by Amanda Pilla
When I decided to hit the pavement for my first half marathon 3 years ago, it was to help commemorate my late step mom. She was an inspiration during her colon cancer battle and when we lost her, there was a void not only for myself, but my family, specifically my younger siblings (her children). Lisa was an advocate for cancer research before and after her diagnosis. She would donate to different foundations, take part in walks and runs that benefited various causes. Her focus ultimately is what lead me to start the running journey. Running helped me grieve and feel close to her again. Signing up for my first half marathon for her was certainly cathartic.
Fast forward to now; 8 half marathons and multiple 5k and 10ks, I was ready to take on the biggest running challenge yet... a full marathon. The thought of this was terrifying, but with the push of my friends and family, I truly believed I had worked up to it and was totally capable of handling the time commitment of training and tackling the 26.2 miles. I sat down with my running coach Mat Nark of Nark Running Strategies and we planned out my season to get me to the finish line on November 18th at the Philadelphia Marathon.
As I checked off the weeks of training down, I still couldn’t fathom the fact I was going to run 26.2 miles or how. Every race I have trained for previously, I always ran the full distance prior to the race. I knew I was capable to run that distance before I hit the start line. The marathon was a different ball game. Especially if you knew me in high school, I did not run more than a lap around the track. Mat tailored a plan for me that was sustainable and appropriate for a novice marathoner. My weeks consisted of running 4-5 times a week and incorporating a strength regimented routine 2-3 times a week.
During my running journey I acquired an army, an army of people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. They knew my goal was achievable before I uttered the words “I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon.” This army consisted of support from a long list of runners and non-runners. I could not have done this without my training partners throughout this season that were there to get me through the long runs and speed workouts. They were out there with me before the sun came up to get in our prescribed work out, with words of encouragement the entire way. My amazing friends and family consistently asking me how my training was going and showing up at my various races. Lastly, I am lucky to have a partner who never blinked at the 4 am alarms, constant scheduling around when my runs were going to be, and always made sure I had my pizza on Friday’s before my long run.
With all this behind me, I showed up on November 18th confident, ready to kick some butt and nervous as heck! Lucky for me, my training partner and I were able to run the race together. We both set out to crush our goals. Having someone to share this experience with me made finishing this so much sweeter. As my watch miles increased, I began to feel tired, but I knew I had an awesome cheer squad waiting for me throughout the course. I told myself I needed to get to Mile 20. Once we hit the mile 20 turn around point, I gave it all I had left in me. I shocked myself as I saw my mile split times go down and the last 10k were my fastest miles. One foot in front of the other, I could not wait to say I was a marathoner. The crowd, my crew at the finish line, and achieving my goal motivated me to push me through. I was proud of myself. I achieved more than I set out to do. I ran over 5 minutes faster than my original goal (4:09:37). I ran a smart race and I couldn’t have asked for a better first marathon experience.
If you take anything away from this, no matter what your goal is, set a purpose, trust your training, and build your army.