13 Thoughts I Had During 13 Miles: Philly Half Marathon

This past weekend, I ran my third half-marathon ever: the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I ran my first one in 2011, and signed up for my second in 2012, but had to drop out because of a broken ankle. I ran again last year and this year, signed up with the goal of beating last year’s time—even if just by one minute. My training was quickly derailed by excruciating knee pain (what was eventually diagnosed as IT-band tendonitis), but I refused to be sidelined by another injury. And if I was going to run, I was going to try for that new best time. My theory was that I could at least get through a few miles at a good pace before the inevitable pain set in and I’d have to slow down—but then, at least, I’d have those faster miles under my belt to bank, right?

I went into the race (with my dad and my older brother, Paul, by my side while my fiancé over-achieved and ran the full marathon), not having run in weeks, and prepared for terrible pain and the possibility that I’d have to walk part of the race, and maybe even drop out. But somehow, I managed to make it through the entire thing almost pain-free (I mean, aside from that whole my-legs-feel-like-lead-and-my-feet-are-tired-and-my-quads-can’t-take-this-anymore pain) and pull a new best time out of my ass. I thank Paul for that, because he ran with me and kept me motivated the whole time. (Also probably helpful: rest, weeks of ibuprofen and slightly stronger stuff from my doctor, and more ice-packs than anyone should come in contact with when it’s below freezing outside.)

Here, to share this lovely experience with you, I take you through my thought process during each of those 13.1 horrib-I mean, fantastic miles.

frozen, but not yet in pain.

frozen, but not yet in pain.

Pre-Start: F–k I’m freezing. And I’m tired. And I haven’t run without crippling knee pain in months. Why did I do this? Should I be rational and try to run slowly?

Mile 1: Alright, here we go. No turning back now. Just run, and thinking about finishing the race. But think about finishing it at your best time.

Mile 2: I really have to pee, already. UGH. I’m going to stop at this port-a-potty–wait, there are like 6 people waiting in line. F That, I’m not giving up that much of my time. But I have to drink water anyway. Where is it going to go???. Look at all those lucky guys peeing against the wall. Sometimes I wish I was a dude.

Mile 3: Dad’s dropped back but Paul’s still with me; I still have a buddy. And–is he singing? Yep, he’s singing. That’s weird.

Mile 4: The knee pain is going to start any minute now. It usually starts around mile 4 or 5. Is it possible I won’t feel pain during this race? Nope, not possible. I better just keep running, fast. That’s a reasonable approach, definitely.

Mile 4.5: I’m getting french toast at brunch.

Mile 5: Holy shit, Paul just told me our pace and I don’t believe it. We’re actually pacing ahead. I’ll tell him we can slow down a bit. That’s a relief.

Mile 6: We didn’t slow down. And Paul is still with me, thank God. And, wait, could it be? Yes, finally a port-a-potty with a minimal line. Time to speed-pee while holding my breath (ugh, port-a-potties), and then catch up with Paul. He said he’ll run ahead but slow down, so it should be doable.

Mile 7: OMG I can’t sprint much longer. Where the hell is Paul? I give up, I’m not going to find him. But I’m going to keep running kind of fast just in case.

thankful for my singing-while-running brother

thankful for my singing-while-running brother

Mile 8: There he is! I see his red hat! Okay, now that I’m caught up with him, my legs feel like lead. And I’m pretty sure the hills are starting soon. Yep, there’s one…this sucks. And here’s another. Ugh, why hills, why??

Mile 9: Wait, did we already hit the big hill? That wasn’t as bad as I recall…oh, mother-of-God, we didn’t. This is it. What would happen if I just walked up the hill? No, I can’t. If Paul is still with me, and has enough energy to rile up the spectators to cheer for us, I can keep running. Plus, we always have the downhill to look forward to.


Mile 11: Is Paul still singing? How? How is he so cheerful when I kind of want to cry or punch my past self for signing up for this race?

Mile 12: Only one more mile to go. I’m just going to take this mile kind of easy, I don’t have it in me to sprint. Except, Paul keeps cheerfully encouraging me to keep going, speed up. Paul, don’t you understand I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE TALKING TO ME AT THE END OF RACES. I NEED TO FOCUS ON NOT CRUMBLING. 

