I just need to do a race recap.
The Broad Street run is a ten mile race through Philadelphia in a straight line from Einstein hospital to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. About 40,000 people do it every year. It was The Thing I'd set my sights on late last year when I realized that I was getting less fat and more capable. Ten miles seems like a ridiculous distance and I wanted to do it mostly because it had seemed absolutely impossible at one time and then possible, however unlikely....
When I arrived at the starting line though I began to worry. City hall marks the half way point, and despite it being gigantic and looming, it was so far away that I couldn't see it. I'd never run in a straight line like that before. I'd run in loops and I'd always been able to see the next place in the loop, realizing not only that I'd have to keep running until I got to that point that I couldn't see, but also that when I got there, I'D ONLY BE HALF WAY was freaking me out. My training had been Not Good, since I'd fractured my tibia I had only very slowly come back to running, the longest I'd run in the last two months was five miles the week before, five difficult miles. I wasn't sure if I'd have the stamina and I wasn't sure that I wouldn't re-injure myself -- in fact, I wasn't sure if my fracture had healed (spoiler: I make it and nothing breaks).
clickenzee to try and find city hall
I was right at the very back of the pack, in fact, out of 40,000 people, only about 100 were behind me. The big lesson for next year was "bring a disposable sweat shirt and sweat pants" -- it was freaking COLD and they tell you to be there long, long before you actually need to be there. They suggested I get there by 6:45 or so which was a good two hours before the race starts. Next time, I'll pull into town around 8:00.
Finally the starters gun goes off, but it's so far away that we can't hear it from the back of the line. It takes 20 minutes, maybe more for the back of the line to actually get to the starting line but finally I was off. All along the way through North Philly people line the streets, waving and cheering, it was great. After about half a mile I started passing the first people who'd stopped running and started walking but I was cautious about going too fast. I wasn't sure if my leg would hold up -- I hadn't done a long run since the fracture -- which made my training a nightmare, and I didn't want to turn into one of the people who had to stop, so I loped along with 10 minute 45 second miles.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!
There are people all along the route, and every sleepy-eyed garage band in Philly is set up on a corner playing Counting Crows covers and eventually you pass the Temple University marching band (not marching) with baton twirlers performing amazing feats of dexterity, playing "Eye of the Tiger" (possibly over and over and over again) and the whole thing is like some grand party. It's somewhere after mile three that people start to space themselves out and you're not really passing people or getting passed too much, you're just trotting along. It was around here we passed two injured people, one had fallen in a pothole and was being carried off by friends -- the other had twisted his ankle and was limping defeatedly towards the El stop. I asked if he needed a train token, he waved me off and said his father was coming to pick him up and went back to looking sad and injured. To me, being so worried about the same thing myself, it seemed like a catastrophe.
Finally, at mile 5, city hall looms up and you realize that you're half way. I got much more enthusiastic at this point. I'd been promising myself to hold back judgement until I got to seven miles, but at five I felt pretty good which was encouraging.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!
At mile six my running partner said "I just hi-fived (former Philly Mayor and Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell!" "Where?!" I said. "About a block back? Do you want to turn around?" -- of course I wanted to turn around. So I ran back a block, and spotted Big Ed on the side of the street hi-fiving people & wearing a Boston uniform.
Palms were slapped and I continued to mile seven with a celebrity charge. Also, trillian_stars was waiting to cheer me on somewhere between mile six and mile seven which was a great thing. It's kind of hard to express just how happy it makes you when perfect strangers shout "you're crushing it! go go go!"
Clickenzee to see Big Ed even bigger
Big psychological charge by being on the other side of City Hall,
plus having Trillian Stars cheering.
At mile 7 I saw someone holding up a sign that said "only three more miles to go!" I was tired but that sign made me realize that now it was ony a 5k, and I can run 5k while clipping my nails now, it's no longer a big deal. That amped me up, and my running companion who decided that now was the time to put the burn on and he shot off in front of me. I would have been perfectly content to keep going at the same speed, but he saw this as our opportunity to pass a lot of people so I gasped and tried to keep up.
Clickenzee to see me surge through mile 8 or something.
Also note my weird messed up walrus flipper of a right foot.
The last three miles weren't all that fun. My hands got a little numb, I felt really tired, but all around me were people walking, they'd just stopped and I wasn't going to stop, even though it felt pretty bad the last mile. Eventually I saw the finish line about half a mile ahead. We surged through the chute with what I felt was the last bit of anything I had and there was someone standing with an armful of medals handing them out to people. I took mine and felt incredibly, indescribably happy. Everything started to go white, like the world was powerfully over-exposed. Someone handed me a plastic bag filled with food and a bottle of water. I walked out onto the grass and things kept getting brighter and finally went purple and my legs were wobbly. I realized I was going to fall over if I didn't sit down, so I sat in the grass and started eating the junk food out of the bag. It tasted pretty good. There was a 270 calorie "breakfast bar" from local vendors TastyKake which was ... freaking incredible. And I ate a banana and a bag of potato chips. There was no cell signal so I couldn't text Trillian to let her know I was finished.
Later I discovered that I was suffering from something called "Orthostatic Hypotension" paired with or causing another thing called "Exercise Associated Collapse" (conveniently called EAC) which happens a lot at endurance events and is mostly temporary. It's caused by blood pooling in the lower extremities -- when running the action of running helps circulate the blood, when you stop, it doesn't return as quickly and not enough gets to your brain. There are several recommended solutions to this, one is to keep walking, briskly, at the end of your run, the other is to lay down and elevate your legs. This is sort of what I did, but I substituted "eating candy" for elevating my legs.
As the crowd started to thin out I found Trillian and we watched the very end of the race come through the finish line -- the very end of the race is made up of all of the routes bicycle cops and golf carts they use (presumably) to pick up injured runners. When the bike cops and golf carts pass you, you're not a racer anymore, you become a pedestrian. I wonder if they shut down the finish line and stop handing out medals as the last golf cart crosses the line or if some kind soul stays there to see if anybody crawls up.
Anyway. When I got home I printed out a photo of myself at the finish line and mailed it to my sports medicine doctor.
I started the race with about 100 people behind me, and I came in 26,262th. At 1:50:19, my time was about double that of most of the people in my running club, but I realized that somewhere in there, I still managed to pass about twelve thousand people. Go little walrus flipper. Go me. My only goal was to finish, and I finished.
So there you have it. Last October I was fat and out of shape and today I ran ten miles. In the interrum I survived a fractured leg and various aches and weirdos at the gym and I feel pretty good about myself. Plus I have a medal. My final thought is this: Pin your goal in a place that seems possible, though very difficult, and work towards it relentlessly. The view from the top of the mountain is worth it.
I will now shut up about exercise for a while. Have a swell day.
Have I shown you my medal? Clickenzee to see it LARGER!
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