The 2015 Philadelphia Marathon day has finally arrived! The commitment, energy, time, and training are done. Now, it’s the REAL deal! Prior to two years ago, the thought of entering into a marathon was out of the question! In addition, reading about a soldier running 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to proclaim victory and drop dead; that is not very encouraging! But, since joining Philly Achilles, the idea of running in a marathon was inevitable!
I was pumped Sunday morning! The morning was crisp and chilly but NOT a drop in the sky. I wasn’t scared or intimidated by the length of the marathon. I knew in my mind I had trained hard and stuck to Hal Higdon’s marathon training novice 2 schedule. When Stacy, Abby, and I got out of the taxi, I could feel the energy of excitement in the air. Many others were walking in our direction. We were heading to the fountain area in front of the Art Musuem where we planned to meet up with the rest of the group. Eventually, around 6:30 AM or so, Tyrrell, Joe, David, and Jessica showed up. I was bouncing around, clapping my hands wanting to get the show on the road! I remember David and Joe saying that they hope that I had the same enthusiasm around mile 20. I returned a big smile in their direction.
Team Mark walked over to the startting line. Our team consisted of David, Tyrrell, Jessica, Abby and Stacy (Joe took on the role of supporting and cheering us!). The starting area was crowded. We moved slowly. Finally, after twenty minutes or so, the moment had arrived. The song, “Be Happy” was blarring all around us (not the kind of momentum song I really wanted to hear to get movin’.). We were OFF!
Tyrrell guided me from the start. We moved slowing. David and Jessica were in front clearing the way. Stacy and Abby guarded the right side and rear. What a team – a “HOT” team that is! I was feeling good and the energy all around us was amazing. People were cheering everywhere – felt like a rock star.
At about the two mile marker I saw my wife, Kay. I took off my pants, gave her a kiss, and continued on. Seeing her gave me an extra boost. The morning was perfect for a long run. I wore shorts with compression socks and a long sleeve Philly Achilles green tech shirt under another long sleeve shirt (a throw away shirt given to me by a friend, Rodney). I kept it on till we got past the half way mark.
I like to run with an entourage not just for the social aspect but equally important for safety reasons. It makes me feel safer while running. At about mile five or so, an older gentleman smoking a cigar just happened to walk out in the middle of the race just as we were running toward him. Luckily, my team was alert and took care of him before something bad could have taken place. That was a close call.
This is where my memory escapes me but eventyally Stacy and Abby took over the reign as my guide for a while. We eventually hit mile eleven where I had to PEE (in fact, I had to pee since mile two but waited to find a port-o-potty with little to no lines. I waited in line with four people in front of me. David had taken off to the trees. As he was coming back, Abby asked me if I wanted to do the same thing and I said yes! She steered me toward David and he took me to a tree. I felt SO much better now! Even Abby went out to the trees – good for her!
We moved on. I saw another runner wearing an Emmitt Smith Dallas jersey. I started to sing the Eagles chant song. He smiled. I introduced myself to him and the rest of my group. It was his first marathon. too! Hope he did well!
Jessica guided me from mile eleven to the halfway mark. As we approached the halfway mark, we could hear the crowd and louder music. This is the point where we separated and continued on for another thirteen miles – GULP! No stopping now!
At about the halfway mark, Ali jumped in to join us. She was the jolt of positive energy that we needed at that point. With her huge smile and enthusiastic attitude, we continued on! Jessica handed me over to Ali around mile fourteen.
As we were running toward Manayunk, I saw runners coming back. Rodney, Greg, and Cedric shouted out words of encouragement. Man were they moving’! Abby told to stay focused and not let the oncoming runners distract me. Fortunately, my tunnel vision keeps me on track!
I could tell we getting close to Manayunk. The crowds were cheering loudly. I saw Natalie, a fellow Philly Achilles guide, I remembered her named (inside joke)! At one point, before we hit the slight incline, the song, “Eye of the Tiger” came on. Oh, I so needed to hear that song. It was perfect at this point. My legs were beginning to stiffen. We hit the Manayunk hill and people were lined up – what an amazing boost of energy! Pat and Katie, fellow Philly Achilles peeps, were there to cheer us on. We got to the turn-around point and headed back to the finish line. I believe we had about four miles left.
Prior to hitting Manayunk, around mile eigthteen or nineteen, my legs were getting tired and stiff. I thought to myself, I have seven or so miles left to go. Oh boy, I’m in trouble. But, I kept on. No way in hell I was giving up.
The last three miles were tough. I had to slow down and walk for a little bit to try and stretch my legs out. My group was awesome – they kept shouting out positive words/phrases of encouragement. My mind kept wanting to go but my legs kept screaming to stop. At about mile 24 or so, David took over as my guide. We were getting close to the finish. The crowd noise coupled with the boomin’ music was intensifying! Chills were running through my body. Almost there – the reality of finishing my first marathon was about to come true.
Mile 26! Two-tenths left! As we approached the finish line, I was smiling from ear to ear filled with joy! David held my arm up just in time to give Mayor Nutter a high-five. MARK – YOU DID IT shouted out from my group of guides! Indeed, I finished proudly. I finished with a time of 5:09:43. In addition, I neither crossed that finish lline not having to seek medical assistance nor did I pee or crap in my pants. All was good and I was feeling like a CHAMP!
As we continued to walk, I heard my local guide and friend, Vicki, shout out my name. I turned toward her and raised my hands in the air like Rocky Balboa. I was thrilled to see her. Also, eventually, my amazing friend Kelvin and his wife, Kelly, shouted out words of praise.I didn’t see my Dad and Arloa cheering me on but they were there – they had pictures to prove it! Seeing and hearing friends before, during, and after the race brought such joy to me. I eventually found Kay and Abby’s family. I was so happy to see Kay waiting to hug me!
I can’t thank my team as well as all those other guides enough for their enthusiasm, support, dedication, and perseverence to help me reach a marathon victory! Abby, Ali, David, Jessica, Stacy, and Tyrrell – you guys absolutely ROCK!!!
I celebrated my victorious marathon run with family and friends at Max Brenner. What a way to treat myself – a beer, a bacon-cheeseburger, and a yummy chocolate cake!