There was once a girl that had a huge goal of one day becoming a sub 3:30 marathoner! She knew it would take lots of hard work, dedication and determination & last Sunday Runday that girl’s dream came true!! Just 8 weeks ago I made the final decision to run a fall marathon! After running Boston Marathon in April; I told myself I’d take the fall off from the marathon! After pushing through wind, pouring rain & freezing cold temps in Boston it took my body some time to recover. As the months went by; I felt better and better with each run and continued increasing my mileage. I kept my weekly miles between 6 & 7 miles and stuck with a longer weekend run. I was itching to run another marathon but deep inside I knew I promised myself I’d take the fall off. So I continued running for pure joy; running shorter distance races and just enjoying every moment of it. In early October; shortly after my 38th Birthday & after running a comfortable paced half in 1:43 in humid temps – I did it; I made the commitment to run a fall full marathon!
I chose The Philadelphia Marathon! Only a 1 hour drive from where I live & a full that I’ve run two times before! I was feeling good & so excited to officially be training for my 15th marathon! I continued increasing my mileage; continued with my tempo runs etc. and just enjoyed every moment. On 10/15 I ran the Seaside Half in 1:44 just practicing pacing for the marathon. After I finished; my Dad said to me – “you looked like you were just running a comfortable race!” I felt amazing that day & it was just what I needed 6 weeks out from my 15th marathon!
Training continued; that next weekend I ran my 1st 20 mile of the training cycle at 8:06/mile pace.
2 weeks later; my 2nd 20 miler of the training cycle in extremely windy
conditions with an overall pace of 7:57/mile.
I was in shock; I have never hit sub 8:00/mile in a 20 mile run! It was officially taper time for me & this run was just what I needed going into it! For the next 2 weeks; I focused on allowing my body to recover! In the days leading up to the race; I focused on extra sleep, loading up on my carbs and all positive thoughts! The Friday before; hubby took the day off and went to the expo.
We picked up my race bib; I was so excited to be running Philly again!
They even had all the shirts displayed from previous years! I was so excited to see the race top displayed from the year that I ran it for the 1st time in my 2nd marathon in 2011′.
I packed a bunch of snacks with me for the trip, kept hydrating and made sure not too stay on my feet too long. After the expo; I grabbed lunch with hubby (more carbs) before heading home to rest & pack my race check in bag. After 10 hours of sleep; I spent Saturday resting with the exception of a shirt shake out run. I spent the day hydrating & carbing up for race day!
I went to sleep before 8:30pm and woke up at 3:55am on race day full of energy & soo ready to tackle my 15th marathon!! We arrived by 5:30am to Philly. We quickly found a lot to park that was just blocks from the start. It was chilly with temps around 33 degrees!
I wore a fleece zip up with a pair of fleece pants that I’d throw off prior to the race. I also had on “arm warmers” long socks that I cut to keep my arms warm.
Before the start I used the restroom, took my gel and drank water before getting in my corral. I gave hubby a kiss, then he said “you are going to do amazing!”
I was filled with so much excitement and had a good feeling! I was going into this race with no nervousness, no pre-race jitters with the mindset of – this is another long run, you’ve got this!
As I stood in my corral waiting for the race to start; I spotted fellow Tiux Ambassador & friend Christine! We had been trying to meet up all morning and with the crowds I wasn’t sure if I’d find her! I was so excited to see her! We lined up with the black corral & in minutes we were on our way! The crowd was amazing! Christine and I were chatting while taking in the positive energy of the spectators as the miles just flew by! We ran through the city streets & rolling hills completely full of energy enjoying every moment! Christine and I ran side by side for the 1st 8-9 miles before losing one another in the crowd. At mile 13.1; I looked down at my watch seeing 1:46. I was feeling fantastic and thought to myself; if I can hold this pace – I’ll finish in 3:32 earning myself a PR and another BQ! In the back of my mind; I knew after all it is a marathon & anything could happen over the next 13.1 miles! I continued running; staying completely in tune with my body – fueling along the way and just enjoying every single step! Shortly after; I heard the announcers cheering on the winners coming through the finish! I then passed my good friend & running buddy Steph who recently finished Chicago & NYC Marathons! I looked down at my watch at mile 15 & immediately knew that my time was quicker than the 15 miles I did in training! With 11 + miles to go – I knew anything could change at any time! The energy of the crowd was truly amazing & I was powering through the miles! At mile 20, I spotted Janelle! I heard her yelling “Go Mer Go” as I ran by I smiled and waved at her!! Minutes later as I approached mile 21; I saw Elizabeth who yelled to me! As we ran passed one another; we high fived & I yelled good job girl! At that moment I heard someone yell “Go 3:30 group go!” I looked up and there was the 3:30 pace group right in front of me! At this moment; my emotions overcame me but I had to stay calm. “Did I really catch up to the 3:30 group?” I couldn’t believe it! I stayed calm as I ran left passing the 3:30 group staying in complete tune with how my body was feeling! I looked down at my watch and said to myself “Mer, just 4.2 miles left – you’ve got this – let’s do this!” The final 4 miles were filled with slight inclines but at that moment – I was running on pure determination! I felt strong and I was on a mission! With every mile; I was running stronger and stronger! I looked down at my watch & knew that there was a good chance that today – I’d become a 3:30 marathoner! I stayed calm & controlled just putting one foot in front of the other! At mile 24; I heard “Mer” it was Gabby! I had no idea she was running this race! We said hello & good job and I kept on running! I knew the finish line was near & I knew I had a big PR! I pushed through the hills, took in all the energy from the crowd and could hear the announcer at the finish line!
