Yesterday my wife and I ran the 2013 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was my 10th half marathon and it was the third time I have run this event. I first ran this back in 2011 and this was the first half marathon that I ran under 2 hours. Last year this was the first race that my wife and I actually ran together as a couple (we were practising to see if we could stick together as we were training for the Walt Disney World Marathon). We looked forward to this weekend having signed up early.
This was the old Philadelphia Distance Run, a race that I never got a chance to run in. There have been many changes to what was a very famous race and there seemed to be quite a bit of bad press recently about this in the local media. As an average runner who is fairly new to the running I was unaware of the history of the event and reading some of the local stories and their viewpoints I learned quite a bit. Nevertheless, for most runners in the field this was a day to run a half marathon, the weather was perfect and people went out to run their own race.
I attended the race expo and bib pick up early on Friday afternoon. As usual it was at the Philadelpha Convention Center. Brooks is the big sponsor here so took up a lot of area on the floor. Brooks does a good job of entertaining the runners in attendance and this year was no different. They had a lot of space provided to the official race gear although I didn’t pick up anything for myself this year. They did have some shoe advisors there and I spoke briefly with one of their ‘shoe experts’ about my shoe wear pattern. He provided some advice (he said my shoe wear indicated I had tight hamstrings…more on that later).
At the side of the race gear the Brooks team had set up some fun areas with games, rides and a gait analysis ‘submarine’. As you can see from these pictures there was quite alot to entertain visitors and plenty of Brooks themed giveaways.
I visited the Brooks gait analysis (I’ve worn Brooks Adrenaline shoes 2011) just out of curiousity. I ran on the treadmill while they took video and analyzed my gait. Luckily they came up with the Adrenaline’s as the best fit for me (phew…I have 2 pairs on the go and 1 in the box waiting) and also said I could look at the Brooks Trance (more cushion) or the Brooks PureCadence (less shoe) as an alternative stability shoe. Good to know at least.
Going to the expo early on Friday afternoon before the mania of the weekend race day meant that the expo was pretty empty. I’m used to expecting to work my way through heavy crowds and so I kind of breezed through the expo fast.
Without the heavy crowds I was able to stop at a couple of booths and ask questions. I had a couple of questions for the Garmin folks about my new Garmin 310XT and I was able to stop by a few booths of races I was interested in. I’m pleased to say that the picture of my wife and I is still used on the backdrop of the Atlantic City Half Marathon (my 15 minutes of fame). I saw the folks at the Trenton Half Marathon and checked out the medal we will be running for. I also stopped by the ‘Hot Chocolate Run‘ booth…just because. That is a 15K I will definitely be signing up for 🙂
I couldn’t leave the expo without a little Rock and Roll picture opportunity…sorry for this one.
I set up my gear the night before as usual. We were starting in Corral 8 with a 2 hour time goal for this race. Both my wife have I have half marathon PRs in the low 1:50s and so we pick this time as an average run time for half marathons and are usually in the same corral.
My wife and I were up early and out the door, picking up my sister in law Rina and her boyfriend Mike at 6.20am. Thankfully there were no traffic incidents on the way down (this is Philly…it can be bad any time of day) and we were able to squeeze into a really small parking space in the Art Museum district. The race starts and finishes by the Philadelphia Museum of Art (as does the Philadelphia Marathon in November). If you are not familiar with Philadelphia these are the steps that Rocky famously ran up in the movie back in the day. The statue from the movie ‘Rocky III’ sits at the base of the stairs and makes an ideal photo opportunity. Here we are with Rocky ‘rocking’ our ProCompression socks.
Bag check wasn’t a problem. We were given clear bags at the expo to check gear and the race instructions advised that no other type of bags would be accepted in bag check. I guess this is now the new normal since Boston. We had no difficulties pre race as there were plenty of porta potties and the lines were no longer than typical for a race of this size. Around 7:45 we headed to the corrals (for an 8am start). There were no announcements telling everyone to get to their corrals and none of the volunteers were checking bibs for the correct corral placements (I guess I am spoiled by my runDisney races). There were not as many announcements from the stage as there were in prior years as I recall. This may be due to the recent news that the sponsors cut appearance fees for the elite athletes a few weeks before the race (see my earlier comments) so I don’t recall hearing from anyone famous at the start line as in prior races. After the National Anthem the countdown for the race began.
