This is harder than I expected. For something that took up only a few hours of total time there’s so much that I want to share. For my smaller posts, I generally just start typing and see where it takes me. For the big ones though, I’ll make a rough outline of all the points I want to hit and then when I’m sure I’ve covered everything, then I go back and do the actual writing. The rough outline for this post has been growing slowly for the past 4 days.
It’s no secret (because I keep yammering on about it every chance I get) that this race was a very big deal to me. Far and away my biggest to date. It was an experience that I will always carry with me, both for the accomplishments of the race that day, plus the accomplishments in total from the previous year that it represented for me when I crossed that finish line.
I guess the best place to start is at the beginning the day before the race at the expo. The Expo was really awesome. Huge and well run. Very crowded though. I met up with my running partner/old friend Rock (Her brother refers to me as her “running boyfriend”, which I love and is actually pretty accurate) and we headed down to pick up our race packets an check it all out. This was Rock’s first real expo, I had already gotten a sense of what I was in for during the Rock and Roll Half back in Sept. For those of you unfamiliar, imagine a super sized department store chock full of literally all things running. …And the packet pickup was in the back of the room, so you had to walk through the literally dozens of vendors lining the main aisle just to get your stuff. The packet pickup itself went smoothly, the bag they gave away is super sweet, but they gave me some static when it came time to pick up my shirt. I registered for a size XXL shirt, because at the time I registered for the race, that’s what I was wearing. I never imagined I’d be rocking a “L” on a regular basis now. So I fought pretty hard to get a smaller one and ultimately was rejected. The good news is that the Double X turns out to fit perfectly and now it’s instantly become one of my favorites. I have worn it at some point close to every day since the race. I feel like it makes me look athletic and a little like a badass. Sometimes things actually do take a surprising turn for the better.
Ok, so on to the day of. To make things easier, Rock crashed at our house overnight since we had to be up and rolling even before the sun was up. We were awake, dressed, and set to go before the crack of dawn, and left at 5am- on the way out the door we found a series of handmade signs from Jenn & Tessa telling us how awesome we are and how proud they were of both of us. Rock wanted to keep them all, with the exception of one that was taped to the drivers wheel of my car. A page that was covered in crayon scribbles from my favorite little 1 1/2 year old artist that said “I’m proud of my daddy. Love Tessa” seriously? You want to get me all emotional before I even leave to go TO the race? Needless to say its hanging at my desk so I can see it all the time.
Back to the race day. It was Super Cold. I want to say it was in the low 30’s when we left. Which is really frickin cold. Started shivering the second I walked out the door, even with all my layers of gear on and an old hoody to boot. Speaking of old hoodies, another example of how sometimes things do happen for a reason I guess. I have had one final bag of clothes in my car to donate (all of my old clothes have been thrown away, given away, or donated since they are on average 4 sizes too big now and comically large on me), but I never got around to getting rid of that last bag. Lo and behold, it was the bag that had a lot of my old go-to clothes. A few hoodies, an eagles jersey, and various other very well worn and used items. I’m so thankful that I realized this because it turns our that my old Phillies Hoody had one last run in it. 4XL, bought it in 08 after they won the World Series. And I rocked that enormous sweatshirt straight up until about one minute before we actually started running. There were charity workers collecting all the discarded clothing and distributing to the homeless, so I technically did still donate it and I hope that it serves its new owner as well as it did me. I did snap one last pic of me rocking the old Phils hoodie before I tossed it aside though.
So we drive down and park, get ourselves ready and walk the 3 blocks or so over to the art museum/ starting line area. We stopped at the art museum and checked out Rocky statue and then made our way to the blue corral, which was the one in the far back. Got settled in and started to mentally prepare to do this for real.
I almost lost Rock before we ran, or should I say ” I almost lost my insanely small bladder having friend Rock before we ran”, because as soon as we got settled into the corral she had to run back to the porta potties and pee again, no less than 15 min after we waited in a 20 min line for them the first time. Of course as soon as she disappears from sight is when we all start slowly moving up as the sections in front of us are released onto the course. I managed to get her by cell phone and we tracked each other back down. I was pretty sure with 10,000+ people there that I had lost her, though. So we finally get to the starting line about a half hour after the first gun went off, the MC did a little to pump up the crowd, and then boom, we’re off. I was lined up on the far right side, and there was a little bit of a backup/ line right away. I realized it was people lobbying to get into position to all throw the Mayor of Philadelphia a high five as they ran past him. So yeah, I High Fived Mayor Nutter. It was pretty awesome.
In addition to Rock, my buddy Steve was also running the half with a bunch of his family. I saw his wife Shawna (who another friend of mine, and is on her own weight loss/ exercise journey- see the link to her blog “Get it together mom” directly to the right in the “Friends of running my ass off” section) and another one of our mutual friends who is a repeat visitor to be mentioned on this blog, Danny B. I’m running along, stuck on my own head, all of a sudden wild cheers and high fives! I got to see Shawna and Danny B- Twice. Once at mile one and then again around 4 or 5 while on Chestnut. (Saw Shawna 3 times, actually because we caught up after I finished)- no Danny that time because he was off running with Steve for support.
