January and February 2017 – Two months in review

Life has been a little busy, all good though. I’m only just getting around to catching up so this will be a quick recap of both January and February together.

Here is my Garmin and Nike data for January.

Garmin Connect – January 2017

Over 201 miles this month – 178 miles running with a couple of days cross training (Swimming – 1.66 miles and Biking – 21.85 miles). Notice January 7th with the snow shoveling activity that got added!!!!

Nike just records my running total. This is the result of training for a marathon during the winter.

Nike + Summary – January 2017

I was happy to wake up early on January 1st and knock out a 15 mile run while the streets were quiet. Best running day of the year (provided you are dressed for the weather). We have had a fairly warm winter although I did have to take a few long runs on the treadmill due to juggling some parent handling duties and extra early morning runs. Still, I was able to keep myself occupied with numerous episodes of Star Trek – The Next Generation.

My wife and I were still able to get outdoors together thanks to the mild weather. This made winter marathon training much more fun – especially when we were able to get our long runs in together while the boys were in school on Sunday mornings.

Here we are running along the Delaware Canal Towpath

 

Crossing the Delaware River at Washington Crossing. A little colder but still a great morning.

Here are my Garmin stats for February.

Garmin Connect – February 2017

You will notice another day of snow shoveling on February 9th. To have only 2 days of major shoveling in two months is great and welcome relief for my lower back! No swimming this month but total miles of 166 miles for the month made up of almost 141 miles of running and 25.5 miles of riding (indoors). As you can see we knocked out the last of our long runs mid month and very happily enjoyed the start to our taper.

Nike + Summary – February 2017

February weather was incredible. I got to run my last 20 mile run outdoors in t-shirt and shorts….in February!!!!!!

Incredible weather for mid-February. So lucky.

For Valentine’s Day this year my wife decided to sign me up for a couple’s class at the Orange Theory Fitness gym she attends regularly. Boy, was I not prepared for that. I did hold my own but I’m not used to doing squats holding medicine balls or doing multiple rounds of burpees (they are not a nice thing!). I was very happy to have survived and enjoyed our sushi dinner at the restaurant next door post workout. With an extra helping of green tea ice cream.

My one, and to date only, Orange Theory Fitness class report

I had to skip my running for a couple of days after this as my quads were beaten up from the squats and burpees but I guess it was good for me.

February also brought about registration for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. Usually registration opens up in April but it seems to be getting earlier and earlier. My wife and I haven’t done a runDisney race since we did the Goofy Challenge back in 2015. This was the 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and that it would be a special race (we had run the 20th Anniversary race back in 2013, my wife’s first marathon). We would also be timing this to be my wife’s ’10th’ marathon and my ’20th’ marathon. Big goals. To add into the mix we decided to register for the Goofy Challenge again. This is really such a fun race and this will be her 2nd Goofy and my 4th (if you include the Goofy distance that I ran as part of the 2014 Dopey Challenge). Our boys are signed up for the ‘Mickey Mile’ too that weekend. Lots to look forward to in 2018.

It should be a very special race again

Ready for a redo of our Goofy fun. Costume ideas are being planned.

Looking forward to another Goofy Challenge together

But firstly in March we have the upcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon and then I will be back in triathlon training mode. It will be a busy year.

Philly2Goofy – An origin story…

cropped-goofy.jpg

I’m heading down to run the 2015 Walt Disney World marathon. This will be my 4th Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.

For the last 3 years I have run for Team Up with Autism Speaks. I had signed up on my own in April 2012 for the 2013 Goofy Challenge and was looking to perhaps run for a charitable cause when my niece was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I decided then to sign up and run for an autism charity and put my miles to good use. Over the last three years I have raised over $11,000 for this cause and hope that in some way all this running has changed or helped other people in ways that running has changed my life for the better. Although I cannot be with my family in the UK as an extra pair of hands I hope that the work I have done to raise funds has benefited other family such as mine.

I have had the great pleasure of running with my wife in her first marathon (Disney 2013) and look forward to her joining me running her first Goofy Challenge this weekend as a Team Up team member. Notice that I said her first!!! Along the way I have made many friends in the running and runDisney community (a big shout out to all my fellow Mickey Milers) and I also started this blog to document these races (although it includes more than just Disney races now).

January 11, 2013 - relaxing before the night before the Goofy Challenge

January 11, 2013 – the night before my 1st Goofy Challenge

Custom T - front

Custom T - back

So as I head down for another year I will proudly wear my ‘Team Sadie’ shirt and hope to have 39.3 miles of fun with a few thousand of my fellow Goofy (and Dopey) friends. I’ll look forward to writing my 2015 race reports after this weekend but for now I will look back and share the first race recap(s) from the 2013 Goofy Challenge.

what-is-the-goofy-challenge

Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

You can also still make a donation at the following this link.

Thank you and I’ll be in look forward to sharing our weekend with you soon.

 

Today is my 4 year ‘Runiversary’

It’s been 4 years to the day that I set foot inside the gym and began a ‘Coach 2 5K’ plan. I wrote about this on last year’s runiversary. With marathon number 9 just 13 days from now I thought I would look back at my achievements and remind myself that anything is possible when you set your mind to do something. Even if you never achieve the goals you set at least you can say that you tried which is greater than saying I wish I should have.

1 – Philadelphia Marathon – November 2011

Philadelphia 2011

2 – Walt Disney World Marathon – January 2012

Disney 2012

3 – Philadelphia Marathon 2012 (first sub 4 hour marathon)

4. Walt Disney World Marathon – January 2013 (my first Goofy Challenge and my wife’s first marathon)

Disney 2013

5. New Jersey Marathon – May 2013

Finsish line

6. Philadelphia Marathon – November 2013

 

7. Walt Disney World Marathon – January 2014 (my first Dopey Challenge)

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8. New Jersey Marathon – April 2014 (Current PR 3:54)

19

I have a lot to look back on and be proud of and a lot to look forward to and achieve.

My upcoming races are:

August – Chasing the Unicorn Marathon

September – Philadelphia Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

October – Baltimore Marathon

January – Walt Disney World Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge (Half and Full Marathon)

I’ll keep going for as many miles as I have in me. Thank you for following me on this journey.

 

 

2014 New Jersey Marathon recap

This post is a few days later than anticipated but I just completed marathon number 8, the 2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. This brought a little redemption from when I ran this race last year 🙂

2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

2014 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

I decided to run this race again this year for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to see the course over it’s mostly original restored course a year after Hurricane Sandy and second, to earn the PR I had set myself as a goal last year before the wheels fell off. So having re-registered in December I set about training for this event straight after completing the inaugural 2014 Walt Disney World ‘Dopey Challenge’. Actually I was already a couple of weeks into the training program when I got back from Florida and so with 16 weeks to go I set about training for New Jersey.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this was a pretty harsh winter and I did most of my training (including long runs) on the treadmill. Thankfully I was able to run outdoors by the time the 20 milers rolled around. Coming into this event I had run three good races all below my marathon goal pace (9:00/per mile) and was feeling confident although a little apprehensive based upon last year.

The race director does a great job of keeping everyone informed of events and starting out 10 weeks before the day there were weekly updates on the New Jersey Marathon blog which were very helpful as the day approached. In addition, the organizers were very active on Facebook updating everyone on the activities going on and introducing the marathon pace teams to everyone. Communication was top class.

