Philadelphia Marathon: Bittersweet Experience

by Jennifer Bergeron

On November 18, 2018 I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, which also happened to be my 5th marathon.  I decided late in the year to throw it on to my race schedule in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. 

I’m a runner turned triathlete, but my passion still is with running.  My 1st 4 marathons were around the 4:00:00 mark. I am in the 35-39 age group so a qualifying time for me is 3:40:00, but a guaranteed entry would mean I need 3:35:00, that’s a 25 minute PR!  In addition to setting the BQ goal I decided if I couldn’t qualify then I would at least try to beat 4:00:00.  I knew the 2nd goal was possible but I didn’t know if I could swing a BQ.  The first 22 miles of the race were perfect.  I hit each of my mile markers perfectly and my nutrition was flawless.  At mile 18 I saw the 3:40:00 pace team step ahead of me and I started to panic.  I stayed with them for 2 miles but they were moving at an 8:00 mile, which was faster than I needed to do (not to mention at that point in the race I could not maintain that speed).  I let them pass me and just tried to stay in the game mentally.  I skipped my final GU at 20 miles because I could not stomach it and just hoped that I had enough in the tank to get me to 26.2.  Earlier in the week I decided that miles 20-26 would be dedicated to my 2 little kids who are 8 & 6.  I wanted them to know that even when things get hard and you want to quit that if you push just a little bit more you can get to the finish line.  At 22 miles I started to slip.  My pace slowed, my legs hurt and I didn’t want to finish. I told myself to keep moving even if it’s at a slower pace. I even thought to myself ‘Just run faster, if you qualify the only marathon you will ever have to do is BOSTON!’  I couldn’t do it though.  For the last 4 miles I just had to maintain where I was and not let it slip further away.

One of my favorite parts of Philly was the crowd support. There were people everywhere! They lined the final mile or 2 and the cheering was louder than I’d ever heard before. Normally in this situation I would turn it up and finish strong but I could feel a cramp easing into my hamstring and calf and I just prayed to be able to cross the finish line standing on my own 2 feet. As soon as I crossed and saw my time 3:44:55 I cried. I knew right away that I had accomplished my under 4:00:00 goal but I missed my BQ by 4:55 (or technically 9:05) My tears were one part disappointment and 10 parts pride. Yes, I was sad that I missed my BQ but I was also so damn proud that I finished one more marathon. How can I be sad when I just did something most people only dream about? I thought that after the dust settled that I would start to feel more disappointment but I have not. The pride still outweighs the sadness.  

After a marathon it takes me a while adjust to the idea of running again and the thought of another marathon takes me time to accept. This time it’s different. I’m already trying to find a way to squeeze it in next year and I’m beyond excited to get that BQ!

Jennifer is on the right

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