So generally speaking, this race was amazing in the way of the Super supportive crowd-high that stretched out as far as you could see. I high fived everybody. Tons of kids, a lot of adults too. People out braving the cold just to cheer us on and encourage us. I loved it.
Speaking of the crowd, it was at its highest point for me when it came time to run down Chestnut Street. Now that was awesome. Literally the entire length was lined with people as far as you can see. Like we were in the Tour de France or something. So for roughly 30 blocks it was just a sea of people yelling, cheering, ringing the cowbells and holding up signs. Like I said, just like high fiving the mayor; it was pretty damn awesome and something I won’t ever forget. I might want to run this race again just so I can experience that again. It was that good.
It was after the frenzy of Center city things settled down and thinned out a little as we ran through university city and got into fairmount park. Coincidentally, it was also at that point where we ran into our more challenging part of the course in terms of hills. It was a surprisingly hilly course, surprising to me, anyway. I guess I went in with rose colored glasses and since the RnR was SO flat I figured that even though this one had some elevation changes, it was nothing terrible. I did not think the same thing as I was running up those hills, however. They were definitely enough to let you know they were there and plenty challenging. All in all, even with the surprise bastard hills I loved the run and the course. Reason being is because I am a guy who was born and raised in the Philly suburbs. I’m no “city boy” but I have spent my fair share of time in the city of brotherly love and I wouldn’t trade it for any other place. A lot of my best memories are linked to the city and this run actually took me on my personal little “Andy tour” -and it was almost chronological to boot. I ran past:
-The Troc (The Trocadero), a small concert venue that was like a second home to me. I have literally seen more shows there than I can count.
-Dinardo’s, a little crab Resturant that Jenn and I have been trying to go to for a decade now. Every time we try something comes up and messes up our plans. Still haven’t made it. But there it was, taunting me. I will eat there and win that battle. Eventually. Ha.
-Del Ave, or Deleware Avenue, the road that runs along the waterfront in Philly, this is also where all the nightclubs were located when I was in my 20’s, and my friends and I have spent a hell of a lot of time on that road as well.
-South Street, another concert venue (The TLA) I have spent WAY much time at, plus a ton of bars. It’s been one of my go-to hang out spots since my teenage years and into my twenties
-My Old Work Office, fast forward to recent times, and as I run down Chestnut I run right by Liberty One, the building my old work office was in. I hold mixed feelings about my time working in center city. Loved some of it, hated some too, but it was just a big Deja Vu moment as I was running past 16th/ 17th street.
-The Philly Zoo, we literally were just there last weekend and Tessa loves it so much, we became members of the Zoo. This is more a look into the recent times and future as don’t see my little girls animal obsession waning any time soon.
-The Please Touch Museum, another recent visit with Tess which she freaking LOVED. Another one of those places that I expect to see a lot more of as we go forward.
Overall, I was really pleased with myself in the run as well. I felt strong the whole way. I ran the entire distance, and walked through 3 water stations only. Even if I was running so slow I may as well had been walking on those hills. Even when I tweaked my knee at mile 11.5, I was able to push through and finish strong. Not sure what the deal is with my knee yet, my first outdoor run will be the test for me. If it gives me any pain or problems I’ll get it checked out immediately. But if the final mile and a half were any indication, something’s definitely up. It’s weak and hurts like a mother.
So even though I was running with people, we all ran different paces so I left Rock right around the one mile mark, Saw Bo right around mile 2 but that was only for a few seconds. He was running with family so he already had his dance card full, so to speak. So I ran basically the entire race solo. This was great, just based on this race and what it meant to me. My mind was racing (no pun intended) the entire time. I used a mental trick to keep my mind off of the running, and “dedicated miles” or thought about several special people each for a set amount of miles/ time to keep changing things up, keep moving and stay strong. All the people who have played a part in my life over the past year, specifically in the realm of running and/or weight loss. (Or at least a lot of them, anyway)
Mile 1: Bo, Shawna, Danny B, Jo, Clarke, Katie, Donna, Matty Migs, and Nicole of Running While Mommy
Mile 2&3:my sister Jennifer
Mile 4&5:my co-workers Maureen & Lauren
Mile 8&9:Uncle Mario
The Last 0.1: That was for me (felt a lot longer than point one, by the way) It was a time to push through and just think about how everything was coming to an end. Not going to lie, I was choking back tears as soon as I crossed that finish line.
Overall, I finished a much harder course with a faster time. New PR! I went from 2:23:46 to 2:17:03- shaved approx 6 1/2 min off my previous best, and this race was much more challenging.
After the race, I met up with Rock and we made our way back home. Once we got settled I took one of the longest hottest showers of my life.
So here I sit, knee swollen and my body generally very sore after this one, as opposed to feeling awesome after the RnR. …but it’s a good sore.
The knee gives me cause for concern and I am going this week to get it checked out, but all in all I’ve got no reason to complain. Life is good. Till you hear from me next week, have a great holiday and take it easy.