I headed to the expo on the Friday evening before the race as my office is very close by and I didn’t have time to come back the following day (I live about 60 miles from the expo/start line area). The race expo and the race start and staging area is at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. The expo is held inside the pavillion.

Arriving at the expo

Arriving at the expo

Entering the park

Entering the park

Arriving for packet pickup

Arriving for packet pickup

Packet pickup was very simple. I was picking up bibs and shirts also for two friends running the Long Branch Half Marathon (which started and finished along the full marathon course). The volunteers were very helpful and there were tables for bib pickup for each race and t-shirt pickup for each race. Shirts were offered in male and female sizes which I see more of these days rather than the unisex shirts that other races offer.

Bib pickup was simple

Bib pickup was simple

Shirt pickup was divided into male/female tables and also by events

Shirt pickup was divided into male and female tables and also by events

There was also a small section of race specific merchandise. I didn’t buy any of the official merchandise this year but there was a broad range of wear and accessories and all the designs were nice too.

New Jersey Marathon Merchandise Area

New Jersey Marathon Merchandise Area

The expo was small. There were a few vendors but they had a full speaker series scheduled during the expo on both Friday and Saturday. You don’t get that at many races. Also there was a chance to meet up with various members of the New Jersey Marathon pace teams. Each pace group had two runners assigned and they were there to answer questions. On my way out the door I passed the small ‘Skechers‘ table. They were beaming from ear to ear in the glow of Meb Keflezighi’s Boston Marathon win. I am sure they will be back next year with a larger table 🙂

Obligatory bib photo before leaving the expo

Obligatory bib photo before leaving the expo

On Saturday I had planned a full family day so they got a chance to watch me carb load on pancakes although to be fair I bought lunch for them too!!! After a couple of stops and a birthday party I finally said my goodbyes (leaving them at a local carnival) and hopped in my car for the drive to my hotel near the start line. I set up all my gear for the next day and ‘attempted’ to get an early night….yeah, like you can sleep the night before a marathon.

'Flat Ian' ready for the big day

‘Flat Ian’ ready for the big day

There was a fairly significant thunderstorm that evening so I’m glad I made it to my hotel just before the weather turned sour. It definitely cooled temperatures down. When I left the hotel the following morning my car had a layer of frost on the windshield. Great….I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Luckily the weather forecast for the day looked good (if a bit breezy).

I set out fairly early for the race as I recalled from last year that the entrance to Monmouth Park is via local access roads. With the Half Marathon setting off at 6:45am (the Full Marathon set off at 8am) I knew that some of the local roads would be shut down for a while so I wanted to get there and parked before the start of the Half. Plenty of other people had the same idea but the traffic wasn’t too bad and I got there around 6.15am. The parking was well organized and they had folks working the parking lots to make sure it was all filled in an orderly manner. My Disney experience showed here as I took a picture of my parking lot location…more of that later.

Remember where we parked the car

Remember where we parked the car

The nice thing about the location is that runners get access to the pavillion early prior to the race. That means you have indoor bathrooms, somewhere to keep warm and a place to sit before having to head out to bag check. I made myself comfortable and relaxed.

Race morning inside the pavilion. Bustling with Half and Full Marathoners.

Race morning inside the pavilion. Bustling with Half and Full Marathoners.

Relaxing pre-race.

Relaxing pre-race.

I didn’t get a chance to catch up with my friends Beth and her brother Larry prior to the Half but I had planned on meeting a couple of other folks prior to the race. While sitting around in the pavillion I also bumped into a former colleague of mine (Marc) and met up with John Thompson from the ‘The Runner of a Certain Age‘ blog and podcast. I had planned to meet up with my wife’s former colleague from her time in London, Chris, but he wasn’t hanging out in the paviilion. I later found out he was staying nearby with family and didn’t plan on arriving too early as he didn’t need to.

With John and Marc

With John and Marc

Around 7:30 we bid each other good luck and headed towards the bag check. Being a point to point race we had to load our gear bags into a waiting truck if we wanted anything like a jacket or other items post race. I packed up my bag, put on my throw away shirt and headed for the corrals.

Ok...I'm ready

Ok…I’m ready

Just after entering the corral I bumped into Chris so I got the photo for my wife which I had been instructed to before the weekend and got ready for the start. I have said this before but I find it relaxing and takes away any nerves chatting with someone in the corral before the start of the race.

Meeting up with Chris.

Meeting up with Chris.

As we were starting at a race track the start to the race was quite unique…a bugle call. This was followed by a short burst of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ (hey, this was the New Jersey Marathon after all) and off we went.

My goal for this year was the same as last year…you know, the one I blew last year 😦 I had been antsy ever since last year that I wanted to break 3:55 in a marathon and was training hard for this. Still it did give me a little nervousness going in knowing that I was trying to accomplish something I had not managed the year before. I did however feel more relaxed this year. I look back at how good and relaxed I felt running the Marathon on the last day of the Dopey Challenge this past January and how my recent 3 races had gone and felt I could do this.

The course at the start has quite a few turns as you go through the local towns then there is a long stretch out to Asbury Park where it gets all twisty again (seriously twisty) then the run back up the long straight and takes you to finish up on the boardwalk in Long Branch (see the map below).

2014 New Jersey Marathon Course Map

2014 New Jersey Marathon Course Map

Last year I know I went out too fast. I ran almost a PR on the first half of the course and then my heart rate elevated and I couldn’t bring it down. By mile 15 last year I started losing a minute per mile and finished the second half of the race 20 minutes slower than the first half. Not great and was very disappointing. This year I had vowed to be different.

Well…I ran a very aggressive first 10K at 8:34/mile pace without really planning on running that fast and then forced myself to back off a little. Still, I made the half way point at almost my half marathon PR 1:53 at 8:39 pace. As we approached the half way point we started running alongside some of the half marathoners and we also passed the marathon relay point. The split for the half marathon and the marathon was around mile 11. This then took the full marathoners down throught the long straight towards Asbury Park. I was constantly checking my heart rate the whole time during my walk breaks (I was using a 4:00/0:45 interval ratio). I was managing to keep my heart rate stable and was feeling good.

Feeling good on the early stages of the race

Feeling good on the early stages of the race

The weather was beautiful and sunny on the day and the crowd support around the towns was good. Not so much along the out and back portion as it was run through a very wealthy neighborhood and not many folks came out to cheer but those that did were appreciated. Going down towards the turnaround I felt good and was enjoying the course and the scenery. This was the part of the course that was changed from the previous year and I found it more enjoyable to run (less interrupting turns and a little wider). Once we hit Asbury Park there were lots of corners to turn before we hit the turnaround point around mile 18.5. Once we rounded that it was back up from where we had come.

You didn’t really notice the wind when we run downwind which we had down through mile 18.5. Once you hit the turnaround you hit the wind. The last 8 miles were effectively run heading into what felt at the time like a wind tunnel. Whew!!! This made the run back up towards Longport just that bit harder. On the return leg in Asbury Park we were able to run a little on the newly reconstructed boardwalk. This was a part of the course that was closed to us last year. Nice to see that the rebuilding of the Shore is ongoing and glad we got to run through part of the restoration.

