Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2,757 Words on my Philadelphia Marathon

Kari Makes an Ass of Herself in Philadelphia*

*Other working titles:
The City of Susanly Love
Kari Runs Like Country Mike
Gluten Free in Philadelphia Is Really Hard
Philadelphia Needs to Increase Funding for Insect Education


I hurt my leg on August 25 (outside). It started as what I thought was tendonitis on the outside of my right leg. I pushed through to run a half on August 29 and it was all downhill from there. The injury seemed to affect my entire lower right leg – one day my calf would ball up and hurt, the next day it was back to the tendon, and then my inner shin would hurt. It finally settled in my shin. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could barely go up or down stairs. I knew it wasn’t a stress fracture because it would improve throughout the day and would feel better after I pool ran. Plus, all doctors I saw (ART, chiro) said it wasn’t acting like a sfx.

I ran 4 times in September for a total of 25 miles.

I ran once in October for a total of 5 miles.

I couldn’t give up, though. I really, really wanted to run a fall marathon. I cannot describe how much I wanted to go to Philadelphia and was going to do whatever it took. I was angry, impatient, and jealous. I was also determined and stubborn. I did whatever I could to maintain any amount of fitness I could. I pool ran 5 or 6 times a week. Most of these workouts were an hour and 15 minutes, my record was an hour 45. I went to spinning classes once or twice a week to tax my heart and lungs for “tempo” work. Starting in October I added the elliptical 3 or 4 times a week (and decreased the pool running). November I started back to lifting and added twice weekly pilates. The entire time I was still doing hip strengthening exercises at home.

When I hit the 2 month mark of being injuries I started trying to run. I do not recommend this. Injuries are emotionally and mentally harder than they are physically. By this point I NEEDED to run. I couldn’t go in that pool anymore. I ran 3 miles on Nov. 4 and then 8 miles on Nov. 8. All felt surprisingly ok. There was awareness, but no pain and my leg would loosen up and feel better. I ran 39 November miles prior to the marathon. For those of us inclined to math I ran 69 miles in the12 weeks prior to Philly.

Race Weekend

I knew this could be disastrous. I was terrified of breaking my leg. I saw the ART doc the Thursday prior and he didn’t say I couldn’t run – but I knew he was not endorsing it. I just couldn’t not try. I knew I could drop out at the half if needed. I had run 9 miles the prior week, so I knew 13.1 could be achieved. This is also where the lady bug costume comes in to play. I’ve always wanted to run in costume, but had never run a marathon just for fun with no time goal. I wanted to wear the costume so I had a constant reminder that this was a FUN run – I was not going to set any PRs.

I arrived in Philly on Friday evening and met Susan (mom 2*4) at the train station (in a smashing black and white plaid wrap). We spent Friday at her house drinking and talking and watching Dateline. I slept 9 hours straight that night.

We went into the city about 11am to see the Comcast Center and walk to the expo. Since I had extremely low expectations regarding this marathon, I was in full tourist mode. I have been to Boston 5 times. I still have not walked the Freedom Trail, seen the Old North Church, been to the Sam Adams brewery, or done anything remotely educational. I rest. I sit in my hotel room in a cocoon of rest and friends. But not in Philly! We walked past the Love Statue, past City Hall.

We hit the expo next. I approached a random man in yellow because his bib was a 3 digit number and said, “you must be fast, you’re a 3 digit number”. As he turned around Susan goes, “Are you Esined?” It was!!! I had no clue. I also had no clue that Esined is Denise backward. I always thought it was one of those smart science or philosophical terms that I couldn’t pronounce and would never understand (like AreteQuest and when Spin was athababda – or whatever it was).

Pretz also met up with us because her parents were both running the half. I totally forgot she wasn’t a blond anymore and didn’t recognize her at first! She and Susan made meeting plans we met the parental units.

Susan and I then ate any free sample we could get our hands on and took any and all free pens. Mom also scored a Geico Gekko shirt. I saw Bart Yasso at the RW booth and couldn’t resist the opportunity to discuss the status of my Boston poster dreams.

We were leaving to find lunch just as I got a text from dbrunner that he was on his way to the expo. It was close to 1pm . I told Susan that I wanted mashed potatoes for lunch – gluten free and all that jazz. What then commenced was an hour long mission to find some restaurant that served potatoes not in French fry form. Dbrunner tried to meet up with us – but it was impossible. We were wandering the streets. We finally just went to the Continental and I had a salad. And 2 Triple Expresso Vodka Chocolate Milk Martinis! YUM!!! We left lunch and were able to meet up with Serendips before she hit the expo.

Back to being tourists. We hit Independence Hall (but missed out on tickets for the tour) the Liberty Bell (but didn’t go in to see it as the line was as long as the building), Benjamin Franklin’s grave, the Betsy Ross House, Old City and Society Hill. We must have walked 5-7 miles on Saturday. Dinner of mashed potatoes at Chops with a glass of wine. And bread. I couldn’t resist! Actually it was the butter I wanted, but I thought Mom would think I was weird if I just ate the butter. Home and in bed by 9:30.

