By Jennifer Wright
SCIENCE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
Ten days later, I feel overly ordinary again. I no longer feel like a celebrity showing off my medal and technical shirt. I’m no longer in pain or feel the need to eat anything within five feet of me. Though I do feel confident saying the Philadelphia Half Marathon was the best run I’ve ever had.
Sunday morning, Nov. 20, two things stood out to me, I woke up at 4 a.m., and the amount of Port-a-Potties on the Parkway seemed unbelievable. Everyone in my vicinity was stretching, drinking water and talking about running or annoying other people, actually running around. It was 6 a.m.; it annoyed me anyway. The buzz in the crowd was apparent. I’d call it nervous energy, but I think that was just me. I started in the last corral — or the group to begin the race. This meant I was predicted to finish with the last set of runners. Being a newbie to races, when I heard that I felt weird about it. I was predicted to finish slowly. I knew that was actually true, but it felt discouraging. You’d think the amount of people might intimidate me, but it actually helped me be optimistic.
The day turned out to anything but discouraging. I have never seen such a mass of humanity in my life. These people around me were going to endure the same thing I was going to in the next 2 hours. It was humbling in a way. I no longer felt like the tortoise. It felt like 1,000 people were in my corral.
We were rounded up like sheep into our corrals all down the Parkway, and the elite runners were off. Twenty-six minutes later, I approached the starting line. I felt odd and looked to my running buddy, funnily enough my Geometry teacher, and said, “Do we start running?” Well, obviously. I’ve never run 20 people deep on each side.
The route through the city looked amazing. People were lined up on the streets cheering. If you’ve ever been cheered for, you know it rocks. A family was standing on Market Street holding a sign that said “Let’s Go Jennifer!” I yelled to them, “Hey! That’s my name!” They broke into cheers. The smile on my face grew. My body felt loose and able. I’ve never felt so existent. There I was in this mass of people all moving the same direction, running.
My favorite part was South Street. There were people everywhere cheering. I spend time on South Street in the shops and seeing live music, so it felt fantastic to be running there. I was happy my team was around me. I was happy the weather was exceptional. I was happy I could run. The part in downtown Philly was a breeze. I ran at least seven miles with no problem. I drank my water — Gatorade makes me sick — happy as a clam.
The course went through West Philly bringing some hills with it. College students sat on their porches and banged pots and pans. Somewhere around 10 I was starting to realize that I only had three miles left, only three. Three seems like a long time when you are so close to being done. Right before the Please Touch Museum, I struggled on a long hill. That’s where I was starting to wish it was over. I just kept wishing for West River Drive to come along.
Once I got there it felt never ending. I kept seeing the same things over and over again. There was no one there to cheer. I felt the most alone on West River. People surrounded me, but it was where many people began walking. At that point I had come so far, I could not start walking. It just wasn’t an option. I was less than 20 minutes from finishing. I didn’t see the point.
I’d have to say the thing that I think about the most was where the Full Marathon course branched off, Half to the right and Full to the left. I said to my teacher as she was running in the correct right hand direction, “Come one, we have to go left.” For a second there I legitimately thought I was running the full marathon. I was in such a zone I thought I was only half done. I can’t describe it other than for almost six months I was preparing to run 26.2 miles. I’m still thinking about it. I obviously thought I could keep going. I thought I could do it. I have felt some regret not doing the Full and choosing to do the Half for the sake of my body and it’s injuries.
But that moment taught me some weird lesson. Beside the fact that I was having a delirious running brain malfunction, deep down I know it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it mentally or physically. I just chose to do half of it, and I had a great time doing it. I can look back and think about that day as some of the happiest moments I’ve ever had.
Everybody has a running story. How they started, their best and worst runs. It runs the gamut. I’m done telling stories for now, though. Now I’m just gearing up for next November when I will be running to the left on West River Drive and going another 13.1.