I knew I was getting near & there it was! The finish was in sight! I looked down at my watch & couldn’t believe what I saw! As i ran closer; my pace became quicker and quicker!
With a smile from ear to ear and tears in my eyes – I crossed the finish line in 3:27:27!! I was officially a sub 3:30 marathoner!! I was completely beside myself and as I write this; I am crying happy tears! I went into this race with absolutely no pressure on myself! I had no time goal in my head! My friend Haley asked me a few days prior “What is your goal?” My reply was “to beat my fastest Philly; which was 3:34:03 in 2011”. Deep down running a sub 3:30 marathon has been a long term goal of mine but I never in my life imagined it would happen today!! I crossed the finish in complete shock! I kept looking at my watch to make sure I wasn’t dreaming! At that moment; all the tough training runs, all the times I pushed through the tears, all the times I stood up when I fell were all worth it! This moment was truly magical! Within minutes I found my husband! I ran over to him and cried on his shoulder as he said to me “you are freaking amazing my love – I am so proud of you!”
I was freezing cold but at that moment nothing mattered – I felt a joy that I haven’t felt in years & I wanted to hold onto that feeling forever!
I turned on my phone that hubby had been holding while I ran and was so humbled by the number of texts, comments and messages from all of the kind souls that have supported me through it all!
I’ve had some terrible races, had several days I’ve thought about giving up on running; questioned if I was too old? Not the runner I once was! This girl just crushed a 6 1/2 year old personal best by 6:07 qualifying for Boston for the 6th time, while running my 1st ever marathon with negative splits & I can honestly say I am PROUD! I immediately called my parents to tell them the news! They had been tracking me the whole race & were soo proud! They said “you were flying!” They asked how I felt and I said “AMAZING!” I knew my sister; my angel was right beside me through the whole race! I felt stronger & stronger with each mile! I felt energized throughout the whole race & my legs just kept powering through quicker and quicker with each mile! After the race; I saw that Christine who I had started the race with finished in 3:39!!! I was soo happy for her!! She ran a huge PR & BQ! I texted her and told her where I was! I said “meet me by baggage; I want to give you a huge Congratulations hug!” We took some pics and chatted about this amazing race!
Such an incredible day for us both! We were both freezing so we hugged one another & she headed to go find her family and I found somewhere to quickly change into some warm clothes!
After I changed; I saw Gabby who i had seen at mile 24! I asked how she did & she told me 3:28! This girl just ran an 11 minute PR after just running a marathon weeks ago! I was soo happy for & proud of her! We took some pics together before going to grab something to eat!
Hubby and I found a little pub just blocks from the finish where we grabbed a bite to eat! After days of eating carbs – the 1st thing i wanted was chicken & a celebratory glass of wine of course!
After lunch; we took a walk around Philly through the Christmas Village!
There was so much positive energy in the air and I was on Cloud 9!
We then decided to go to Franklin Institute!
Hubby asked “are you ok to go?” I said “oh yes, I’m on such a huge runners high!” So we headed inside and spent the next few hours in the planetarium and exploring all the awesome things there are to see in the Franklin Institute.
We left Philly just before 5pm. All I could think as I left is how this would be a day that I would never forget!
Here I am 8 days later; still on Cloud 9 & I don’t think I’ll be coming down any time soon!
There will be tough days; there will be days that you want to quit, days when you question why you are doing this – keep showing up & keep putting in the work!! In the end it is all worth it! There is no feeling like accomplishing something that you once thought was impossible! Dream. Believe. Achieve.
Thank you as always for following my journey & thank you all for your constant support!