I started to slow a little as the combination of running into the wind and getting into the last few miles of the marathon began to take its toll. After mile 22 I just had to buckle down and stick to my run/walk intervals. I figured if I could focus on just completing the run section without stopping I would make it to the end and maybe…just maybe I might meet my goal time. Plus there was the view of the beach to my right as I was running. What could be too bad.

I look like am under arrest from the fashion police for my 80s retro tube socks look

I look like I am under arrest from the fashion police for my 80’s retro tube socks look

Having inadvertantly hit my lap button while checking my heart rate early in the race I hadn’t noticed that my mile splits were slightly off the mileage posts on the course (I figured that out by mile 22). But I still had decent splits considering the wind resistance. Here are my splits.

My mile splits

My mile splits

As I rounded the final corner for the last 2 miles on the boardwalk in Long Branch I looked at my Garmin and new I was sub 4 hours but wasn’t sure if I would be sub 3:55. So now it was time to focus. All the weeks of training had to pay off now. I buckled down and focused on the finish line….which was hidden around a bend and took forever to appear. Nevertheless, I skipped that final walk interval and picked up my pace and headed for the finish line.

And…

Made it

Made it

The clock shows sub 4 but as I started in Corral C that morning the truth was on my Garmin.

I like what I see

I like what I see

Yup. I did it. I broke 3:55. My actual official time was 3:54:30.

Official result posted

Official result posted

Very happy at the finish line

Very happy at the finish line

Then I got to receive an awesome medal. Spinners are always cool but this medal in addition to being a spinner also had the towns we ran through shown on the back. Pretty cool commemorative medal. I let my star shine today just like the medal said.

Pretty cool medal

Pretty cool medal

At the finish line we received a bag from Panera Bread. I was quite excited as when we ran the San Francisco Half Marathon last June we received post run treats from Panera and they were yummy. This was a little disappointing. I know this is a much smaller race than San Francisco but in the bag was a breadstick (yeah…a breadstick) a banana and three pieces of salt water taffy. I have to admit I bought my own post race snacks. I have started doing that based upon my refuel needs. I bring along an Accel Recover bar and a Powerade. Just to have properly formulated fluids, carbs and protein.

Once I picked up my gear bag it was time to take the long walk back to the race buses which would take runners back to the parking at Monmouth Park. Just like last year, althought the walk was slow it was the best thing I needed at the time to keep me from stiffening up prior to my long car ride home. As I was taking the walk back I passed by the finish line festival. There was plenty for the kids to do and also some merchandise for sale.

The finish line festival

The finish line festival

I chatted with a couple of folks on the bus journey back to the start line and everyone seemed tired but in good spirits and happy with the day. I remember last year it felt the bus ride took forever but with a full complement of passengers and someone to talk to it passed relatively quickly.

Now, remember above I mentioned the parking? Well, I was parked at row 87. I have learned (unfortunately through experience at Disney races) to take a picture of where I parked the car so I can find it again. The bus dropped us off at row 1. That’s not too close to row 87. Sheesh…that was the toughest part of the day. Not too many folks walking with me by then so it was a loooooong sloooow walk back to the car. I did a good amount of stretching before I got in for the hour plus long journey home and actually felt pretty comfortable that I did.

I made one stop before I reached home to get my special post race treat. I hadn’t yet been to our local Rita’s this year so guess where I headed 🙂

A nice 'root beer' gelati

A nice ‘root beer’ gelati

A couple of days after the race (hence the delay in posting) I had to have some medical tests done which I had put off because of the marathon. As a consequence I was not allowed to take any anti-inflammatory meds for the next few days so it was time for a nice soak in an ice bath (brrrrrrr….) to help soothe out the tired muscles. Luckily no one was home so they couldn’t hear me talk like a sailor when I got in. However, it worked wonders and if you can ever do it post long run I recommend it. Just keep the kids out of earshot.

Waiting on the countdown to finish my ice bath

Waiting on the countdown to finish my ice bath

I had been in touch with John Thompson prior to the race and we had met up on the morning of the race. Subsequently he invited me onto the race recap episode of his podcast and we discussed our experiences together. I tend to talk alot (and write as much) so the episode was split into two parts. Here are parts one and two. Worth a listen. Also, here is the link to his blog and Facebook page. Thank you for the invite John.

So, I PR’d. I am very happy with my time and it felt great but looking back I’m not on the long lasting high I thought I would be. I was much more on a high finishing Goofy and Dopey and even when I completed the Disney Marathon in 2013 and Philadelphia Marathon in 2013 with my wife. PR’s are great but I think I get more out of the ‘fun’ of racing and the achievements than just times alone. Yes, I trainined hard and achieved my goal but in perspective I look back more fondly on the ‘experience’ than the time. I didn’t think that would always be the case. I’m kind of glad it is.

Anyway, would I recommend this race? Yes. Would I go and do it again? Maybe but only if I was running with my wife or a buddy. There are plenty of other races on my wish list and I have had two great experiences running here. I think it is one to consider at this time of the year and the race director and his team do a fantastic job of running this event. It’s a nice day at the beach.

Thank you for reading 🙂

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 5 – Full Marathon – January 12, 2014

Today was the main event, the Walt Disney World Marathon. This was the last event of the Dopey Challenge and the culmination of 24 weeks of training. Did I mention that it was the last early wake up of the event too (score!!!) I guess with the excitement and adrenaline due to this being the big event I didn’t feel really tired despite all the previous days of running and park time. Also, with the thunderstorm the night before it cooled the temperatures quite a bit which would be great (as compared to the 2013 Marathon) So again today I dressed in my Team Up gear and coordinated my Pro Compression socks to match Dopey (you can see it was pretty close later in the recap) and headed out for another early arrival at EPCOT for the start of the race.

Cooler than yesterday and still dropping before the start

Cooler than yesterday and still dropping before the start

It was cool with a slight breeze as I walked towards the bag check area. After last year of bringing down throw away gear I got smarter thanks to a very helpful tip. I tend to keep those mylar blankets they give out after marathons and they are small and light enough to pack with no problem. I wore my blanket from essentially the time I got out of the car until the start of the race. It was easy to pack up in my gear back and doubled as something to sit on later in the corrals while we waited.

Excited for the race and wearing my Dopey colored socks

Excited for the race and wearing my Dopey colored socks

I didn’t see many familiar faces in the starting area this time around although I did bump into a new Facebook friend (Jennifer) who spotted me as I arrived. She was running her first marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge. I headed through the bag check very early as like the day before I wanted to get over to the corral and sit for as long as I could to rest up before the 26.2 miles which lay ahead. I will admit that this was probably the most calm I have ever felt during a marathon. This would be my 7th marathon so I knew I could do this but I think due to the continuous high from the weekend I was just relaxed. Anyone who knows me well (read ‘my wife’) will tell you I am always a little uptight before a big race. Today was just, in my head anyway, a long run and I was going to treat it that way and have fun. Time didn’t really matter to me much. It was day 4 of the Dopey Challenge and I was there to have fun and make it to the finish line.