Mile 13: This is longer than a mile. Yeah, I know it’s technically .1 miles longer than a mile, but I mean, this is way longer than a mile. There’s just no way this is only a mile. It’s never ending. I can’t even see the finish line. This is cruel. I think it’s a trick.

Mile 13.1: OMG THERE’S THE FINISH LINE. Fine Paul, I’ll sprint but…I think I’ll probably puke once I cross the finish line.

Finish: Thank God that’s over. Did Paul just say our time was 1:51? OMG! I’m actually really proud of myself, and of my brother, and…wait a minute. Oh God, I whispered “Yes” to myself while crossing the finish line. The camera definitely caught that. My finish line photo is going to be so weird and ugly. Damnit.

"Paul, take a picture of my colorful running outfit. I'll go in front of a statue so it seems important."

“Paul, take a picture of my colorful running outfit. I’ll go in front of a statue so it seems important.”


A Random And Amazing Throwback Running Playlist

For those who, like me, need serious distractions in order to run.

Here’s the thing: I kind of hate running. But for some reason, unbeknownst to even me sometimes, I do it.  To date, I’ve surprised myself by doing two half marathons (would’ve been three, if not for a pesky broken ankle) and a few smaller races, and am now training for my third.

But, in order to get through my training runs, I absolutely need to be distracted; and one of the best distractions is music. Old-school music, in particular, has proven to be very effective for me. I imagine it’s the combination of nostalgia (What grade was I in when this song came out? OMG this reminds me of that one time…) and pure joy at hearing old favorites that does the trick. Here, I bring you my—extremely random—throwback playlist (it’s mostly from the 90s) bound to keep you distracted and euphoric enough to finish your workout and get to brunch.

“I Want You” by Savage Garden
The first time this came on a random Spotify playlist I was listening to while running, I got so happy that I actually started to dance a little. While running. I mean, seriously, how can you not love the ‘chica cherry cola’ song (which for many years I thought was ‘chicken cherry cola’)?

“This Is Your Night” by Amber
Mentally transport yourself from the running path to the most fun middle school sleepovers ever with this one.

“One Week” by Bare Naked Ladies
If you didn’t love this song when it came out, I don’t understand you. It’s just so damn catchy! Aside from that, trying to mentally sing along to that one really freaking fast part (mumbling until ‘vanilla it’s the finest of the flavors’ does not count) while running is quite possibly the most ultimate distraction.

“Ready, Steady, Go” by The Meices
I only know this song from the movie, Empire Records, which is one of the greatest movies ever but somewhat unknown, so I don’t actually know if the song was ever that popular. But it’s intense enough to get you moving.

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
I can’t make a throwback playlist without including at least one MJ song. This one just makes me feel kind of badass.

“Right Now” by Van Halen
If for no other reason than the insanely long intro is, in my opinion, right up there with “Eye of the Tiger” as one of the greatest pump-up tunes.

“Basket Case” by Green Day
Something about Green Day just makes me want to speed everything I do up by 10 times. Including running.

“Ready to Go” by Republica 
Again, a classic pump-up jam. Inspiring on so many levels. You can’t not be ready to go when listening to “Ready to Go.”

“Sugarhigh” by Coyote Shivers
Another Empire Records jam (What can I say? It was a great soundtrack). Listen to it and envision that sugar high you’ll be on after consuming the four slices of challah french toast you’ll definitely have earned after this workout.

BTW, the version of “Sugarhigh” in the movie is even better. Complete with Renee Zellweger, pre face-change. See for yourself:

“I Want You Back” by Jackson 5
Give yourself a break from angsty 90s music with this one. It’s just joy-inducing.

“Buddy Holly” by Weezer
This one’s all about the nostalgia; it was just one of those great, weird-but-awesome-and-catchy 90s songs.

“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” by R.E.M.
Here’s another try-to-sing-along-with-the-insanely-fast-lyrics song. Your brain will be so focused on attempting to keep up that you might actually forget you’re running.

“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa
Getting tired? Feeling like giving up? Salt-N-Pepa will change that that. Just do what they say and Push It, dammit.

“Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
The beats in this song remind me of a bouncy ball, literally bouncing off the walls of a big room without ever slowing down. Embrace the beat; be that ball of energy.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify: