The Marathon Diaries: I’d Like to Dedicate This Race to …

… My parents, grandparents, brother, friends—oh, and Ryan Gosling.

I'll carry this cheat sheet with me on race day.

I can’t believe the Philadelphia Marathon is almost here!!! I go from feeling scared to excited to both at once. I guess I’m exscareded, if you will. And I know that I’ll be the most exscareded on Sunday morning as I wait in a Porta Potty line that rivals one at a Justin Bieber concert, except us runners aren’t as giggly (and most of us aren’t as young).

As I waited in the line last year, I only felt one thing: fear. I might have even cried (don’t tell anyone). This year, I know I can cover the distance; after all, I’ve done it before. The only thing that’s had me worried is not meeting my time. I plan on running with the 5:30 pace group, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to keep up. And knowing that I’ll be running without my friends and family with had me feeling very, very alone.

I decided the best way to feel less alone was to dedicate each mile of the marathon to someone in my life who has encouraged me in my running. I kind of stole the idea from Ali Feller, my favorite running blogger/future BFF (I hope). After the NYC marathon was canceled, she drove up to New Hampshire on a whim to run the Manchester City Marathon. (She PRed by 22 minutes, so she’s also my inspiration for this weekend.) For the marathon, she set aside few miles to think of specific people, and those thoughts kept her moving. And in my opinion, the most important rule of marathon running is to keep moving.

This week, I took an index card, wrote out numbers for the miles, and started to fill in the list. Mile 1 goes to my cat, Mr. Martin McFly. Yes, it’s bordering on crazy-cat-lady status, but he was my most faithful companion all those times I woke up bleary-eyed for my 5 a.m. runs. Mile 2 is for my friend Claire, who was with me when I started distance running in high school and has two marathons under her belt. Mile 3, I dedicate thee to Ryan Gosling. Yes, I’m serious. Is there a better motivator than his boyish charm and good looks? (And he’s a running fan. Hollerrrrr.) Number 8 is for my friend, Mary, and her husband, Mike. In addition to putting up with me and my crazy ideas for the last 22 years, Mary has persuaded her husband to join her in training for their first half marathon. (I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!)

Mile 13 goes to my friend, Rachel, and her husband, Victor, both amazing (and fast) marathoners who are there to talk running at any hour of any day. I know thinking of them will keep me moving past the halfway point. I’ll think of my friends Kelli, Aubree and Cassie around mile 16, where they met me for the marathon last year and gently prodded me along for the next 10 miles. Miles 22 and 23 go to my grandparents, who never quite understood why anyone would want to run 26.2 miles but acted very impressed after each race and training run. Mile 24 is for fellow runner Maggie, who is going to rock her first marathon! Mile 25 goes to my brother, who, in addition to being an awesome lacrosse player, is an amazing cheerleader and will accompany me to the start line at the crack of dawn (he’s not a morning person) to make sure I don’t chicken out. Mile 26 goes to my parents, who have been super supportive of my running (and everything else I do) and who show up for every race I ask them to come to, even when they have to drive the two hours from Harrisburg in the early hours of the morning to show up for the 7:30 a.m. start.

The last .2 miles are for me. They’re the most important for any runner. When I cross that finish line, I know that it will be because I put in the work and I went out there and ran a bajillion miles while normal people were sleeping in their beds. But it’s also the smallest part dedicated to everyone in my life because I know that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near a marathon without all the support from my family and friends.

All the other miles are filled in, but unfortunately, I can’t tell you how awesome everyone is in enough detail here to do them justice. And there are still more people that I love and will think about on race day.

Well, it’s been about 16 weeks and 400 miles since I started this experience. On Sunday, I’ll set out with tens of thousands of runners who have worked just as hard and for just as long to reach whatever goal they’ve set for themselves. Keep your fingers crossed for all of us that we reach the finish, and if you get a chance, come out to the course to scream your head off. As usual, anyone who wants to greet me with a cold beer is welcome.

Good luck everyone! Five days until race day!

>> Fellow Philadelphia Marathoners: Who are you dedicating this year’s race to? Who’ll be cheering you on to the finish line? Share the love in the comments!

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Annie Acri is an administrative assistant at the Drexel University College of Medicine and is working toward her master’s of communication degree. The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon will be her second marathon. Follow along every Tuesday as Annie posts about the ups and downs of training as she prepares for the big race on November 18th. Catch up on the series here.

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