Keeping warm before the race

Keeping warm before the race

As we all started the long walk to the corrals (via ‘Backstage Lane’) I started chatting to a few folks, some doing the Dopey, some Goofy and some running their first marathon. With words of encouragement being shared among us it really felt more of a communal long run than a big city race. People running a Disney race bring with them an expectation of fun and camaraderie that I have not experienced in many of my other races. Sure you say ‘hi’ to people but people just seem more open to chat about the events. It could be the nature of these multi-race events which is unique and everyone is checking to see how other people are doing and sharing thoughts. Just my opinion really.

As we approached the split between corrals A to H and I to P one of the people I was talking to suddenly said, “Hey, you’re Ian from ‘Philly2Goofy’. I thought you looked familiar”. I was totally taken by surprise, especially being as dark and so early in the morning. They said they had followed the blog and actually printed out the training plan I was following and stuck it up on their wall. I was flattered (although all the credit must go to Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway as I wouldn’t be here doing this without them). That totally lifted my spirits higher and I cheerfully headed to the corrals. I didn’t see Mark or Rob who I knew were supposed to be in my corral so I took a seat and waited while watching the pre-show. Various folks were brought up and interviewed including Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon and Jeff Galloway. Both were running Dopey along with me and the other 6,999 folks.

Waiting in corral F

Waiting in corral F

During the pre-show one of the race announcers (or interviewers I forget which) ask who was ‘just doing the Marathon’. Let me say now for all readers and runners…THERE IS NO JUST…anyone out there running a Full Marathon is a champion and just because there are other challenges out there that runDisney has made popular should not in any way diminish the awesome experience and success of a person training, running and finishing a Marathon. I guess it is only at a Disney event when someone says of themselves I’m “just doing a Half or a Full” or even “I’m just doing Goofy”. Everyone is a runner and a champion for just toeing the line. There, I said it!!! I’m of my soapbox now. 🙂 Soon we would hear the ‘National Anthem’ and we knew we were ready for the start. Mickey (and even Dopey earlier before the race) was there to count us down and with fireworks shooting off we were starting. Yes, I got my fireworks today 🙂 All was good in the world. And then we were off.

The countdown was given by the 'Mouse' of the hour

The countdown was given by the ‘Mouse’ of the hour

I got my fireworks!!!

I got my fireworks!!!

Like yesterday, Bart Yasso was waiting on the left of the start line cheering everyone along on their way. I said a quick ‘Hi Bart’ and settled in for the first mile. Now at this point I want to do a little number crunching. At this point we had finished 3 of the 4 races that make up the Dopey Challenge which might sound like were 75% of the way there but in reality when you looked at the actual distance we had at this point run a 5K, a 10K and a Half Marathon which totaled 22.4 miles. As the Dopey Challenge would actually end up being 48.6 miles that mean we wouldn’t actually reach 50% or half way through the total mileage until we hit mile 1.9 in the Full Marathon. A little warped but, hey, we’re Dopey aren’t we 🙂

What we had ahead of us

What we had ahead of us

My strategy of stopping for photos early the day before worked well so I could maintain a steady pace going towards the Magic Kingdom where I knew I would be spending lots of time today. It wasn’t long before I saw that we were approaching the start of the way towards the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center.

Nearing the park. Through the turnstiles to the Ticket and Transportation Center

Nearing the park.
Through the turnstiles to the Ticket and Transportation Center

It was encouraging again to see so many folks out cheering the runners as we approached the Ticket and Transportation Center and as we moved onwards towards the side of the Contemporary Resort we got our first view of the day of the Magic Kingdom. You will know from my recap from the Half Marathon yesterday how much I enjoy running into the Magic Kingdom and up Main Street USA. It is always magical. Today was as magical but also special. As soon as I ran onto Main Street I bumped into Joe Taricani, the host of ‘The Marathon Show‘ podcast. Joe runs holding an ‘On Air’ sign and speaks to runners as they experience their journeys. Today I got to run up Main Street with Joe and even made it onto the podcast. Another great experience and one that adds to the memories of this weekend. Check out Episode 228 to hear the recap of the day. In all of this I still managed to get my Main Street USA photo to make the day complete.

Main Street USA during the 2014 Marathon

Main Street USA during the 2014 Marathon

I had a specific goal for the Marathon this year in terms of photos in the Magic Kingdom. For the last two years I never got a shot of Mickey at the Castle. This year no matter the lines I was going to do it.

Am I late?

Am I late?

The one and only Tigger

The one and only Tigger

With Royal Minnie and Mickey outside Cinderella's Castle

With Royal Minnie and Mickey outside Cinderella’s Castle

Every race or trip or famous landmark that I go to with my wife she always takes a ‘jump shot’. I have albums from vacations where my wife is doing a jump shot on almost every page of the book. It has become her trademark and although I do participate in the fun from time to time I never do so during a race, especially a marathon. Well, I was having so much fun over the course of the last few days I threw caution to the wind and just went for it. I was at mile 6 of the Marathon (mile 28 of the Challenge) and while normally I would be anxious about my knees I was feeling good so it seemed a given that as my wife wasn’t here I needed to ‘represent’ 🙂

Running through the Castle

Running through the Castle

I do look like I'm having fun

I do look like I’m having fun

I did notice as I ran through Fantasyland and the New Fantasyland that there were less characters out this year. Last year it was all Princesses outside New Fantasyland but this year there were none. I ran through Frontierland but didn’t stop for photos this time but headed backstage to exit the park. I finally found a Princess and stopped for a quick photo.

With Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (that's Eugene Fitzherbery for those that know) :-)

With Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (that’s Eugene Fitzherbert for those that know) 🙂

Coming out of the Magic Kingdom we are around mile 6.5 and begin our little trip up Cone Alley past the Grand Floridian towards the Speedway at mile 8. Again, no Mary Poppins today. She was hanging out with the Penguins in Race Retreat. There were a couple of character stops along the way. I even stopped for the Villains this year which was a first for me.

Hanging with Goofy on the golf course

Hanging with Goofy on the golf course

With Maleficent and Dr Facilier

With Maleficent, Scar and Dr Facilier

We hit the Speedway just after mile 8. I remember last year the sun was up at this time and the heat was already up high. This year was much cooler but there were some wet patches under foot which wasn’t great around Cone Alley as you sometimes run along some grassy areas trying to get around other runners. As we approached the Speedway I noted there were no characters outside like there were last year. Again, less characters throughout the course this year. When entering the Speedway there is a really narrow and steep downslope and upslope onto the circuit. As it was still wet underfoot the runners ahead had slowed down and there was a slight bottleneck at this point but once out on the track it opens up. The trick is to stay on the inner circuit of the track as it is flat with no banking. As was the case last year there were car clubs represented as you ran around the circuit. Different from last year was that there were no ‘Cars’ characters out on the track. This was fine with me as it allowed me to just keep running. I had spent a lot of time in the Magic Kingdom and although I wasn’t going for a time goal at all it was nice to just get a nice rhythm going.

Keeping within the speed limit

Keeping within the speed limit

As we excited the Speedway there was a quick trek over a grass median and we were off towards the Animal Kingdom. This is the part of the race that takes us past the Water Treatment Center. Well, the good news with the cooler temperatures and the slight breeze, there was no smell when I ran past this year. BONUS!!! I’m usually taking an energy gel around mile 10 so glad I didn’t have to deal with any added ‘extras’.

