Main image for Jeff Cronk's Philadelphia Marathon Report Time to Read: ~7 min
Click 'read more about Jeff' for more

Click 'read more about Jeff' for more

I met Jeff on a popular workout tracking site, Dailymile. He was friends with my friend Christina and lives a few towns away from me. We began encouraging each other online as we each logged our workouts. It wasn't until a year or more later that I met him him person. We were at a High School cross country meet and we met in person. I don't always love social media. I frequently get caught up with feeling not good enough in comparison to others. But from day #1, Dailymile has always been a great community for me. I've always been very good about sticking to workouts, but the added connection element keeps me 100% honest. It has been many years, and many races since I've met Jeff. I still don't know him well in actual life, but we continue to encourage and inspire each other online. I was very moved by his write up about his Philadelphia marathon with his daughter and asked him if he'd guest post for me. Here is his race story. Jeff used to be a completely sedentary adult ... oh how his life has changed since he took those first steps to start to run again. Read more about Jeff.

Back to finish what I started

Pins and needles….We had both been on them since the day Allison dared to mention the word. I had run my first Marathon in 2014 (Wineglass Marathon) I had trained hard and I had trained well. My weight was in check, I could cruise for miles at 7:10 pace (Thanks Coach Weeks) and I was (unwisely) pining for a BQ on my first try. Comfortably on BQ pace at 20 miles, I was suddenly and violently stopped in my tracks by uncontrollable muscle twitches, cramps, spasms …whatever the heck you call em….they hurt. Not once did I attempt to quit, or figure a way out this mess… It was finish. Nothing else mattered. That’s what I do. That’s what Cronks do. I massaged, and limped in to a 3:49:53 finish. Everyone said that was awesome finishing under 4 hours. But I knew I had left something undone.

Philadelphia bound

Fast forward to 2016….2 years of continuous lower back issues, 15 pounds heavier, and more than a mile per minute slower in any distance, but still logging the miles… Allison batts her eyelashes and says “Dad, I really want to run my first marathon and I want you to run it with me!” I knew all along this had been on her list since she turned 18, but competitive college XC training was always in the way.

With her senior year of college nearly done, it was her last season of Cross Country, and I know my girl. If something is on her to-do list, she’s gonna do it…with or without me! I did have something to take care of “So take a look”, I said. “What could we run as soon as your season is over?” PHILADELPHIA she said excitedly. It’s the weekend AFTER nationals and BEFORE we stuff ourselves with turkey and pie. Only a 4 hour drive, c’mon let’s do it! Ok then let’s do it!

Training with Allison

The summer of 2016 was filled with 600 miles of conversations, adventures, water bottle stashing, outdoor bathroom experiences, Gu stomach training, new routes, old routes, sun, heat, up-hills, down-hills, mooing at cows and rain. Wait, I don’t think we ran in the rain once that summer. It was NOT New York like at all…

At Allison’s first Cross Country meet her coaches remarked that she came in the best shape they had ever seen. Me? I could do the miles and, but still felt a bit heavy and slow. Like a Big ole bear.

Pins and Needles

Philadelphia Marathon packet pickup

Philadelphia Marathon packet pickup

It’s time to go kiddo. Got to get there and check in the day before. The car was way over packed (as usual) as we drove down the Turnpike on a rare 70 degree day in November. We rolled into town, those pins and needles sticking sharply in our brains, the weather man says to get ready for a change…cold front is coming. So we worried a bit about that and got on about our day.

I always find myself looking up when in the city. Probably a sure sign you are tourist is staggering and staring up in awe at tall buildings. The Philly Convention center wasn’t tall, but it sure was huge. Taking up several city blocks and even having streets go right through. We asked an obvious marathoner, where’d you get your bib? To which he repeated word for word what was written on our check in procedures. (dorks)

We got our official “stuff” and bought few things including Ally’s soon to be earned 26.2 sticker for her car. All the Pasta eateries had an hour wait, so we settled into an inner city Chili’s. We knew the food and there it had open tables along with the SU game.

Cold, wind and rain

Back at the hotel, we began to plan for the big day. The temps were gonna drop into the 30’s. 50 MPH wind gusts and a bit of rain. If anybody would have been with us, they would’ve laughed and pointed and called us names. Like a soon to be bride, laying everything out, planning for the worst conditions, what do we wear to the start? What can we donate as we strip? Do we need a checked bag for after? Phone for pics? Food? Where is coffee? We figured it all out and the alarm went off a few moments later.

