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Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


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Walking to the starting lineAs I ventured out onto the dark streets of Philadelphia, I kept an eye out for people heading my way.  The hotel's directions seemed vague now that I was actually trying to follow them.  I spotted other pedestrians and set out behind two men and a woman wearing garbage bags.  "Only on race day," I thought.  Soon there were lots of us trekking silently towards the starting line.  It wasn't all that cold out, but I clung to my coffee until it lost its heat.

When I reached the start, I swallowed some salt, stripped off my sweats and checked my bag.  By then, the sun was starting to rise, and I set off in search of my pace group.  I had decided to try sticking with the four hour marathon pace group in order to finish the half in under two hours.  When I found the pace leader, he was surrounded by a gaggle of anxious runners, reassuring each that everything would be ok.  The four hour crew was a chatty bunch. 

As we made our way to the starting line, I lost our leader.  He was carrying a stick with red and white balloons, but it was too crowded and I was too short to keep him in sight.  He was easily 100 feet ahead of me when I crossed the starting line and I spent the first mile chasing after him.  Every time I glanced at my Garmin, I got anxious.  If I was doing eight minute miles at the beginning, I'd never finish, let alone in a decent time.  Still, I didn't let him out of my sight, and, eventually, I caught up.

A mile passed, then two, then three.  Each time I thought about it, I got nervous that we were moving too quickly.  I had figured that we'd stay at a steady 9:10 pace throughout, but the early splits were all around 8:30.  I didn't think I could keep that up, so I tried really hard not to think at all.  I focused on staying as close as I could to the red and white balloons.  I didn't want to lose the group, so I only drank at the water stations when the pace leader drank.  I had my hand-held water bottle with me, so that was fine.  I ate my GU Chomps on my normal schedule (first piece at 45 min, then 1 chomp every 15 minutes till the end).  I mouthed the words to the songs on my playlist.

Mile 25 of the fullEvery now and then I'd exchange a few words with my fellow pacers, but I'm not a chatty runner.  Around mile 8, I started running next to the pacer.  I chatted with him a bit, but then we hit a series of hills.  The last hill was long and brutal.  My legs were on fire and we didn't slow down all that much.  An older gentlemen turned to one of his friends and said, "It really doesn't matter how fast we take this hill.  We're going to huff and puff the whole way, so we might as well keep moving."  I was shocked that he could talk at all.  I was wheezing.  If I hadn't been trying to keep up with the group, I might've slowed down.  I might've even walked.  Instead, I stayed focus on not putting any distance between me and the balloons.

After that, it seemed like we were nearly there.  Or at least I was.  The full marathoners still had quite a way to go.  I split from them towards the end of mile 12.  I meant to say "good bye" and "thank you," but what came out was more of a grunt so I waved emphatically as we went our separate ways.  That last stretch towards the finish line was surprisingly lonely.  I had gotten used to my posse of strangers.  I also had very little left in me and really wanted to not be running anymore.  Knowing that I had about three minutes till I'd hit the two hour mark felt great because I knew I'd meet my goal, but it also took the pressure off; there was no sprint at the end.

As I crossed the finish line, the announcer called out my name, and a guy who crossed with me gave me a high five.  And, just like that, I had my first sub two. 

-Gym Belle-

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Reader Comments (2)

Whooo congrats on your sub-2!!! That hill near the Zoo at mile 9 was killlllller, way to power through it!

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Thanks, Jess! And congratulations on your PR in the marathon!!!

November 24, 2010 | Registered CommenterGym Belle

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