Together with Captain Hook and Mr Smee

Together with Captain Hook and Mr Smee

As I approached the Animal Kingdom I heard my name being called. It was Mark my fellow Team Up teammate. I hadn’t seen him earlier in the day while waiting in the corrals so I actually headed back to catch up with him to check in. He was nursing a leg injury which he had coming into the Goofy Challenge but he looked strong and I know that he did finish as I saw his results later on. After saying good luck I headed into the Animal Kingdom just around mile 12.

Wishing upon a star with Jiminy Cricket

Wishing upon a star with Jiminy Cricket

As we entered the park we ran past a variety of animals with their handlers. I found out later that the animals were all wearing special Marathon bibs with their names on. Cute. At the time that I arrived in the Animal Kingdom the ‘Expedition Everest’ ride was not yet open for the day. Some of my fellow runners behind me took the opportunity to stop and ride ‘Everest’ on their way through the park. It’s a Disney race, when else would you stop mid marathon to ride a coaster? Awesome.

Stopping to meet King Louie

Stopping to meet King Louie

We were very close to the halfway point at this stage of the race and we cleared the Half Marathon timing mat just after the water stop leaving the park. This was also the location of the Autism Speaks cheering section today so I made sure to say a big thank you to everyone for coming out and supporting the team.

Cheering on my cheering section

Cheering on my cheering section

I hit the half way timing mat at a time of 2:27:55, this was 15 minutes quicker than I had actually run the Half Marathon the day previously including all the photo stops. It was a complete adrenaline rush. I don’t know where this energy was coming from especially 4 days and 35 miles in at this point but I felt really good.

For the last two years I have avoided a photo stop with the Gravediggers from the Haunted Mansion. Each year I have seen runners lay down and have their picture taken with them. Every year I have looked at these people and thought they were absolutely crazy. How could you get up off the ground having run 14 miles already. This year I was feeling good and became one of those crazy people…it was fun. Luckily the cast member helping out was a pretty strong guy. I guess he had to be for this particular stop. He pulled me up with zeal and I was grateful I didn’t have to try on my own to get up 😉

Just kidding

Just kidding

The next stop on our journey would be the ESPN Wide World of Sports it is a long stretch (well 4 miles) from the Animal Kingdom to ESPN and there isn’t much to see around here. It is pretty wide open at this point and runners spread out. It’s nice to have some space after running in some tight lanes through the parks. During these part of the race Scott who I had met at the 5K spotted me and we ran together for a couple of minutes. We are both Galloway runners and we were running different intervals so we said our goodbyes when the timers went off. Scott looked like he was doing fine. Glad to know that everyone I had met up with over the weekend seemed to be doing fine. The weather today was definitely a positive factor for everyone today.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports is the one part of the course that I just find takes too long. I know it sounds silly as it’s only 3 miles but with all the twists and turns we take, maybe it’s just psychological, but when you think you are close to leaving you hit another turn and it is not the way out. At least this year was cooler (I’ve said that before a few times). As I entered the ESPN Wide World of Sports I made sure to grab a wet towel that they were handing out. Last year I missed it and regretted it. This year the towels were ‘ice’ cold. I squeezed the towel over myself and immediately regretted it. There was still a slight breeze and I started to get the chills. Eek!  I knew I would warm up but for the next mile I was shaking my shirt to try to dry it out a bit and warm up. Oh well, live and learn.

One of the cool things about running around this part of the course is that you get to see all the athletes getting on with their day of training and games. We ran past a soccer game in progress and there were many spectators on the course at this point. The ESPN Wide World of Sports also includes a lap around the outfield of Champions Stadium (spring training home to the Atlanta Braves).

Here I am going to share my biggest tip from running through the Wide World of Sports. As soon as you leave the stadium if you suspect at all that you have any gravel in your shoes stop and empty your shoes. You still have over 6 miles to go and you don’t need anything that will annoy you or irritate you. I’m talking from experience. This year I stopped and took out plenty of gravel. Phew.

Taking a lap around the running track at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

Taking a lap around the running track at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

Running the outfield of Champions Stadium

Running the outfield of Champions Stadium

Leaving the ESPN Wide World of Sports is just before mile 20. You’re beginning the home stretch. Mile 20 is usually where I slow down a bit but I was feeling fine so I knew now that I was going to make it. There is a 2 mile stretch back up towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios and there is not too much to see. They had the big screen out playing movies as they had during the 10K on Friday and all along the route back up (a very slight incline) they have motivational signs along the course. I had to stop for this one:

Walt said it best

Walt said it best

At the end of this 2 mile stretch there is the final ‘big hill’ of the course, the overpass to Hollywood Studios. Each year I have run this event they have had a toy soldier from Toy Story yelling out to runners to get up the hill. Again, this is one of those places that in previous years I have seen runners doing push ups with the drill sergeant (the crazy folks I liked to call them). Well, welcome me to the crazy club. I was feeling good and had the energy and I got down and did my requisite push ups to earn my photo opportunity.

Not kidding

Not kidding

At this point I know I’m 4 miles to the finish. I was getting very excited at this point. I knew the rest of the course from prior years and I knew I felt better than I had the last two years that I had run so I just went for it. I picked up the pace a little. We entered Hollywood Studios just behind Tower of Terror and rounded the corner to head through the tunnel alongside the costume department. Then you have the amazing view when you run up the Streets of New York and head towards the front of the park past the Sorcerer’s Hat. Other than Wreck-It Ralph as we entered the Studios there were no other character opportunities here. Last year there were three. A little disappointing but at this point in the race with only 5K to go you just want to keep going.

The parks were now open and guests as well as supporters were now cheering us on. I have heard many stories of guests being inspired by the runners to look into running a runDisney event in the future. I hope that we inspired one or two (or more) today. After the Studios we head along the Boardwalk through the International Gateway and head towards World Showcase.

Just outside of the entrance back into the United Kingdom Pavillion there was the main guy himself. Dopey. I stopped to say a quick hello and get my picture. Best photo of the week for me (can you say ‘Profile Picture’?)

The shot of the week for me

The shot of the week for me

When you hit the United Kingdom you are reaching mile 25. You are almost there. Essentially, barring a major disaster you can run, walk or crawl your way home. No one will take you off the course once you make it to here. 🙂 As I ran through the Magic Kingdom I heard my name being called out. I wasn’t sure from where but I later found out that it was Jill (one of my Facebook friends) who sent me a note later to confirm I wasn’t just imagining this.

I ran through World Showcase stopping for a photo with a couple of French-speaking ladies in the France Pavillion and then headed towards future world and the finish line.

Aurora and Belle

Princess Aurora and Belle

Running through World Showcase

Running through World Showcase

Almost there

Almost there

Completing the Dopey Challenge

Completing the Dopey Challenge

The home stretch

I did it!!!

I cannot tell you much about that last mile other than it being a blur of complete and utter happiness. I was doing it, completing the Dopey Challenge. Feeling great and realizing 9 months of fundraising and 6 months of training. In the process I recorded over 700 miles of training and raised over $3,800 for Autism Speaks.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! I even ran the second half of the Marathon in around 2:12:30, 10 minutes faster than the first half for an overall time of 4:40:26.

I got my Marathon medal and headed over to the self-treatment area to ice down (I had a plane to catch in a few hours) before heading out to pick up my Goofy and Dopey medals.

