The motto for today’s race was ‘do no harm’. My wife and I are a week out from the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon and we decided to sign up for this race as a way of practicing running together under race conditions before the marathon next week. Usually we wouldn’t schedule a race this close to a big event but seeing as this was just over a week from the big day which would allow for a couple of extra rest days and the fact that one of use has done something ‘Goofy’ in the past we thought we could pull it off.
What a great race. I will go through the details in this recap but overall it was such a nice event. Very easy expo, great souvenir race shirt, easy logistics (well somewhat), close to home (20 minutes from my house) and the sun was shining. What more could we ask for?
Packet pickup took place on Thursday and Friday (although they pretty much set up the expo again outside the stadium this morning). It was pretty easy to get the packets picked up and I did so for me, my wife, my (future) brother-in-law Mike and a work colleague and her husband. I was pretty much in and out of the expo in under 25 minutes and that included a tasting of some kind of chocolate milk(?) and picking up a couple of odds and ends at the National Running Center stall for my wife and Mike.
Race day morning weather called for temperatures in the low 30s getting up to the low 40s. It was every bit of the low 30s for sure when we set out. Mike met us at our house at 6:30am and we drove to the Pennsylvania side parking lots and took the 10-15 minute walk across the bridge over into Trenton, New Jersey. The race is called the ‘Double Cross’ as you cross the Delaware River twice during the run. First from Trenton, NJ over to Morrisville, PA around mile 4 and then back later in the race around mile 6.
It was a chilly start and we were all pretty numb in our fingers and toes despite all the winter gear. Bag check was not complicated and the port-a-potties were plentiful. The race was to start at 8:00am and the 10K at 8:30am. There was a slight technical hitch at the start line and the race started about 8:10am. Not a big deal but we were standing there a little longer than planned. For some reason they set up the starting chute between two banks of port-a-potties which made us shift up more towards the front of the line as it was kind of, well, stinky…
The announcer did a great job of describing the sights we would see as we ran around the historic area. This is in the area where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River in December 1776 to defeat the Hessian forces in Trenton, NJ (this is a history lesson coming from a British expat with dual citizenship). There was a group of Revolutionary War re-enacters at the start line with pipes and drums too trying to get everyone into the spirit. After the National Anthem the gun (or probably a musket) went off and we set out on the road.
It was strange running on these streets as these are the roads that I travel to and from work everyday and I never really get to see them at this pace (or from the outside of a car) and it was nice to look around a bit more at the surrounding areas. My wife and I set off at a planned pace of 10 minute miles using Galloway walk breaks with intervals set at 4:00/0:40. This was to be practice for the marathon next week. We ran together at the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half in September and paced around 9:10 per mile but today as said earlier the plan was to ‘do no harm’ before next week.
The route took us through some of the historic sites around Trenton and past the State Capital building, Thomas Edison College and some of the surrounding neighborhoods before heading us out and across the historic ‘Trenton Makes, The World Takes’ bridge across into Pennsylvania.
As we ran across the bridge we noticed that it wasn’t paved and that it was a metal grid which you could see directly straight down. Two things crossed my mind…(1) don’t look down and (2) thank goodness I’m not on the barefoot/minimalist shoe bandwagon. Ouch. The bridges were not very long and once we crossed into PA we took a small route along the river (past the parking lot with my car) and up just beyond the Delaware Canal (at which point we were able to recognize where we were in relation to where we usually train) and then down alongside the river up to the second bridge. This was probably the most crowded part of the race as we were merged with the 10K runners for this period. Once we crossed the second bridge (my wife and I snuck onto the sidewalk at the edge of the bridge (which was just a wooden boardwalk and still not paved) we split again from the 10K runners as we reached mile 7.
Speaking of mile markers they were all a little off. Don’t get me wrong, the race was indeed a half marathon (my Garmin said 13.16 which was close enough) but the mile markers seemed off. Myself and many people around me had their watches beeping at a mile distance about 0.1 miles before we reached the mile markers. This happened consistently through mile 8 when suddenly we were ahead of the mile marker at mile 9 then behind the mile marker at mile 10 again. It didn’t make much difference to my wife and I running with our Garmins but I’m sure if you were to run with just a stop watch your head must have been going crazy as your splits would have been all over the place.
Between miles 7 and 9 there was a pretty big hill as we ran a loop around Cadwalader Park. It was a nice run. The surrounding neighbourhood had lots of old historic houses and I have to say I really enjoyed the scenery throughout. As we turning out of the park we were getting close to the last 5K of the race which had us run up Route 29 and up into Arm & Hammer Park home of the Trenton Thunder baseball team. We entered the stadium in right field and ran the warm up track to cross the finish line in front of home plate. It was great that they had the announcer over the p.a. system announcing everyone crossing and even had the stadium big screen showing the runners running in. It was very much like running through the stadium at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports during the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year with the only difference being a 50 degree difference in temperature and this being at mile 13 vs mile 19. My wife and I crossed the finish line together in 2:06:59. We actually ran under the 10 minute pace (around 9:40 minute pace) but both felt good coming through the finish.
The medal itself was really nice. It was big, heavy and detailed. A nice touch for a race only in its second year.
It was already a great day for us but we got to witness a couple more great things today also. Firstly there was 5-year-old Anthony Russo who broke the world record for being the youngest person to run a half marathon. Wow. He ran alongside his mother for the race and sprinted the last 200 meters to the line to the roars of the crowd.
The other wonderful thing to see was a friend of my wife, Abby, as one of two guides leading a blind runner to complete his first Half Marathon. Way to go Abby, it was inspiring watching you run in.
Once we had seen all the excitement it was time to grab our stuff from bag check and make the trek back over the bridge (our 4th crossing at this stage) back to the PA side of the Delaware River to pick up the car and head home for a nice hot shower and lunch with the family.
This was a great race which I would highly recommend to anyone. There are a couple of challenging hills at mile 4 and mile 7 but the rest of the course is relatively flat and there is plenty to see on the course. This may be one I return to next year.
Thanks for reading.