The Marathon Diaries: Conquering the Bridge Run Was Exactly What I Needed

Annie tested her marathon preparation at last weekend's Bridge Run. Good news: she passed with flying colors!

Picture this: it’s freezing. I’ve been waiting around for the 2012 Cooper Norcross Bridge Run to begin, and just as the announcer starts the countdown to the gun, I push play on my beloved iPod. The first few notes of Missy Elliot and company’s “Lady Marmalade” begin to pump through my headphones and then … nothing. Me, the biggest supporter of running with music, forgot to charge her iPod after her last long run. And now I’m running in silence.

The bridge run begins at the Jersey tolls of the Ben Franklin. The 4,000-ish participants run over the bridge on the westbound side and after a quick U turn, return over the eastbound side. While I’m not a huge fan of a tight turnaround with this many runners, it was awesome to see the elites flying past on the other side as I made my way toward Philly.

I guess I wasn’t running in complete silence. I heard the huffing and puffing of the runners around me, a lady rapping Big Booty Ho (I’m serious), and the girls behind me chatting about their weekends. The runner’s high everyone was experiencing was distracting enough to get me over the bridge and back (did you know the Ben Franklin Bridge is a hill? I am well aware of it now), but then my mind started to wander to uncharted territory.

What if my iPod dies at the marathon start? What songs should I put on my marathon mix? Will I be able to find my friends along the course? What will I eat before the marathon? Should I stick with what I’ve been eating? (The immediate answer is yes—I have no idea why I questioned this in the first place.) What does my cousin want to eat? I should have food for him. Will my brother be able to find my parents? Where should I tell my parents to watch? How will I find my parents? Where should we go for our post-race meal? Should I make reservations? What will the weather be like? What should I wear? Do I have BodyGlide? (Yes, I do. And yes, readers, you should get some. You’ll thank me later.)

I kind of forgot I was running as my mind processed all of these thoughts that I have been putting off leading up to the race because I was trying to not get too worked up about the marathon. I was able to put the actually running I was doing out of my mind until mile 5 (the Bridge Run is a 10K, so there are only 6.2 miles in the course), when I ran out of things to ponder and realized I was an anxious ball of stress. It didn’t help that when I rounded the corner by Rutgers in Camden, we hit yet another hill. Whoever told me the course was flat after the hills on the bridge was seriously mistaken.

I decided it was time to try some visualization a la John Goldthorp. I took the tired feeling in my legs and imagined I was hitting the halfway point of the marathon. For me, this is mentally the most difficult part of the race. You watch all of these happy half-marathoners make a right towards the finish line while you’re making a left towards Manayunk/hell/your death, depending on how optimistic you’re feeling that day. Your legs are tired, but not end-of-the-marathon dead, and you’re shocked that you ever thought this was a good idea to begin with. I powered (I felt like I powered, I might have crawled … with my pace, it’s hard to tell) up the hill just like you have to power up the hill on MLK to the Art Museum to hit the halfway point.

And I reached the finish! WOOHOO! I know that the feelings I had during my 10K are nothing compared to what I’ll experience in the marathon, but I was happy to learn that when a race isn’t going perfectly, I can just make it work and keep pushing instead of feeling all blah about the situation.

After I made it home to check my time, I found out I finished the race in 1:08, which puts me around 11:27 per mile, which is more than a minute under my marathon pace. And I definitely had A LOT of gas left in my tank after making it over that final hill. Philly Marathon, bring it on!

And on that note … 12 (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?) days until I kick some marathon butt!

>> Did you do the Bridge Run last weekend? How’d you do? Did anyone else use the race as a tune up for the marathon? Share in the comments!


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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