2018 Philadelphia Marathon – race recap

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Let’s pretend I own a time machine and I can take you back to last November (which is a sneaky way of saying I am late posting this recap). Okay, now that you have suspended disbelief for a while I will take you back to late fall where my wife and I ran the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon together. I like to do this race every year as (1) it was my very first marathon and will always be special and (2) it is essentially my local marathon, I can drive there in the morning and be home by noon(ish). I have run this every year since I started ‘marathoning’ and only missed one year (2014) as we were on vacation for Thanksgiving. This would be my 8th Philadelphia Marathon and only the second time that I have run this together with my wife. We last ran this together in 2013.

In addition to running with my Wife again this year a new challenge for me was that this was only two weeks after running the 2018 New York City Marathon which is the shortest time I have ever had between marathons. I was a little nervous and hoping I would be able to manage the distance and support my wife the whole way. Although a little apprehensive going in, I’m always excited when this race comes around. I have many good memories from this race.

Before the race was the expo. This year was located as usual at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I made the trek to the expo the day before the race to pick up our race packets and to also pick up our pre-ordered merchandise. This year was an anniversary year, the 25th anniversary of this version of the marathon, and I was hoping that they would be making extra effort for all the runners. In 2013 when my wife and I ran together it was the 20th anniversary race and they awarded us with a special gold (colored) version of the race medal.

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Arriving at the expo

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Arriving at the expo

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Arriving at the expo

As I picked up my bib, one of the volunteers noted my New York City Marathon race shirt and said something to the effect that they didn’t know if they would be able to run two marathons so close together…at this point, neither did I. It would make for an interesting weekend.

I headed in to get our bibs and as this was the first year of the new ‘Philadelphia Challenge’ I headed to grab the special fleece that my wife earned for running the ‘Broad Street Run‘ back in May and the Philadelphia Marathon this weekend. I picked up a fleece that showed 36.2 miles for the Philadelphia Challenge.

The merchandise area was set up as it had been for the last couple of years. I took a quick look knowing that I had already spent my race weekend budget on pre-orders. I saw a couple of jackets similar to the one I had pre-ordered but in different colors and slightly different logos. As I tried them on I suddenly realized that the sizing seemed a little off from what I was expecting. The size large that I had ordered (while trying these jackets on) was huge. I would be swimming in the jacket. I looked around in vain to see if there were other sizes of the jacket I ordered but no 😦 . I told a member of the event staff my pre-order details and also asked if there were any medium jackets back behind the merchandise and not on display. They came back with my order and said there were no other sizes. As this was the Saturday before the race they were pretty much sold out. I checked the bag to make sure I got what I ordered and lo and behold, I had ordered a large jacket but there was a medium in the bag!!! Wow! It fit great. Day made 🙂 .

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After passing through the merchandise section I headed out into the main hall. As I mentioned earlier this was an anniversary race and so they had on display all the t-shirts, bibs and medals from each respective year through 2017. These were pretty cool to see.

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My first marathon finisher medal – 2011

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I headed through the exhibitor section of the expo. Having been to many of these I was used to seeing a number of the vendors and didn’t spend too much time. I did make one purchase of racedots to try out for the weekend. FYI, the magnets are really strong and (spoiler alert) they worked well for the race. I did see a funny t-shirt for any spectator that made me chuckle.

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I also stopped by the CGI Racing booth to ‘spin the wheel’ and win a prize. My wife had asked me to stop by and see if I could pick up a coupon for a race discount for ‘The Love Run‘ in March as she wanted to run again in 2019. I did one better…I spun the wheel and won her a 50% discount for the race. I picked up a discount coupon for the ‘Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon‘ in April which I planned to run and hadn’t run since 2016.

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After the expo I headed home to get ready for the race and set out my gear before an early dinner and an early night. I was going with the understated look this year as you can see.

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Race day arrived and after an early morning wake up and drive to the City we were primed and ready for the race. The temperature for the day looked great for running, a little cool to start but in the mid 50s for the most part of the day while we would be running.

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Arriving at the race

We were soon in the starting corral and ready to go. A chilly start but we hoped it would feel comfortable soon as we set out running.

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I got many cheers of ‘Go Brexit’ which was not what I was going for. My wife thought it was funny though.