With my Mickey medal

With my Mickey medal

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

Seeing as I had to leave later that evening I didn’t really have too much time to wait around after the race. I headed back to the hotel to shower and finish packing with the goal of spending as much time in EPCOT before I had to head to the airport.

*BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING*

*BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING*

My new ‘Ear Hat’ to celebrate my accomplishment.

My annual souvenir. My 'Ear Hat' with my milage.

My annual souvenir. My ‘Ear Hat’ with my mileage.

I spent the next few hours stretching my legs walking around EPCOT. I went straight to Innoventions West to have my photos taken with Mickey, Goofy and Minnie with all my medals.

Celebrating at EPCOT

Celebrating at EPCOT

A closing highlight of the trip

A closing highlight of the trip

I walked around the park congratulating my fellow runners who were all proudly wearing their medals. It is a great feeling of camaraderie which is really only experienced at a runDisney race. People hang around after the races and enjoy their post Marathon time. It feels great. Congratulations to all my fellow runners.

In summary, would I do the Dopey Challenge again? Not sure. I enjoyed it but I have done it now. I’d love to run Goofy again as I really enjoy the atmosphere of the Half and the Full. Racing on 4 consecutive days with 4 early wake ups and early nights was tough. I travelled solo this year as 4 days of running would really have imposed on my family. I missed them greatly. This is the first year they haven’t been there for me at the finish and that is perhaps why I didn’t stick around too long once I finished. I love running at Disney and I love Disney Parks. It is better when my family is with me. That is probably my ultimate reason for not doing Dopey in the future for now (but never say never).

What a great week. I met so many good friends this week and had a really special time running with everyone. I want to thank runDisney, the volunteers and the cast members as well as my Team Up teammates and all my fellow runners for making this a week to remember.

So, my final Fitbit stats for the day. I ran 26.2 miles and ended up showing 34.68 miles. For the whole of the 5 days I ran 48.6 miles and ended up walking another 44 or so miles. I think I need another medal 😉

Thank you for sticking with me through what has been a ‘marathon’ recap. I hope you got a sense of how much fun I had during the Marathon and the whole weeks events.

November 2013 – month in review

November 2013 -  Nike+ Summary

November 2013 –
Nike+ Summary

128 miles this month but a very busy month.

I had been focusing my training on running the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon and strictly following the Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 training plan but somehow I managed to sign up for and schedule two races in the two weeks leading up to the marathon itself and one just over a week after. Yes, two races during the time I should have been tapering. Luckily they both went off without a hitch as did the marathon and I also managed to earn a PR in one event.

The weather was a big factor in each of the races I ran during November. The first race was the Benjamin Franklin Bridge 10K run. It was a cold start but I managed to warm up enough to earn a new 10K PR. I don’t run many 10K distances so it was one of my longer standing goals that I had to beat. I felt good on the day and just went for it.

The following week was the Trenton Half Marathon. It was a really nice course and I ran the race with my wife. We had a wonderful time despite the very cold weather. There was a delay at the start line due to a clock issue and so we stood around in the cold. It took me a couple of miles to feel my feet. All was good in the end. The goal was to do no harm as we were both running the marathon the following week and we stuck to that plan.

On Marathon day itself we ran in t-shirt and shorts. We lucked out for sure with the weather and again it was a wonderful race. It was my 6th marathon (3rd Philly Marathon) and my wife’s 2nd marathon (she ran the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon with me back in January this year). We had a marvelous time together. Running 26.2 miles with your spouse is definitely both an enjoyable time and a test of how much we support each other. We are already looking to 2014 for another marathon together.

As the Philadelphia Marathon was a week earlier than usual this year I had a decent recovery week before we toed the line for the annual Turkey Trot 5 mile race that my running club hosts. This year my parents had flown in from the UK to join us on the day, taking our boys on the one mile fun run/walk. The temperatures were frigid. It was probably the coldest I had been all year. I had three layers on and was still shaking. Needless to say I warmed up with a nice fast time with my wife setting the pace and me following a step behind her.

With November ending I am now focused on the upcoming Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World which is (at the time of writing) just over 5 weeks from now. I have spent the first two weeks following the marathon in ‘recovery’ mode, the next four weeks are the intense training weeks and then I will have about a week and a half to taper. Luckily I am spending a few days in Florida on the Gulf Coast perfectly timed (through a happy accident) for the longest runs of the training plan. Altogether my time in Florida will cover about 60 miles of running including one 20 mile long run which I am doing during the 8 weeks between marathons. I am looking forward to some sunshine.

Thank you for reading.

2013 Philadelphia Marathon – race recap

2013 Philadelphia Marathon

2013 Philadelphia Marathon

This weekend my wife Shari and I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. This is a very special event for me as it was my very first marathon back in 2011, it was also where in 2012 I broke 4 hours in a marathon for the first time as well is being my ‘local’ race (I live in the suburbs just north of Philadelphia in Bucks County, PA). So this was going to be my 3rd consecutive Philadelphia Marathon. It was also the 20th year of the current marathon event so it was sure to be special.

2011 Philadelphia Marathon My First Marathon

2011 Philadelphia Marathon
My First Marathon

2012 Philadelphia Marathon My First Sub 4 Hour Marathon

2012 Philadelphia Marathon
My First Sub 4 Hour Marathon

My wife ran the Half Marathon in 2012 and felt that the atmosphere for the event and the crowds she saw might encourage her to run the Full in the future. After completing her first Full marathon in Walt Disney World in January of this year I convinced her (not that she needed much convincing) to run Philadelphia and I signed us up when registration opened on April 1st.

Both Shari and I trainined using Hal Higdon’s training plans, Novice 2 for Shari and Intermediate 2 for myself. This was the 3rd time I have used this plan and I’m comfortable with the training level right now. I said to Shari as we approached the race that I had no goal other than to run with her and enjoy the race. I had nothing to prove here and just wanted to savor the time. I was probably the most relaxed before a marathon I had ever been (okay, I haven’t done that many!).

As race weekend approached, we, along with everyone else, watched the upcoming weather forecast which seemed to change daily. Even the day before the weather forecast was different than on the actual day. This was Fall in the North East and we had the week before experienced temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s so although it looked warmer they were predicted a little fog and rain. As it turned out it was a glorious day but more on that later.

Our first stop was on Saturday at the expo. As with the previous year it was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. We headed down with our two boys with the plan that we would grab our bibs and take turns sitting with the boys in the Kids Zone while each of us took a look around the expo. The Kids Zone has been a life saver in the past and we only wish there had been one at the Walt Disney World Marathon expo back in January (that was not a fun time at the expo…)

The expo itself was a little odd. As we walked in there was the usual Philadelphia Marathon banner and we took our regular photos by the banner (actually our 6 year old took the photos so we look really tall). As we got through the banner there was a ‘hand written’ sign pointing us towards packet pickup. That was kind of strange. A little amateur looking considering the size of the race.

Welcome

Welcome

It looked a bit last minute

It looked a bit last minute more as an afterthought for such a high profile part of race weekend.

