Seebo's Run

A running commentary on my training and whatever else emerges from that.

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phila Marathon

Got a comment from Quinto Sol the other day. I lost touch with his blog (and his real name, sorry) and I see he is still blogging, albeit occasionally. In reconnecting I got to see his most excellent writeup on running the NYC Marathon. Apart from a good performance, the part I enjoyed about his writeup was that it created suspense in reading mile after mile go well and not knowing whether this would last to the finish line. This is much like real life, where most of us have had the experience of a marathon going swimmingly, with mile splits getting nailed according to plan, until things fall apart at the end. Or not.

I thought of that today. Last night I got a call from Ben, who's a friend of Deirdre's, on behalf of Ben's friend Chris, who was in town from Toronto to run todays Philly Marathon. I had spread the word that I'd be jumping in the marathon for my long run, and would be happy to provide pacing services. Chris was looking for, and had the chops to break 3:15 and qualify for Boston, and the question was whether I'd be willing to pace him. So after a little back and forth I agreed to meet Chris at the mile 8 marker, just before the Fairmount Park hills began, and run the last 18.2 with him.

So I pulled myself out of bed and out into the cold morning. Things warmed up a bit as the sun came out and it was near perfect marathon conditions. The meetup went fine and there I was, fresh at 8 miles and into the thick of a marathon. 3:15 is about a 7:30 pace, and we were nailing these right through Fairmount Park, back onto MLK, around the Art Museum and up Kelly Drive to Manayunk. By mile 19 Chris had a few seconds in the bank towards his goal time. I felt great - my legs feeling strong and my head over the initial nervousness of whether I'd be able to keep pace on what would be my longest run since the summer. I was chatting with folks I knew who either we passed or passed us, I was stopping at the Hash House Harriers beer stop, and totally getting energized from what proved to be the best local crowd support I've ever seen along Main Street. And here was Chris knocking off his miles like clockwork. Would it last?

20 miles is, of course, where the marathon starts. All the previous miles were but a warm up. Mile 20, at the end of a long gradual uphill, clocked in around 7:40 and we were still okay. Here the course turns back on itself and the uphill goes down, and mile 21 was back to 7:33. Mile 22 slowed a bit to 7:37. Chris, used to running kilometers in Canada, had various pacing bands on his wrist, to which he now referred and noted, with some alarm, that he no longer ahead had any time in the bank. I told him forget about the time and run on effort.

Mile 23 was in 7:43. With the 59 seconds wiggle room that Boston gives, a qualifying time was still in the cards. "I know you feel like shit," I asked, "but does anything hurt that shouldn't?" He responded with a grunt in the negative. Then now was the time to dig deep.

In response his head started cocking upwards and I'd yell at him to stay focused. I ran at pace and got ahead of him, sometimes he responded and sometimes not. Mile 24 was in 7:58 and I knew I was losing him. I figured if I was nice to him he'd know I'd given up, so I kept prodding him to pick it up again. But mile 25 was in 8:12 and mile 26 was in 8:45. Poor guy had a look of total glycogen depletion on his face. I veered off to avoid the finish line and Chris said his finishing time was 3:19 something.

When I met up with Chris again post-race, he saw things the same way I did. He got to mile 20 more or less on target and didn't have it today to close it. This means that there is nothing he could have done - he set himself a goal, gave himself the opportunity to reach it, and for whatever reason could not get there. There is much that is noble about that but also much that is frustrating. It takes months to train for a marathon and you only get one shot.

As for me, I had a great time. I already mentioned how great I felt. Running 18 miles with 10,000 or so running partners beats the hell out of running my long run solo. I got a new friend and got to see a good number of old friends along the way. Total was 18 marathon miles in 2:17:28 for a 7:38 pace. I felt like I could have run the whole thing. With a mile plus warmup to get to mile 8, total was 19 miles for the day. This puts me over 70 miles for the week for the first time since July. Thats a big milestone (sic) for me.


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