We started out running an even pace in the mid-9’s for the first few miles. The pace was agreeable and we took in the clear morning and crowd support. All was going well. We had headed down through Center City to Columbus Boulevard and then through Queen’s Village and South Street and then back up Chestnut Street.

As we headed up past 30th Street Station and onwards towards the Drexel University campus (around mile 8) my wife took a fall. Completely face planted. Her first fear was that she was going to be trampled by the runners behind her but myself and another runner were quick to pick her up and I made sure she was okay. I think she was a little stunned for a moment so we walked a little to make sure she felt okay and was calm. She had fallen on her knee but nothing of major consequence that we noted at the time. Later after the race there was a little grazing to the knee but no major injury, just a little shaken up.

The fall had stopped our momentum a little (and understandably so). We took it easy as we set off again hoping that there were no ill effects. After the Drexel Campus there are the two biggest hills on the course. The one leading up to the Philadelphia Zoo and then the one leading up to Memorial Hall. These are the only two significant hills you have on the course. Our pace dropped as we hit these hills but we were still in the low 10s for the most part through Fairmount Park and then up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as we made it to the halfway point just before the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was a really beautiful day. One of the best things about running this race are the views as you run alongside the river.

As we rounded the Art Museum (mile 14ish) and headed out along Kelly Drive towards Manayunk, my wife started to struggle a little. Not from the fall (her knee wasn’t bothering her) but she sometimes gets hip and IT band pain during long runs. It doesn’t happen in every marathon but we had just done the hilliest parts of the course and I think it was beginning to catch up with her. It was also warming up so that may have added to the stresses. We had already run 14 miles and that is no mean feat in itself. Our pace slowed as we started to take some walk breaks and we were now running miles in the 11 minutes per mile range but at least we had forward momentum and were making our way along the course.

The crowds are thinner from the point at which we leave the City through the park and up Kelly Drive which sometimes makes that stretch seem longer than it is. We finally reached Manayunk (miles 19 through 21) and this is where the crowds pick back up. We were welcomed by residents handing out oranges, beer and other goodies. The crowds were thick and loud as we reached the end of the main street and hit the turnaround. Once you get to that point around mile 21 you know you are going to make it home…although it does seem more than 5 miles to you at this stage. We were doing well, taking walk breaks as needed.

On the road back from Manayunk it is just a matter of keeping focus and committing to getting to the finish. People are dragging at this stage. We just kept focusing on form and moving along and not trying to think of any negative thoughts. At one point a local running club was offering some relief for runners during the last few miles. My wife stopped at one of these stations and had a lady massage her IT band with a running stick (like a rolling-pin being pressed into the muscles). It brought tears to her eyes. Not sure if it was pain or relief but she wanted to hug the lady and thank her. Relief I guess as she wasn’t complaining.

As we hit mile 25 and rounded the corner we could see the Art Museum in the distance and knew we were almost home. As we approached mile 26 the crowd was deep and loud and we saw people we knew out there cheering us on. Any moments of discomfort or pain were behind us now as we sprinted toward the finish line to cross with an official time of 4:42:56. Not our fastest but it was quicker than my wife’s last Philadelphia Marathon. She had made it through the discomfort of the back half of the course and overcome a little fright from her fall earlier in the race. I was really proud of her. I had finished my second marathon in the space of two weeks so I was thrilled.

We passed the finish line and went to collect our medals. Our friend Robyn was at the finish line as a volunteer passing out the medals and it was such a nice surprise to see her and receive our medals from her.

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Always great to finish another marathon and as you can see we pretty happy.

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As usual, we didn’t hang around too long. Always somewhere to be. In this case it was a birthday brunch for one of my wife’s friends so we dashed to the finish line to pick up our car and head to our sister and brother in law’s house for a quick shower. As we were dashing to the car we bumped into another friend who was out there cheering people on.

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Always fun to have cheer leaders out there

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Done and headed for brunch

We walked into the brunch (although we Uber-ed to the restaurant) wearing our medals. We had earned our food and it tasted really great. Our medals were replicas of the Liberty Bell and we had the sounds of ringing in our ears all day as we wore our medals.

No surprises here. I’ve already signed up for the 2019 race.

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