Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Sitting Out of Broad Street 2024

I am very sad to write this post. Today was hard, but this past week has been harder. I had emergency gallbladder surgery on Tuesday and sadly was sidelined for today's Broad Street Run. I'm less than a week post surgery and haven't been medically cleared to do anything more than walking. I have run through sinus infections and back flare-ups, but I can't run through surgery recovery. Honestly, just walking Benny is making me need a nap right now.

Meanwhile, I am so grateful to my mother. While still at the radiologist, I called my mom. Before I could even tell her how scared I was, I heard her talking to my dad and booking a flight. My mom got to the hospital in Philadelphia before I was even out of the ER and in a room. She got the first flight from Florida and even sat in a middle seat just to get to me.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

An open letter to the running community

I started running in 2016. Well, I don't know if you could really call what I do running. I do a run/walk combo ever since the beginning. It started with a couch to 5K app and by May 2017 I was running the Broad Street Run which is a 10 mile race through Philadelphia. I was hooked and the running community is part of the reason I was enjoying it so much.

Following the Broad Street Run I signed up for my first half marathon and I loved it. So I continued to sign up for more races around Philadelphia. When I finally decided that I wanted to try a full marathon I joined Team Determination to run through New York with the American Cancer Society. Then COVID happened and the world shut down. During the year of shutdown I continue to run and fundraise for the American Cancer Society but I also entered some contests on social media. This is when I won entry onto Team Ultra. An amazing group of runners sponsored by Michelob Ultra.

Team Ultra gave me a VIP experience for the 2021 New York City Marathon including transportation, hotel, early start time, and a lot more. I was so proud when I finished the 2021 marathon but I also told myself I didn't need to do it again.

That's when the FOMO happened. In 2022 I started to see people posting and I started to see more and more posts about Team Ultra and how much fun they were all having together. I missed being part of that group and the experiences that I had had in 2021. So in 2023 I started entering to join Team Ultra again and I was luckily selected.

The experience itself was absolutely amazing and I still love the community and the people but I don't think my body was designed for the abuse of a full marathon. My second marathon was much tougher than the first. If you've been reading my blog you will note that back in July I started physical therapy for my back and while I've been working with the physical therapist and doing all the stretches and feeling amazing I also was not ready to go back and do a full marathon.

I barely made it to the finish line. I'm not going to lie, I refuse to quit but I was in pain for at least the last 8 miles if not longer. I stopped at first aid tents, I got Biofreezem I kept walking on. Yes I said walking because there was no way I could start running again. When I finally crossed that finish line it was almost 8 hours but I did it. I stopped at one of the photographers at the end and I literally said to the I need to take a picture that shows how miserable I am so that if I ever go to sign up for another marathon I remember.

I was in pain, I could barely move anymore, but I still cross the finish line and I am extremely proud of that. I made it to the Team Ultra after party and they had a recovery station where a super sweet professional massage therapist/body stretcher helped stretch me out.

I want to thank everyone in the running community because even though I was much slower than everyone and even though I don't have the same body type as many of you, I was never made to feel like I didn't belong. That might be a little lie because there were a few times where I did feel like I wasn't welcome in the pictures but it wasn't any one person in particular and it was most likely just in my head from years and years of being the fat awkward kid.

I'm not giving up on running itself because it really is something I enjoy at smaller degrees. I will keep running Broad Street every year and I will keep signing up for 5Ks but I think my days of full marathons are in the past. I would rather do a shorter distance and end happy then do the longer distance and barely be able to move.

Now I also know, never say never. It's possible I will once again get FOMO and tell myself I can do it. However, for now I am saying half marathons and shorter only.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Back of the Pack Runners

I understand why races let the fast runners start first and slow runners in the back. Otherwise, the finish-line would bottleneck as those faster runners catch up and pass the slower runners. However, the experience is not the same for everyone.