The Race (finally – this is long already)

Did you know that running in costume kind of makes you an a$$face? I still wasn’t really owning my ladybug power prerace. Every time I felt someone looking at me questioningly I wanted to shout, “yeah – but I’m faster than you. On a good day. On two legs! Oh…you’re a 3 digit number. Not faster than you on any day.”

Once I found my corral (and skedaddle and kristyjill) many people were very complimentary. A few people told they’d like to run in costume one day. I also saw 2 spidermen and a boy in a green skirt (what started as a lost bet turned into a charity fund raiser). I told many people, “if I’m going to run sh!tty, I at least wanted to look good.”

Philly does the best job I’ve seen with a race start. They start each corral at different times. The green corral was released at 7:05am. I ran down Benjamin Franklin parkway and was relieved to feel no pain. Just normal start of the run stiffness. I wasn’t wearing a watch or a garmin – I didn’t even pack either one. I wanted to run 100% by feel. And I felt good. I knew I was around a 9 minute pace.

I saw Esined early on and ran around him and his friends for the first 5 miles. He was pacing his friends for a 3:50ish finish and I knew that was right around 9 minute miles. We ran down by the river back into the buildings by mile 4. We ran past Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (which I wouldn’t have known had Mom not taken me on the tour) and I pointed them out to the runners around me. They didn’t care.

Back to Chesnut Street. I started looking for Mom and Pretz and mnrnr as they were going to be around the 10k. By now we were back into the crowds and I was hearing tons of people yelling, “Go Ladybug!” “Nice outfit” “look at the bumblebee!” Huh? I swear…I was called a bumblebee about 10 times and butterfly at least 3. Insect education anyone?

I had settled in to running with a girl named Nicki from Jersey running her first marathon. She told me she enjoyed running with me and I should be the ladybug pacer. I told her that for every person like her who was enjoying the bug suit there were probably 10 more who would go home and say, “I ran by this stupid ladybug and it was so annoying. She had no control over those wings.”

I was still getting many shout outs and feeling really good. No pain, no niggles, I didn’t even feel out of breath. I was running easy-peasy. Then at mile 10, both of my hips began to hurt. Not painful, per se, but usual marathon pain. I started to wonder if it would only be a half day. Nicki and I were running near a man and his son for part of the first half. The dad, Stephen (Steven? Stephan? Stefan?) was pacing his son through the first 10 miles before he would let him fly for the second half. We started the mile 9 hill with Stephan, but we lost him on the way up. I had no idea where we were – but it was beautiful on top of that hill. There was also something historic up there. A monument of some sort, but I have no idea what it was.

Down the hill with hips still barking. We went past the zoo – my people as Nicki pointed out, then along the west side of the Schuykill River. Bea. U. Ti. Ful. Gorgeous. Not much fan support for miles 11 & 12, but it didn’t matter. I started to feel like I was slowing down a little.

Then it was decision time. Half or Full? My hips were still aching – but it hadn’t gotten any worse. My right shin was surprisingly pain free and my cardiovascular systems still felt great. I was still running easy-peasy, but had no clue about my time. I went through the half at 1:50-ish and knew I was on track for sub 4.

Now the course became really fun. I mean that. Not being sarcastic. The second half is out and back along the east side of the Schuykill. My Mile 15 was Mile 24 on the other side of the road. The people around me and I started to look for the leaders. Instead of being demoralizing – it was really inspiring! I was so thrilled to be cheering for them and I knew I had picked up my pace a step or two. The out and back was also a great because it gave me something to do. Once I saw the leaders I started looking for dbrunner, serendips, skedaddle, and kristyjill.

At mile 17 the path diverges and you have to run a weird out and back over a bridge and down a street. On my way out I saw the 3:40 pace group pass me, so I knew that I was not on pace to BQ (not surprising) but on my way in I saw the 3:50 group. This was the first time I had any real indication of how I was doing. I knew I was sub 3:50, but not sub 3:40. I was elated!!! Totally excited. I still felt really, really good. Like I could run all day. Hip pain yes, but nothing else.

At my mile 19ish and the back mile 21ish, I saw skedaddle – she looked AWESOME!!! Just flying – smooth, determined, and fluid. Shorty afterwards I saw serendips! She looked just as good – relaxed and speedy.

Then I saw her. THE OTHER LADY BUG!!! WTF??? I thought I had heard a few people cheering saying, “another lady bug”. But I didn’t think much of it. Then there she was – in the same exact outfit! I was demoralized. I was running the whole time thinking I was going to be first bug! I never win AG awards or anything so I was pumped at the thought of being first bug. Stupid other lady bug. I was pi$$ed.

Turn around at mile 20 and I was in the home stretch – only an hour left of running. I really wanted to pick it up, but held back. An hour is still a long time and lots of things can happen. I reined myself in. Around mile 21 I started running with a Canadian named Steve. He does not know Eamon. I asked. I told him Eamon is a lawyer and he told me he has never been sued. Good guy, this Steve!