No backing out now

No backing out now

The other thing we noticed about this years expo was the setup seemed different. Usually we grabbed our bibs, went through the merchandise section and then out into the main expo. This year it was a little more like rats in a maze. I don’t know how else to describe it. The packet pickup was easy in itself but getting to there had a couple of turns and you were partly going through the expo at the same time. It was crowded and not easy to manouver with a stroller as some people were in line, some people were passing through and some people were looking at booths. Of all the races I have taken part in this year this was the first race where nobody asked to see my ID to confirm who I was when picking up my race packet. Given all the extra messaging around the increased need for security at the event no-one checked our bags going into the expo either. Strange. That would however change on Sunday.

As has become the norm for races since Boston, the race organizers provided clear bags that would be the only ones allowed at the bag check. They were at least a decent size and they actually looked quite cool, mesh on one side and clear plastic on the other printed with the name of the race. The shirts this year were a light blue and I liked it. It had the words of ’20 YEARS FOR THE LOVE OF RUNNING’ written on the front with the course map on the back (as in prior years).

The expo seemed a little smaller than in previous years too. Looking at the map of the expo it appeared that the booths were all perfectly in line but in reality it wasn’t as if you could walk in a straight line through the expo and I got turned around a couple of times not knowing which direction I had just come from. My wife thought the same. It wasn’t the worst expo but it wasn’t the best and we kind of had expectations for his race being the 20th anniversary event.

Great idea. Every expo should have one

Great idea. Every expo should have one

The scene at the Bib and Packet pickup area.

The scene at the Bib and Packet pickup area.

I did stop by the Hoka booth as this was the first time I had seen the Hoka shoes close up. I tried on a pair of the Bondi model shoes but I really need to have the opportunity to try them on a run to see if they live up to the good things I’ve heard. They sure look different though.

Hoka One One - not the sure for your minimalist friends

Hoka One One – not the shoe for your minimalist friends

Once we were done at the expo we headed home for an early dinner with the boys and to get ready for race day. As usual we laid out our gear the night before. As we were running as a couple we tried to coordinate colors…because you have to! Also, we looked over the race guide that was in our packets I was pleasantly surprized/shocked to see a picture of me in the program. We are not new to this free publicity as my wife made the program of the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend program and we are on the banner of the Atlantic City April Fool’s Half Marathon but the picture of me was from last year’s marathon. As you may know from reading my blog I use Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method to good effect. The picture in the program was a picture of me walking…the only person walking in a picture of everyone else running…oh no!!! Still, I broke 4 hours in the marathon last year so whatever you think from the picture, the result was what I wanted and I can live with the embarassment 😉 My wife didn’t even notice it was me and she specifically looked for us in the program (thanks Honey).

A Purple Princess outfit

A Purple Princess outfit

Just a little hint of orange

Just a little hint of orange

Always check there is a camera near before you walk :-)

Always check there is a camera near before you take a walk break 🙂

Since the Boston Marathon bombing this year many races have increased the security around their events and this event was no different. Prior to race weekend there were updates on the website and in our race emails advising us of the increased security measures. The race organizers were setting up a security perimeter around the start line and check-in areas (the Benjamin Franklin Parkway). They advised everyone to get down early to get through security checks. My wife and I headed downtown at 4:45am for the 7am start time. We parked about 4 blocks away from the start line and headed toward the area. As we approached the Parkway we saw actually barriers into the starting area. We were funneled into chutes with my bag being checked at the start and end of the chute. At the start my bag was ok, but at the end of the chute just a few yards further away I was stopped because my bag contained a bottle of Powerade Zero which at 32 ounces was not permitted into the area. Only 12 ounces bottles were apparently acceptable…my wife made it through security with her 16 ounce bottle…grrrrr 😦

Military guards at a checkpoint to the Parkway

Guards at a checkpoint to the Parkway

Still annoyed about my loss of my Powerade Zero I was pretty annoyed when I saw plenty of people with Camelbak hydration packs and Gatorade bottles (I was beginning to believe it was an anti Coke product bias at this stage) we made a quick pit stop and then stretched out. We had brought our space blankets from last weeks Trenton Half Marathon to keep us warm at the start area as the temperatures were predicted to be in the 50s by start time. We walked a little further up towards the corrals and bag check and decided for one last pit stop before checking in our gear and heading to the corral. Wow. All I can say is wow. So, they increased registration this year to almost 30,000 runners and it seemed they had less port-a-potties than in prior years. We were in lines that zig-zagged up and back across the field. After being in line for over 30 minutes we had a minor mutiny on our hands and when we circle a tree to what seemed like the end of a line only to find it continue around again, so a few people in line just formed another line and monopolised two potties. Ugh. I didn’t want to start all that again so we joined the mutiny (although one lady in a parallel line gave us such a dirty look!!!) Not fun. We checked our bags and made it to the corrals just as the National Anthem was being sung. Start time was minutes away.

Waiting in our Corral

Waiting in our Corral

Ready, set....

Ready, set….

Our Corral was finally brought forward and given the word to ‘Go’. At the start line (and finish line) the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, is there to high five runners as they pass by. I’m sure not many big city Mayors come out to support the runners but it’s great that he does. Last year I got high fives at the start and finish. This year Bill ‘Boston Billy’ Rodgers was also at the start line giving high fives out. We tried for that but failed miserably as I didn’t spot him amongst the crowds. Oh well…I got a high five (and a good luck kiss) from my Wife which is way better.

The one thing that I will always say about this race is that it has great crowd support. From the start line to the finish line (with only a few exceptions in the second half of the race) the crowds a many people deep and very vocal. Awesome stuff. The race is very scenic taking in many sites and neighborhoods. The first half is a different course than the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon which shares the same start and finish line area. Here is the course.

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Course Map

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Course Map

The course at the start and for the first few miles was pretty tight as we were running with the Half Marathoners as well as the streets in Center City Philadelphia being fairly narrow. There were a lot of straights to run in the first few miles and crowd support was there alongside us. One of my favorite areas is to run up South Street and Chestnut Street. There was a DJ out on South Street last year but none this year but that was okay, we came to run and were having our own little party anyway. Running up Chestnut Street is awesome. Imagine a long narrow tunnel of just people and then send a crowd running through them. A great atmostphere.

Running along Chestnut Street

Running along Chestnut Street

photo 4 (4)

Running along Chestnut Street

The run along Chestnut Street is almost 2.5 miles straight up. You pass by 30th Street Station and up past Drexel University to what is the first (and probably longest) hill of the race. Once you reach the top you run past lots of Frat and Sororety houses and around past the Philadelphia Zoo. Luckily the wind was blowing in the right direction and you couldn’t ‘smell’ the Zoo as I had in prior years 🙂 The students living in the houses were out in support (and I’m sure a little beer was on offer).

It was around this part of the race that Shari began feeling a little uncomfortable with her knee. She has a little IT band issue from time to time and this had set her back a bit missing a couple of long runs half way through her training. She pulled a small tube of icy/hot out of her SpiBelt and massaged some of it into her knee and onto her IT band (believe me, that SpiBelt is like Mary Poppins carpet bag…you wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff she was carrying in there). After a couple of stretches were were on our way. Shari was doing okay keeping together with me. She was following the run/walk interval that I had trained with even though she herself doesn’t train this way. We were using a 4:00/0:40 run/walk ratio and that broke things up well. We were averaging just a little more than 10 minute miles at this point and were feeling okay.