My first year running the Broad Street Run, I was honest and said that I'd probably just make the time cutoff for the race and therefore I was put in the last starting group. I was still standing at the start line when the first group was reaching the finish line. By the time I started, bands and crowds along the course had already started packing up. At the finish line? they were out of pretzels, the ice cream was melted, and I had to take my own medal out of the box. 

Since the Broad Street Run allows you to put in your predicted finish and don't go by official times from pervious years, I have since been more relaxed with my estimated finish and start in a middle group instead of the last group. I purposely stand to the back of that group so I don't get trampled by those faster runners. When I reach the finish line, it's still crowded and I am able to truly enjoy the accomplishment. 

I saw this article in Runners World and I'm not really sure how I feel. While I 100% agree that the finish line and official supports should stay available for every runner (we all paid after all) I'm not sure how I feel about having the back of the pack runners start at the beginning. I'm not typically an attention grabber and I feel like being put in a special start group is just asking for that unwanted attention.

I'm not sure what the solution really is for this. I know that marathons can't just keep streets closed indefinitely for the slower participants but there's got to be some kind of solution that will allow everyone to have that same experience.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Continued Recovery and New Goals

Since my last post, I am happy to say the physical therapy has truly helped. It's been about six weeks since the pain began and two weeks since my first PT appointment and I'm back out running. I'm definitely taking it slower but I'm not giving up. 

My run and
cool-down walk.
Today, I ran/walked ten miles and then walked the last two miles to get home. I may have mis-judged the distance but I was feeling great for the first eight miles. As I started to slow down, I made excuses to stop and rest for a bit. First I stopped at the vet to grab Benny's prescription refill, then I stopped at Philly Runner to ask for a recommendation for a more cushioned sock. I am definitely going to feel this blister on the ball of my foot tomorrow. 

I left Philly Runner and went to restart my run when I realized I had ended it, not just pause. So knowing that I wasn't going to make the half marathon now, I decided to walk the final two miles. Could I have made it? Probably. Was I slightly short of the 13.1? Yes, but I also didn't take the final loop on Kelly Drive and went straight up the hill towards home.

This week, #TeamUltra challenged us to post our goals for the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. Well, My goal has changed since I first learned I made Team Ultra again. When I started training back in May, my goal was to PR. 

Unfortunately after waking up that day in July with immense sciatica pain, I started to doubt that would happen. It has been almost five years since my last flare up and I called my doctor crying in pain. Oh course, she immediately made recommendations to handle the pain while I gave my back time to heal.

I took some time off from running and started going to physical therapy again. On my very first visit I explained to Danny, the physical therapist, that I was registered for the NYC Marathon and that I am not a quitter. After I explained my current symptoms and my goal of running the marathon on November 5th, he just looked at me and said "I think it's doable." It helps that he told me he is also a runner so he understands. 

Of course, physical therapy only works when you do the homework. Stretching once a week in his office wasn't going to help my back recover. Within two weeks of starting his stretching routine I met up with my running club on Thursday night. I did a very slow two miles, but I did it. That weekend, I went out to Valley Forge and ran the loop.

I was already a slow runner and right now I'm going about two minutes more per mile, but I'm doing it. Today for that ten miles I was much, much, slower. I added about four minutes per mile. But I did it. 

So what's the point of this long post? It's to explain why my NYC Marathon goal has changed in the last few months. I'm no longer aiming for a PR. I'm aiming for a medal. I don't care how slow I go, but I will finish. I will cross that finish line in Central Park. I will meet up with my Team Ultra family for the after race celebration. I know that while they might have already been partying for a few hours at that point, they will still be partying. I know that when I walk (crawl?) in they will celebrate my finish. Because whether you are an Olympian or the last to cross that finish line, marathoners are a unique family. 

I know that if anyone actually reads this, they will think I'm crazy that my goal is just to get a medal, but it's really more than that. That medal represents everything else. It represents how far I've come from the fat kid that would make any excuse to get out of gym class. How far I've come from the girl that wouldn't walk around the lake at camp with Cathy, the lake director, who was a seasoned marathoner.