With 4 miles to go (the rest is easy, I kept telling myself – you can do 4 miles in your f***ing sleep!) Steve and I started playing word games to pass the time. The other Steven I met earlier’s son also caught up to us at this point.

Then…there she was. Other lady bug. I said to Steven and the other kid “We are passing her. I am going to be first bug (Swear word!)! I flew (pun intended past her). Plus, she didn’t wear the wings. I was totally more committed.

But mile 25 I was still feeling AWESOME – hip pain, yes, but my energy levels, heart and lungs felt great! I tried to pick it up and finish strong. The crowds were back now and I had many fans – even if they didn’t know which bug I was. Having no garmin and seeming to miss every indicator, I had no idea exactly how much I had left. I just knew I was going to run strong until the end.

There’s SUSAN!!! Woo!!! A few blocks to go! I could hear the finish line announcers, but still couldn’t see it. Then, around the corner, there it was!!! I ran through that finish line with my arms spread and smiling!

The clock said 3:47 and I knew I was minimally 5 minutes faster due to the delayed start (chip time was 3:41:47). And FIRST BUG!!! Surprisingly…no cash awards for that category.

I was so happy. I had had SO MUCH FUN!

Susan and I walked to a bar for a cheesesteak. We walked in. No cheesesteak. Not this again!!! I said to Susan, “As much as I want to eat a cheesesteak, I am not going to drag you around a second day in a row looking for a specific food.” So we hopped in her car and drove out to the ‘burbs where I devoured my first cheesesteak – it hit the spot!

The Aftermath

Is just beginning. Things hurt. My hips, my back, my calves, my feet. They took a pounding on Sunday. I am heading to the ART guy in 45 minutes. I need ice. And drugs. And a large Russian named Helga.

Final thoughts

I will admit, though this so far has worked out, I am an idiot. This could have been total disaster. I could have been crying by the side of the road and be in a cast right now.

I am very lucky.While I stayed in shape and stayed determined, I will not lie and tell you I was positive and had a great attitude. I had a bad attitude. I was horrible and negative. I’m surprised I still have friends.

I finally have faith in my base fitness. I was expecting to run my personal worst on Sunday. It was my 12th marathon and my 8th fastest time. Only 7 minutes off of my PR.

I really don’t have any words of wisdom except for my usual. Have fun. I say it to all of you and I mean it. I had the best time on Sunday. I laughed, I cheered on others, I slapped five to numerous frat boys, little kids, and others. I basked in the beauty around me – the sun, the sky and the joy of running.


  1. Hi Kari, I'm a native Philly runner and I'm compiling an article of race reports from Sunday where I write for examiner (http://www.examiner.com/running-in-philadelphia/natalie-ditullio). I love your race recap. I wanted to link your post if that is ok with you. My email is tosha25italia at yahoo. Thanks!

  2. Kari - I love this RR. As usual, very funny! But also thought-provoking. I've never run a marathon with the intention of having fun. Based on your experience, I want to try that. Thanks!

  3. Great RR.

    You passed me somewhere in the early mile 20's.

    You were remarking to someone in the crowd that you couldn't believe that you were the "2nd ladybug". You sounded so cheerful, and upset, at the same time!

    Glad you caught the wingless one and finished 1st ladybug.

  4. Kari, WOW I loved reading your race report! It's amazing you were able to run such a great time considering you missed so much time with injuries. Its definitely a testament to having a solid running base! I didn't see any lady bugs along the course but I'm glad you came in first for that category! ;-)

  5. Great RR, Kari! Footloose told me your gun time, and I was impressed...but to read your chip time, after all you've been through, is amazing! Congratulations...and where can we find a photo of this ladybug costume?

    By the way, FL and I are taking you to the Sam tour in April. Word.

  6. Thanks for the recap.
    It was funny, descriptive, witty and honest.
    I value your truthfulness and you walking us down your thought processes every step of the way.
    Things are way different than our 1st marathon in Cols. in 2004.
    Rest up.
    Enjoy Thanksgiving with your Boo, family and/or friends.
    Go Bucks!!!

  7. KARI!!!!

    That was one of the best race reports ever! I am so proud of you!!!

    I wish I could have been there. It sounds like you had such a great time. I can't believe you ran a 3:41 after a) a total of 69 miles in the months prior to race day, b) your pre-race lunch of salad and 2 martinis, c) so many other crazy things.

    I admire your spirit and attitude with everything you do. I laughed when I read there was another girl wearing the exact same costume as you. What are the odds????

    If any story deserves to get published for others to read, this certainly does.

    Congrats to a talented, beautiful, funny and kind runner and friend! You are the best!

  8. I followed your blog over from RWOL and just want to say that this is one of the best race reports I have ever read! I cheered for you!!! Way to pull-off the unprepared marathon in STYLE. =D


  9. Thank you for all of your kind comments. I am so humbled that people actually took the time to read and then to comment.

    Now I have to figure out how to run outside again.