowest marathon, but I’m so glad to have marathon number ten done! I didn’t stop beaming and showing off my medal for days.

What’s next?
I’m running two half marathons this spring. While I’m toying with the idea of a marathon in December 2020, I’m not there yet.

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