The temperatures were great for the race. High 50s going into the low 60s. As the gun went off we set off with me doing my regular run-walk intervals and my wife running ahead a little. I would catch up with her after each break and she would take every 3rd or 4th break with me. We were just about a half mile into the race when the lead runners were already coming back to us at mile 4 on their way up the Parkway. We were about 12 minutes behind the gun time when we crossed the start line.
One thing we noticed on the course was a lack of water stations. The first water station was fine but there was a long break before we reached the second. When we got there the tables were empty. No cups, no water and no volunteers. That was not fun. It was near mile 3 and I could have done with some water. There was a stop just ahead but no volunteers were there to let you know that. It was a little disturbing until I knew that. The road at the first station with Gatorade was awash with spilt Gatorade and you could actually feel your feet sticking as you ran through. A very weird situation. As usual there were bands along the route althout not all were in the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme.
Once past mile 4 we were out of the City and up by the river. This is a really nice part of the course. It is the 8 mile loop which takes in East River (Kelly) and West River (Martin Luther King) Drives. You run out along Boathouse Row, cross the Schuylkill River at the Falls Bridge and run up West River Drive back up to the finish line in front of the Art Museum steps.
The run along the river is very calm and relaxing. It is quite shaded so this made it very enjoyable. There were a couple of bands out along the river to entertain us. Not much water again. The first water station was on the left side of the road which I didn’t see until almost too late and I made an awkard dash across all 4 lanes to get some water. Not what I like to do but I needed some fluids. There was a water and Gu station at mile 8 just before we crossed the river.
Running up the West River Drive gave a good view of Boathouse Row. It was fun to watch some of the crews out training on the river.
This is the same area where the City runs many races in Philadelphia including the Philadelphia Marathon and the Philadelphia Tri. Although there were some bands along this side of the river too (inlcuding an incredible bag pipe rock band…yes, you heard that right) it was pretty quiet and peaceful. There were quite a few high school cheerleader squads out to cheer us along which was nice. I have to admit that I feel the crowds in November at the Philadelphia Marathon are deeper and louder.
West River Drive starts to camber severely to the left and then suddently severely left as you run up towards the finish line. It is a slight uphill but you could definitely feel the lean to the sides more than the hill up on the way back in. Around mile 12 the shade of the trees goes and it is a run up the hill towards the finish line. We were looking at a finish time around 2 hours as we reached the last mile but we kept the pace easy and decided not to sprint to the line as we are half way through our marathon training for Philly and already a little achy. We crossed the finish line holding hands and finished in 2:02. Not a bad time and 3 minutes faster than last year so we were both pleased.
As we crossed the finish line the temperatures had risen and it was getting hotter. We grabbed a couple of bottles of water each. We remembered from the year before that once you left the finish chute you couldn’t get back in and there was no water outside of the finish chute. So this year we made sure to grab extra. In the finish chute there was so much food and as we remembered from last year we barely were able to carry everything out. This year we wised up and grabbed and empty box by one of the food tables and used it as to grab what we needed and carry out the finish area.
For some reason the soft pretzels and bagels were hidden under plastic sheets and there were no volunteers handing them out. Had we not seen someone helping themselves we would not have known it was there. I need my bagel post race. Next up, chocolate milk. I’ll run extra miles for that. Yum. As you can see we got our fill.
We sat at the finish area, stretched and waited for Rina and Mike to finish their races. We caught up on Facebook and shared some photos. The tip from the Brooks shoe guru about tight hamstrings had me stretch quite a bit before the race and I noticed I wasn’t scuffing my feet so much. Thanks for the tip. I recognized Jennifer from ‘The Final Forty‘ blog at the finish line and said a quick hello before heading out to gear bag pick up.
We didn’t have to wait too long for Rina and Mike as they made good time and finished around 2:50. A great run for both. It was also Mike’s first half so that was a great to celebrate with him.
Overall it was a fun day. Would I do it again? It’s a local race, the weather seems to cooperate and I always like running down along the river. However, I may look to mix up my Fall schedule next year and run some new races and places.
Thanks for reading.