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Philadelphia 100 Miler - April 2, 2011- Philadelphia, PA

I was ready to put my body to a tougher challenge. I got on the Internet and searched 'ultra marathons.' I couldn’t believe my eyes - the Philadelphia 100 Mile Endurance Run! I live twenty-five miles away. I clicked on the website and learned it was the second annual Philadelphia 100 and it was free!  Free, flat and fast, close to home and with a 36-hour time limit, which made it all the more enticing. It was a fat-ass race. No support, no clock, only your will and the honor system. An urban ultra not sanctioned by any particular body, but on a certified course. One could start at any time and finish any distance. The  course was twelve 8.4 loops around Fairmount Park.  I was familiar with Fairmount Park having run the Philadelphia Distance Run (13.1 miles) three times and the Philadelphia Marathon three times.

To mentally prepare and physically train, I searched the Internet and read runners’ stories about their 100-mile experiences. They were inspirational and offered great tips. To train for my first 100, I needed that extra push.

Race day weather was cold. I dressed in layers. I began my first 100-mile ultra with a brisk 3-minute walk while I ate a banana. At the end of 6 laps, I had run 50.4 miles in 11:14:56 so I was quite pleased. Midway during lap 8 and 14 hours after the 6 am start, I needed more than a bite of the tasteless hamburger and fries I had asked for. I needed spiritual nourishment. Though I had been praying silently and aloud during every lap, I needed to actually recite The Ultrarunner’s Prayer by Carolyn Erdman and Jay Hodde I had downloaded from the Internet, printed and folded multiple times so it would fit in my runner’s pouch.

I recited Philippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” Renewed and reenergized by the power of prayer, I continued to walk/run while trying to adjust the front bottom of my running bra. I was beginning to chafe underneath my breasts. The sweat drenched fabric was rubbing against my cold, wet, and sweaty skin. It was starting to annoy me.

I completed 75.6 miles in 18:56 and began lap10. Sebastian paced me. I survived this lap and completed 82.4 miles in 25:19 and some change. I had learned quite a bit about myself as a runner in this ultra, but by now I was no longer a runner. With 6 miles left to go, I was barely power walking. Jon paced me this last lap. I just wanted to finish. I was feeling overwhelmed. I had a feeling I could not explain or control come over me. To calm myself, I turned on my iPod for the first time. Rascal Flatts’ I Won't Let Go was playing.  I was overcome with emotion. I started to cry as I listened to the lyrics..."You are not alone. I will stand by you. I will help you through when you've done all you can do." I played this song over and over. I walked over the East Falls Bridge for the last time at about mile 96.

With a quarter mile to the finish Jon ran ahead to meet me at the finish. I fast forwarded my iPod to Public Enemy's Fight the Power and danced by way to the finish of 100.8 miles in 28:33:02. The first female runner came in at 28:12:47. I had held first place the entire time until she passed me right as I began my crying spell at about mile 94. I was thrilled and now I had tears of joy! I could not have done it with out Sebastian, Jon, and God.

My right knee and both of my feet were swollen. I began plotting my next 100 mile ultra. And I began the tradition of honoring my ultra running feet on my running shoes with a Sharpie. 

I am also the author of Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times. Read excerpts, praise, and reviews, and order the book from the publisher, Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble. My Philadelphia 100 journey is one of many ultramarathon experiences that weaves through my memoir. 


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