And we're running

Time to run!! Let’s do it. We followed the crowd the ¾ mile walk to the start area. Lots of complaining about “those damn terrorists” as we were funneled through pinch points to check our bags and pat us down. A quick trip to the UPS trucks, a long trip to the porta potty line where it Seemed like we made life-long friends as we chatted and shivered. Off to the start line and the “green” corral. I wondered how many corral liars we’d have in front of us. Bill Rodgers gave a little speech, we honored our country, threw off some old basement sweatshirts and the gun went off. No turning back now.

The first miles went fast in our heads, but not fast paced. About 10 per mile was all we could do stress free as we followed the crowd. Our goal was to finish, but if we could finish under 4 hours that would be a nice bonus. We had trained for 8:45 pace. We went right into the heart of the city. The crowds were amazing, inspiring and fun. The bibs had our names printed large enough for the fans to read….and yell. And YELL they did! Still cruising nicely, we made it to Penn’s Landing area. I recognized the Dunkin' Donuts I had frequented when we stayed down there last summer. I stripped my long pants and gloves as we headed back into the city by Drexel and into the Zoo. Men were running off into the trees to which I heard a girl mutter….” must be nice”.

Oooooh we're halfway there!

We crossed each of the 10k markers together each time knowing FB posts and tweets were going out to supporters. At 13.1 we were just under 2 hours and I sang out loud … oooohhhh were half way there! Next, a guy behind me belted out the next verse. And then I followed. Feeling great as we came rounded toward the start, we crossed mile 14 when the winner came in.  We couldn’t see him but heard the announcer say he had broken the course record by over a minute. Runners 2, 3, and 4 all broke the course record. We passed runner 5 as the out and back started…..6.1 miles out and 6.1 miles back. Everyone from then on would face each other. We saw both joy and agony. Often on the same face.

Despite a heavy swirling wind, which raced off the river, we really ran well from mile 14 to 20. Picking up the pace each mile, hitting 8:40 by mile 20. We laughed at the water stops; it was like locusts attacking as hundreds of cups pelted us as panicky volunteers chased them down. A few times the wind took my breath away and it seemed like I was on a treadmill. Watching the returnees with wind at their backs kept me pushing. The turnaround town was electric. Scores of screaming fans on every block, music cranking, screaming, singing, offering water, oranges, beer, and even tissues. The beer stops were so sticky, that you had to work a little harder to get by them.

Allison's just getting started

Allison’s strength began to show. As I began to tire, she was getting faster, more excited I could tell. I was just excited to get to mile 21 without the spasms, but it was short lived. Just past 22 I could feel the calf tensing, hardening…. Please no! Please body, don’t do this again! I did everything right! I did everything you told me to. Don’t let me down now. Only 4 miles to go. I can run that in my sleep!

But it didn’t listen. I locked. Miles 22.5. Just over 3 hours. Right on pace. It is NOT a question of mind over matter….or ignore the pain…I could not move (again)!

Go get your time Ally. Go get it, I yelled again. Are you sure? she asked. I knew there was only one answer for both of us….. And off she went. My anger quickly vanished as I this proud Dad watched her pick up her pace and disappear into into the crowds of runner. I felt comfort in the fact that Allison was ready to finish what she started. I raised an amazing young woman that was fully prepared to finish something this difficult without me. She was ready to face the world! Her finish line pics were worth a 1,000 words as she cruised in to a 3:57:55.

I massaged out my locked up nether regions and got back to running. I’d get another half mile and they would lock again. A repeat of 2014, I had tons of energy and my mind was clear and strong. But I grimaced in pain, massaged, ran, walked and repeated until the finish was in sight…then to the screams of thousands of strangers…I crossed the finish at 4:20:27.

After a quick trip to the Rocky steps to flex our muscles and a hot shower, we climbed shakily onto our tired feet explored more city on foot.

Finding local wings, Philly Cheese steaks, Ice cream and Coffee…rewarding ourselves before another adventure (feet of snow) welcomed us back to New York.

Philly Cheese steaks

Philly Cheese steaks

We are Cronks ... already seeking our next adventure

Of course, we are already discussing options for the next one. After all, we are Cronks. And something has been left undone!