Well.. mission accomplished. I successfully completed the 26.2 miles before my 26th birthday, and it felt absolutely amazing.
I have never really set myself up with such a large goal, which took 2 years (with the planning and training) to reach. When I finally crossed that finish line on Sunday my whole body was overjoyed.
The race itself was such a wonderful experience. I beat my personal record for my half marathon time by an entire 5 minutes! I also crushed my marathon goal, which was four hours and thirty minutes by finishing in 4h 21m 54s! Here are my official finishing stats:
The part I could hardly believe was that I didn’t stop once during this marathon to walk. I ran the entire course from start to finish.Here I am between mile 26 and the finish line, ready to feel that victory as I crossed the finish line!
The first 20 miles went by pretty smoothly. In fact, I didn’t even start to feel any pain until about mile 17. At mile 20 I was starting to get worried about the dreaded ‘wall’ but it didn’t really hit me until mile 21 and a half. Throughout the race I had been so focused taking a GU at every 20 minute interval and I really believe that’s what made the difference. There were certainly several times where I wasn’t really wanting a GU, but I forced myself to take it anyway and I think that’s what enabled me to not give up at the end.
I know they say you really shouldn’t switch up your nutrition so close to race day, but I made the decision to switch to GU on Friday the 16th (so two days before race day) because I knew that I would not be able to eat an entire pack of Sports Jelly Beans every 20-30 minutes, but that I needed about 100 calories every 20 mins. I think I made the right call. I tested the GU out on Friday and although I didn’t particularly care for the extremely sweet taste, I knew I could power through it on race day.
That being said, at mile 22 I was feeling pretty exahusted. I called my friend Nick (who I ran the Philly half with a few months earlier) who was waiting at the finish line and asked him if he could come help me push through the last 4 miles because I was starting to struggle. He came running as fast as possible and we actually met up at around mile 23 and a half. He tried his best to offer words of encouragement but at that point I just needed someone to run with me because my mind was getting the best of me. I had seen a few runners fall at the sidelines and was worried my legs might give out. Despite his nice words of encouragement “You’ve got this, you can do it” I just had to keep asking him to remain quiet. In the last few miles hearing “you can do it” really should give you a boost but for some reason, I guess because I was beginning to doubt myself, I didn’t want to hear “you’ve got this” until I really had it for sure.
When Nick left me, just before mile 26, his words of encouragement at that point were much more appreciated. There was certainly a loud crowd of people rallying the runners on, but at that point all I could hear was his voice screaming “YOU’VE GOT THIS FABIENNE!” and it gave me that little boost I needed to sprint to the end and raise my hand up to give the Mayor of the city a huge high five. I also got to see my parents and Adam at mile 26 which helped me finish strong.
Along the course, I only saw one other person in a Team Challenge jersey, but it was still nice to have at least seen one! In those last 4 miles when I was really hurting (particularly in my legs and feet) I reminded myself of why I was running this race- for Adam and for all of those who suffer every day with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease and I just kept pushing. I saw one girl along the course whose shirt read “The pain you’re feeling right now is temporary, the glory you’ll feel one you’re done will last forever.” So, when my feet and legs started to hurt at mile 22 I kept reminding myself that this pain was temporary unlike the pain that people who deal with UC or Crohn’s Disease battle with daily.
Lots of runners had encouraging messages on their shirts, which were great to read, especially when I was struggling. In my next marathon (New York 2013) I will certainly write something funny or encouraging on my shirt to help others behind me.
I still can’t believe its all over! I am so happy that I decided to enter the Philadelphia lottery rather than just allow myself to wait until New York 2013. I feel so accomplished and proud to have achieved one of my life goals, and now I don’t even feel guilty about what I ate over Thanksgiving knowing I just ran 26.2 miles the Sunday before!