After the Zoo we had the second toughest hill (shorter and more intense) up to the Please Touch Museum (Memorial Hall) in Fairmount Park. Once you get past this hill the rest of the course is not anyway near as demanding (although you still have another 17 miles to go at this point). Shari mentioned to me that it was at this point in the Half Marathon last year that she felt it was a little tough but she was much better this year and was happy with how things were going. This was also the location of the first Clif Shot station. I had only packed 4 gels for the marathon (my strategy was to take a gel at miles 5, 10, 15 & 20) so I decided to grab an extra which I never usually do. We did go a little slower down the hill onto West River Drive but then held a steady pace up to the halfway point where we left the Half Marathoners at the finish line exit and looped around the front of the Philadelphia Art Museum just past the statue of Rocky Balboa (from the movie Rocky III).

Heading up West River Drive to the halfway point

Heading up West River Drive to the halfway point

Rocky

Rocky

The second half of the course is an out and back to Manyunk with a slight detour across the river and back to pick up a couple of miles in distance. It was at this stage that I feel like the race was on as we start seeing runners on their way back up to the finish line. We just missed the lead runner for the men’s race but saw the some of the elites running in as we were just starting mile 14. We also saw the first female runner on her way back in. It is always impressive to see how these folks leave it all on the course and their focus and determination in their eyes. I should also mention that we also saw Elvis…yes, you heard me right.

The King

The King

Interestingly enough there were two water stations very close together at this point in the course at miles 13 & 14 but then what seemed like a long gap before the next water stop at mile 17 at the second Clif Shot station. I could have done with a drink of water or Gatorade at this stage as the last water stop prior was around mile 11. Shari was begining to feel a little sore and she started stretching during some of the walk breaks but kept soldiering on. The little turnaround at mile 17 across the Falls Bridge and back is usually the point in the race where I dread. It’s downhill and uphill in a short space but this year it seemed to go much easier for me than in 2011 and 2012 and Shari didn’t seem to mind it at all and it gave me one my of my best views all day (see below):

My Little Princess

My Little Princess

Once we cleared the bridge we started to head up into Manyunk proper. Shari started to feel a little uncomfortable again and stopped to put on some more icy/hot cream. These were our 2 slowest miles of the marathon as we did these at a 12 minute mile pace. We were close to Manyunk itself which I had promised her was going to be a high point of the second half of the race as I had remembered the lift from the crowds from my previous experiences.

The run up and back through Manyunk is slight uphill/downhill but was not overly difficult although when you are running miles 19 to 21 it may seem to some like Mount Everest. We found it fine for us although we could see that a few were hurting and hitting the wall at this stage. However, for those with depleted carbohydrate stores Manyunk is the place to be.

We spot the sign for Manyunk

We spot the sign for Manyunk

As we ran into the town we were immediately offered refreshments at a beer station. Plenty partook but we decided to pass and head for the Gatorade and water a little further up the street. People were handing out orange segments to runners which I somehow managed to miss and was so distracted at this stage that I took my last energy gel at mile 19 instead of 20. Oops.. Luckily I had picked up a couple more gels at the last Clif Shot station and may actually have ended up with as many gels that I started with. Oh well, I am fully stocked for my Dopey training.

Main Street Manyunk

Main Street Manyunk

The crowds in Manyunk are awesome. Essentially you run up and down Main Street and the side walks are lined with supporters and people sitting outside cafe’s and restaurants watching. People were handing out brownies (seriously? you are going to eat a brownie from a random stranger mid race?) and Gummy Bears which Shari gladly took (hopefully she didn’t use the icy/hot hand as those would be some interesting tasting Gummy Bears). At the turnaround point you start to run downhill and it is the last big change of direction you make in the race as essentially you have 6 more straight miles to go from here.

A well timed and much appreciated sugar rush

A well timed and much appreciated sugar rush

Now it was heads down to the finish. Not much more to see on the course as we were retracing our steps back to the Art Museum and the finish line. Shari was concentrating on her form so she could run comfortably. She didn’t stop to stretch but just ran focused. She was pretty quiet at this stage and I was my usual chatty (somewhat annoying at this stage probably) self. I was having a ball. I was very relaxed, although I could feel my left ankle a bit it wasn’t hurting and I was just enjoying the sunshine, the run and the pace. We were almost home.

As we approached mile 25 I sensed Shari started to pick up the pace a little and we decided we would skip the last walk break if we felt okay. I don’t think either of us was planning on a sprint to the finish, at this stage the goal was to cross that line. Just as we reached mile 26 we did pick up the pace a little more but it wasn’t a sprint. Shari told me after the race that just as she reached that point her leg buckled a bit and she had a quick “oh no, not now” moment but held on to the end. As we approached the finish line we both went towards the Mayor and got our high fives (we had earned them) and crossed the finish line hand in hand in a time of 4:45 (a 45 minute PR for Shari).

Shari broke down in tears as we crossed the finish line and later told me that although this was her second marathon, at her first at Disney back in January we had plenty of stops for pictures, we had walked a little (as it was way too hot) and pretty much taken it easy, but that this was to her more of a challenge and was a real race feeling as we powered through the whole distance. And yes, before you ask, we were still speaking after 26.2 miles 🙂

My Bride getting her well earned medal

My Bride getting her well earned medal

My Bride and Joy

My Bride and Joy

We did it!

We did it!

A special gold medal for the 20th year

A special gold medal for the 20th year

After getting our space blankets and medals we were shuffled along by a volunteer to one side of the post race refreshment tables. It was pretty quick and easy compared to last year where I had to wait in line for quite a while to get some food. They handed us a small Macy’s bag with some bananas, pretzels, fruits snacks and granola bars. They also had oranges and chicken soup available. What I was surpized was that there were no soft pretzels at the finish line. Come on! This is Philly! No soft pretzels??? What is that all about? 🙂

After clearing the food line we went to try and get our finisher photo noticing that it was on the other side of the food tables. As we tried to approach for our picture a volunteer blocked our path and said that noone was allowed back up into the finish line area. We told him we were directed by another volunteer to the other side to grab refreshments and that we only wanted to get our photos taken but he refused to let us go back for security reasons. Yes, it must have been the banana and water I was holding that seemed threatening. What was that all about? We were still inside the security perimeter. Had it been our first marathon and we really wanted our photo taken we would have been really disappointed.

One of the goals we had for the weekend was to take our picture at Love Park just beyond the finish line area. We noticed as we excited the security perimeter that there were guards blocking people outside. Last year when I ran the Full and Shari ran the Half she had a couple of hours to wait and had walked a couple of blocks to Starbucks to grab a coffee. Had she done that this year she would not have been able to get back to meet me at the finish line. What a difference a year makes.

The walk was a good opportunity to cool down and stay loose before we actually had to sit down and drive home. We have always found it beneficial after a race to just keep moving. We walked (albeit slowly) the few blocks to Love Park and Shari said to me that now she has a baseline for a marathon (4:45 vs her Disney 5:30). Does this mean there may be a third? Who knows…

And we finally made it to Love Park.

Proudly showing our medals

Proudly showing our medals

Celebrating a special moment

Celebrating a special moment

Finally, I just want to say how very proud I am of Shari for completing her Marathon. She was awesome. She is always my biggest cheerleader and today I got to be hers. I look forward to many more 🙂

Thank you for reading (what was a real marathon of a recap).