When I started running, it was more of a fast walk, and it was with the goal of losing weight. But as I lost weight, I gained so much more. I gained strength, both physical and mental. I gained a community of neighbors who held me accountable. They never get annoyed that they're all waiting for me at the end to head to dinner. Instead, when they pass me after turning around they cheer me on. When I get back to the meeting location, we all walk together to dinner. I gained an outlet for my anxiety, sort of. I still avoid some running trails after incidents not involving myself were on the news because the thought of those incidents happening again do cause me some anxiety.

All that to say, my goal for the TCS NYC Marathon 2023 is to take in every moment. From crossing the Verrazano Bridge at the start to entering Central Park, I know the city will celebrate with me as I prove to myself that I can do it.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Back Pain and Physical Therapy

So the worst has happened, my back decided to flare up and cause me a lot of pain. After two weeks with minimal improvement, I finally got into a Physical Therapist to get professional help.

I immediately told him that I am registered and plan to run the NYC marathon on November 5th but also understand realistically that if I have to back out, my health is more important and I don't want to end up disabled or in chronic pain.

He gave me stretches to do daily, along with a recommendation for a lumbar pillow. We scheduled weekly visits through September and he said when I come back each time, we'll assess and add some strength training as the pain level goes down.

The hope is that my back will recover and while I will be running slower, and with less training leading up to it, I will still be able to do the marathon as planned. He said two months of marathon training is still doable and I want to believe him. I have been working too hard for a minor setback to derail me.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Broad Street Run 2023

Official Clock

And that's a wrap. My 7th time running the Broad Street Run. I never thought this would become an annual tradition for me. They claim that Broad Street Run is the largest 10 mile run in the country. I don't know if this is true but to put the size into perspective, the Boston Marathon was 30,000 participants in 2023 while the Broad Street Run has 37,000 participants.

6am Train
Since the finish line moved again due to the construction at the Navy Yard, I arrived early to make sure I could park. That was a mistake. Since I went where the security directed me to park I thought it was a great spot. However, when the run was over it took almost an hour to get out of the lot. I was farthest from the exit and it seems that rather than direct cars around the back of the stadiums they had everyone wait for Broad Street to reopen.

The nice thing about arriving early was that the train was almost empty. In past years, I've been standing shoulder to shoulder with other runners as people crapped in to fit as many people as possible for the ride to Olney Station. 

The weather stayed decent at the startline and didn't start raining until I reached around city hall. The second half of the race was a downpour so I was soaking wet by the time I crossed the finish line. 

Participating with Team Determination made the start of the race very relaxed. We had a tent at the start where they provided some breakfast items such as fruit and pastries, and juice. They also had a private bag check so when we got to the finish, our stuff was separated from the masses. The nice thing at the finish line was besides finding my bag with ease, they had changing tents setup so I could remove my extremely wet shirt and put on a warm hoodie that I packed.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Make Your Miles More Meaningful

Following the start of the Team Ultra competitions where March's theme is JOY, I decided to re-connect with Team Determination. This group of athletes dedicate their miles to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

In 2020, I joined American Cancer Society's Team Determination to run the NYC Marathon. While fundraising, I went to a few group runs in Philadelphia with the local team.

While I don't need a bib from ACS for any of the upcoming races, I have decided to once again to fundraise for the American Cancer Society during the race season. My currently scheduled runs include:

  • March 25 - Phillies 5K
  • March 26 - Love Half Marathon (maybe)
  • April 1 - Hot Chocolate 5K
  • April 30 - Broad Street Run
  • May 21 - Sesame Place Classic
  • June 4 - Philly Runfest
  • September 17 - Philadelphia Distance Run
  • November 6 - NYC Marathon (Maybe)
  • November 11 - Rocky Run
  • November 18 - Rothman 8K

In exchange for fundraising, I will have a team to connect with at the events along with organized training runs between scheduled races. 

Hopefully a cure will be found during our lifetime. #MakeYourMilesMeaningful #WhoDoYouRunFor #CancerSucks

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