Chris, Gary and Kari were all running the marathon with me, while Bill was running the half marathon. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 6 am to walk over for the 7 am start. Apparently, the denial did not have me thinking very clearly or I would have realized that half the people in the hotel were going to the start of the race. It took us about 10 minutes to get an elevator. I would have walked, but going down 15 flights of stairs before running 26.2 miles seemed like a bad idea. We finally made it to the lobby, and out the door we went.
It wasn't too cold for the start. I took a warming cover from one of the old races I had run to keep me warm. Those things are great for warmth, and so easy just to toss aside when the race begins. When you finish, you get a brand new one to add to your collection for the next race. As soon as we got outside in the semi-darkness, I saw about 6 members of the Raleigh Galloway running group across the street. I raced over to them to say hello and to check with one of my group leaders. He had run a marathon in Delaware the day before and was going to run this marathon as well (yes, there are a few crazy people who do that sort of thing). It was so nice to see familiar faces before blending into the crowd of about 20,000 people. Soon, I lost everybody except Bill. We stayed together through the bag drop off and into my corral (this race was a wave start with small groups of runners starting every 5 minutes or so).
Bill gave me some final words of encouragement and started to show me how to work his Ipod Nano. He loaned it to me since it has more memory than the Ipod Shuffle I usually wear while running. Soon, it was time for him to go, too. We wished each other well and kissed goodbye. I figured I had better turn on the Nano and get it ready for the race.
One of the biggest rules in running is NEVER try something new on race day. It is a rule I had always followed, and I really don't know why I decided to break it for the biggest race of my life. I pushed play, and the music blasted in my ears. It was way too loud. I tried to remember what Bill had said about volume control.
Let's see - run your finger lightly around the dial. Mmmm, nothing happened. OK, well, let's try it a little bit harder. Gosh, this music is really too loud, I have better turn it off. Oops!
Well, I could not see the player since it was strapped to my upper left arm. I had to take it out of the case to get the controls to make the adjustments. The next thing I hear is Elvis singing Blue Christmas. I love Christmas music, but that was not what I wanted to hear while I was running for the next 6 hours. Now, I start to panic. I wonder if there is anyone who can help me fix this thing before the race starts. Too late - the race has started.
Luckily, my corral was far back. I finally figured out how to change the volume, and I got the playlist back to my running music. I was really pissed, though. I knew the rule, and I broke it. I tried to put it out of my mind and prepare for the race start. I was listening to the announcer talk about the race and heard him say that the Mayor of Philadelphia was at the starting line. He was talking with the mayor (who also had a mike) and was teasing him about high fiving the runners who went by him. The mayor said he had worked out with the Phillies bull pen, and that his arm and hand were ready for as many people who wanted a high five.
Finally, my group was at the start. I found myself on the right side of the corral. I always like to stick to the edge so the faster runners can have the middle. I look up and see the mayor is on my side. There were only a few people in front of me, so I decided to wait to high five the mayor. I figured it would bring me luck. Being the superstitious type, I will say that it did bring me luck because I did much better that I expected. So, it you ever find yourself running the Philadelphia Marathon, be sure to high five the mayor on your way to the starting line.
With a quick hand slap, I was off and running. The journey had begun. Stay tuned...