The Sunday before Thanksgiving is usually the date for the Philadelphia Marathon. This is one of my favorite races at my favorite time of the year. It was my first marathon and I have run it every year since with the exception of last year when I was in Florida with my family over Thanksgiving week.
The Philadelphia Marathon was my very first marathon back in 2011, in 2012 it was the first marathon where I ran under 4 hours and in 2013 I ran the 20th anniversary marathon with my wife on a glorious late Fall day. It’s always been a good time.
This year my wife decided to opt out running this with me as she thinks her three marathons during the year were more than enough and it was very close to the Marine Corps Marathon which we was our big Fall race together.
Coming off the Marine Corps Marathon where I had struggled quite a bit going through I was able to get back into my running groove with a few good recovery runs and also two races, the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and the Cooper Norcross Run The Bridge 10K race (no race recap on that race but will cover in the month in review). I felt good going into marathon weekend and set my sight on a very ambitious race goal of 3:50 or better (my current PR is 3:54).
With a full weekend of family activities ahead I took a half day on the Friday before and headed down to the Expo (again held in the Philadelphia Convention Center) on the Friday evening. That’s good and bad. Good because the expo wasn’t jam-packed with people and as I was on my own I had an opportunity to spend some time looking around. Bad because heading into Philadelphia and trying to park near the Convention Center on a Friday evening isn’t the easiest thing you can do. Lesson learned.
The expo was set up as it had been in prior years. As you entered you went to the left where there was a children’s area (Comcast had set up a screening area with some kids programming which was nice) and just behind that was the stage for the speakers series (I didn’t attend any sessions this year). Past that there was a large area segregated into marathon, half marathon and Rothmans 8K bib pickup. As it wasn’t too busy at the time I attended I was in and out really quickly. I think there were more volunteers than participants at the time I was there.
One thing that was an improvement over the last time I ran the race and all the previous years (2011 through 2013) was the race merchandise. It was actually very well set up (still not the biggest area) but it was divided up into men, women, youth and general merchandise. What was more impressive was that there was just so much variety. Okay, a lot of it was brands I had not heard but there was so many different types of shirts, running gear, colors, styles. More so than I had seen at many other expos. Some were reasonably priced (and you know what race gear pricing can be).
I actually ended up buying a half zip top with the race year/logo and the list of streets from start to finish on the back. I thought that was pretty cool and unique. That, and my Marine Corps Marathon jacket have seldom been out of my rotation since.
The sponsor of the race was GORE-TEX. They had a very large booth where you could enter for a prize of some running gear. I actually went to check out the shoes as they do make a Brooks Adrenaline GTX shoe which is my favored shoe. It’s definitely more of a trail shoe based upon the sole design and as I do most of my running on the road, the shoe seemed a bit more shoe than I need as a day to day training shoe. Still, nice to have an option.
Having spent too much money (really, anyone surprised?) I headed back home knowing that I could rest easy the day before the race…like I ever allow myself to do that. We had a full weekend of activities. I was a little antsy when I got home so I set out my gear on the Friday evening and watched the hour by hour forecast for the next couple of days.
The day before the race I typically eat a decent breakfast after a short run and then have lunch as my main meal and have a light early meal (around 5pm). Well, not this year 😦 While I did get my run in and then a fairly reasonable and healthy lunch, I spent the afternoon on my feet going shopping for birthday party supplies. Then we had long-standing plans for dinner but that was a late 9pm event which is atypical for me anyway. I ended up nibbling bits and pieces through dinner…mainly the bread basket. Anyway, everyone had plenty of wine and I had plenty of water before heading home for the night. But not before changing up my outfit…again.
This is the 4th time I have run this race. The first year the weather was perfect (low 50s). The second year it was really cold (low 30s). The third year was glorious sunshine (low 60s). The forecast for this race looked to be around high 30s but what was going to be different was strong gusting winds. I didn’t want to be over dressed when I was going to be sheltered from the wind so I still dressed fairly light.
I had learned my lesson about my shoe lace incident at the Marine Corps Marathon and had done my best to make sure my shoes would not inhibit me in any way. After all, this was the goal race for the year. I had my goal time and was really feeling confident that I would at least get close to my PR. Hmmm….
Race day morning.
I got up early, it was windy and cold out. I made myself a cup of coffee for the road and took myself down to the city. I knew that since Boston they have really ramped up the security at the race. This was just a days after the Paris attacks and the City had ramped up the security even further. They had trucks blocking the streets, barricades and checkpoints for runners.
As dawn was breaking I made my way over to the corral for the 7am start.
While waiting in the corral we heard from the race organizers and Mayor Nutter. He has really dedicated himself to this race and this would be his last as Mayor of the City. He stays at the start line to see runners off and then stands at the finish line high fiving runners as they cross. It’s a long day for him but he seems to enjoy it.
This year, with the event being so close to the attacks on Paris he mentioned how the City stands with Paris and they actually had the French National Anthem sung at the start line.
There was a slight delay at the start as there was a car accident further up in the route that needed clearing. It set everything back about 10 minutes but we were soon ready to go. I took off my trash bag and handed it to a gentleman near the corral fence wearing a Boston Marathon shirt who I would get to see many times during the race. More on that later.
Soon it was go time for our corral and before I knew it we were off. It was a little congested for the first mile. I was using a new run/walk interval for the last couple of weeks based upon Jeff Galloway’s guidelines on his website. Run 3:00/Walk 0:30. This was kind of an experiment as this was the shortest run interval I’ve used for a long time.
I settled into my pace. It was a little slower than planned. Running closer to 9:00 minutes per mile rather than my goal pace of 8:45/mile. I think I knew early on that this might not be what I was looking for, but at least I may get close to sub 4 hours.
In the meantime, I had been trying to maintain my pace near the gentleman in the Boston Marathon shirt. I figured that anyone who has qualified for Boston should be able to manage an even pace. As he was in my corral I kept him in my sight. I would drop back during a walk break but make up the distance to him during the run. So far it was working.
As we rounded South Street around mile 4, we then had to run up Chestnut Street from 6th Street to 34th Street. While there are crowds that line the sides of the street pretty much the whole way (which is great) it was a very tough run as it was directly into a headwind. It was cold and windy and I took quite a beating getting up to 34th Street which is where the largest hill on the course is located. After being beaten up by the wind for the last 3 miles it took a lot out of me to get up that hill. I was pretty much running 9:00 minute miles at this point. Hoping that somewhere on the downhills I would make it up. I still had Mr Boston Marathon shirt in my sights.
We passed the Philadelphia Zoo and up to Memorial Hall (the second and last big hill) and I felt a little back to my normal self again. As we rounded the traffic circle to head down to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive I caught up to the man in the Boston shirt and introduced myself. I mentioned I had been following his pace for the last 8 miles and he said he had noticed me running back and forth (I hope I didn’t come across as a stalker!) and introduced himself as Dave. We ran alongside each other for a while chatting until my walk break, caught up again and continued for about half a mile or so before he was ahead of me again.
Around the half way mark I was still maintaining my 9:00 minute pace so all wasn’t lost. It was after rounding the Philadelphia Museum of Art when all the half marathon runners disappear that the course really becomes less crowded. It’s a long run out and back from here on in. Running up Kelly Drive was into the wind again. While not as strong as it had been earlier in the day (probably because the buildings had more of a wind tunnel effect) it was still fairly noticeable.
Around mile 14 Dave joined me. He wasn’t having the greatest day either and he joined me in run/walking for about a mile or so. We chatted about his races and I found out he lives locally so it’s a close to home race for him too. He had run Boston twice and had a better PR than me…all the more reason to run with him 🙂
At mile 15 I stopped for water at the next water station, Dave was running with a water backpack and I dropped back a little from him. My pace had now dropped to 9:30 minutes per mile. Eek. Well, let’s just get in from here. There is a small out and back on the other side of the river from mile 17-18. I saw Dave on his way back as I was running down. I had a little work to catch back up to him. This is my least favorite part of the race. It’s just to get the distance in on the course. It’s quick. A downhill but a miserable uphill. Nothing great but heck, it’s between mile 17 and 18. Once back over the bridge we turn left and make the gradual climb up to Manayunk.
Manayunk is usually a nice place to get your second wind. Although it is situated at the part in the race where many people are close to hitting the wall (mile 20) it’s always heavily populated with spectators and supporters. I did notice this year that although there were plenty of people around it was less crowded than I ever remembered in past years. The weather may have had something to do with it (and maybe the Eagles game that afternoon). Still, at mile 20 when someone hands you an orange….aaah bliss.
My favorite part of this race is the turnaround at mile 20. I know it’s a 10K from here. It’s not all flat but I know I can make it. I had slowed to 10:00 minute mile pace from here. Not great but not a disaster. Still moving. That’s what counts.
As I excited Manayunk around mile 21 I caught up with Dave again. We ran together for a little but he admitted he was hurting quite a bit. I stayed with him but he told me to run my race and he would be okay. I told him I would see him at the finish line and wished him well.
From then on it was a slow steady run to the end. The headwind we ran into was now a crosswind. I wasn’t hurting but I wasn’t setting my race alight with any change in pace. I was just head down committed to my run/walk breaks. I know I wasn’t going to break 4 hours at this stage. There was no way I could make up the pace but my goal was to break 4:15 for the day. I felt confident I would finish as I’ve been in this position before and knew my body could get there. I did manage to drop my pack back to under 10:00 minutes per mile, actually dropping a 9:30 minute mile in there somewhere (must have been flat!!). With less than a mile to go I dug deep and found a kick (not a big one mind you) to get me down the last quarter-mile to the finish. I needed my high five from the Mayor!!!
I made it to the finish line under 4:10. That was good enough for me today. Wasn’t my greatest race. I had missed out on most of my race goals. It didn’t go according to plan, but anytime you can cross the finish line of a marathon is definitely a good day in my books.
I was relieved though that it was over. I wasn’t hurting, just tired. It was my 4th marathon of the year and (sitting here writing this many weeks later) I will admit that my legs have been tired since the Marine Corps Marathon.
Philly does a really good job at the finish line. Although there are lines for the post race food, there is always plenty of water, mylar blankets and a lot of food. The best part is that they give you a bag to carry it in. Only the second race this year where that happened. It’s tough to be holding water and all your extra post race fuel. Nice touch Philly, nice touch.
As I had promised, I waited for Dave at the finish line. It wasn’t too long before he made it across and I was glad to see he made it. I could see he wasn’t feeling too comfortable but he was still smiling.
That’s what is great about running. I meet plenty of people out and about and it’s great when you get to share an experience with someone. A week after the race Dave had a significant health scare but thanks to his level of fitness he is back on his feet again and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he is outpacing me.
Now to the medal. Wow. What a great medal. I think it easily out does all my runDisney medals. Philadelphia did a great job replicating the Liberty Bell. It actually works as a bell to. It was so funny hearing all the ringing as I was walking back to my car. I’m sure thousands of little angels were getting their wings that day LOL.
Once home I quickly showered and as per usual, didn’t relax. It was only a couple of hours later that I was back out at Sesame Place with my kids. Hey, I have to keep moving.
Then onto one of my favorite places for an after race celebration.
I love this event. I can’t wait to run it again. I also know there is sub 3:50 in me somewhere.
Thanks for reading.
(Apologies to you all for my late posting of this entry. I typically like to get my race reports done within a week of the race. Sorry. Family, work, life.)