Monday, November 21, 2011

Philadelphia Marathon Race Round-Up

I was sad to miss The Game and miss the chance to catch up with everyone, but I had a great marathon weekend in Philadelphia.

Stef and I took MegaBus to the city;  it was a smooth ride, and we arrived a little earlier than expected.  From Penn Station, we took a cab to the Expo to pick up our race packets.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the Expo.  It might be that I've gone to so many of these that I'm starting to notice that the same vendors show up.  I did purchase two more Bondibands (I'm kind of obsessed with them) and a few more gels to take along on the course.  (Clif Shots were provided on the course, but, after trying some at the export, I knew that using the during the race would be a bad call.)

After the Expo, we continued our epic carb loading (which I'd been doing since Thursday) at Chili's.  For dinner, we went to Square 1862 for their $20.00 all you can eat pasta deal.  (Stef's friend Jeff is a host at the restaurant, and it was great to meet him.)  And, there was this epic pile of food in our hotel room.

 Runner's World recommended Swedish Fish as a carb loading food.  So, yes, we needed two bags.

Breakfast on race day was at 4:00 AM, and Stef and I started our walk to the start line around 6:00 AM. It was dark but surprisingly warm for that time of morning.  We dropped our bags at the gear check and then walked toward the corrals.  After Stef and I parted ways near the corrals, I found the 4:15 pace group and waited for the start of the race.

Miles 1-6 – Follow the Man with the Balloons

Thinking about the pace groups, I found it a little strange that all of the groups that I considered intended to run their race pace from the start of the race.  For the 4:15 group, this would be a 9:44 for the entire race.  (I also thought about the 4:00 pace group, but I'm happy that I chose 4:15.) Once our corral got up to the starting line, we were off.  I was a few steps behind the pace leader but even I was floating around an 8:30 to 9:00 pace for the first two miles.  I settled in to a 9:44, keeping the lead in my sight. 

Miles 5 and 6 went down Chestnut Street, which was a little narrow for 25,000 runners.  I lost the lead pacer just before the water station, which – with the narrow street – seemed more congested than usual.  But, these were strong miles and the crowd support down Chestnut was fantastic.

Miles 7-12 – University City and the Zoo

I was definitely in a groove here.  Mile 7 was the first incline of the race, but after training in DC, I was a little surprised at how little I felt this hill.  (All those runs to Maryland really paid off, huh?)  The second include was between Miles 9-10, which were near the Philadelphia Zoo.  This hill was a little harder but still manageable.  Miles 11 and 12 were the first piece of the Schuylkill River.  The crowd support was a little quieter here, but there were still a few people on the route cheering everyone on.

Mile 13 – Halfway!

This is where the Half-Marathoners and Marathoners split.  There had been signs along the course pointing that a split was coming, but it was a little rough seeing the finish line knowing that I still had 13.1 more miles to run.

Mile 14-18  -- When things stop being polite, and my internal marathon swears like a sailor

Mile 14 was cool.  I got there with about 2:20 on the clock and had a great view of the super awesome elite runners who were running toward the finish.  It’s always so humbling to watch elite runners, and it definitely helped me push to go forward here.  This portion of the race was on the other side of the Schuylkill so, again, not much crowd support.  At times, it felt a little lonely. But, it was nice to reach a point when I could count down the miles using single digits.

Miles 19-20 – Don’t Stop Believin’

I’d been wearing one earbud since I lost the pace group, which I was thankful for during the parts of the race where the crowd support was thin.  (I think that using one earbud is much better.  You can still ahve some music on the course but also interact with other runners and volunteers. )  At Mile 19, we hit Manayuk.  There were a ton of people out but the effects of running a marathon were starting to get to me. (Translation: It hurts, and it's still hurting!) Don’t Stop Believin’ came up on my playlist; it was so good, I listened to it twice. 

Miles 21-25 -- Shut Up and Run

This was the inbound route back along the Shuylkill.  Everything hurt and I would have loved nothing more than to throw in the towel.  But, at this point, the only thing to do was to turn the little voice in my head telling me that this was insane and run until I crossed the finish line.  I was thankful that there were a few more people on this portion of the course to cheer us on.  It's always super encouraging to have a total stranger that you can make it to the finish line.

The last 1.2 Miles – Eye of the Tiger

Once we were closer to the downtown area, the crowd support was amazing.  I felt great here and found an opportunity to pick up the pace.  I saw Stef and a few other friendly faces along the finish shoot, which also gave me an extra boost.  When I got close enough to the finish line, I saw 4:38 on the clock and made a decision that I would finish before 4:40.  Hooray for sprinting when your legs feel like cement! Bonus: This mile marked my 900th mile run in 2011.

Previous Record: 5:33, 2010 Baltimore Marathon
Gun Time: 4:39:39
Net Time: 4:39:29
Average Pace: 10:39

I think this is one of my favorite medal designs so far.

Of course, it would have been nice to finish in 4:15:00 but one of the things that I’m most proud of about this marathon is that I managed to maintain even splits throughout the race.  I do think that I started out faster than I should have at the beginning.  I’m also proud – and amazed if I’m allowed to say so myself – that, in the span of a year, I shaved nearly an hour off of my previous marathon time.  I guess that this goes to show what you can do if you are willing to put in the work.

Also: Major props to Stef for running her first marathon and finishing in 4:01! I’ll say this here and, if she’s reading, I hope she knows how awesome and motivating it was to train with someone who can and did kick my ass into gear on runs. 

So, what’s next?  A little rest and getting myself back into normal eating.  Now that I won’t be running as intensely, I can’t justify eating 3,000 calories each day.  I imagine that I won’t start running again until after Thanksgiving at the earliest, but I do hope to get some solid walks in and spend some time doing light cross training -- that is, after my legs and I resolve our disagreement about whether or not moving is appropriate.

I’m also running the Jingle All the Way 8K again in December (if you recall, it was a 10K last year).  Hopefully, I'll be recovered enough to set a PR.

Finally, I’m already thinking about which marathons I want to run next year.  On my list of potentials are the Suntrust National Marathon (DC) in March, the Prince of Wales Marathon (Alaska) in May, and the Hartford Marathon (Connecticut) in October.  My other crazy plan for 2012?  Operation Boston Qualify!


  1. Congratulations!!!  Very inspiring.

  2. Thank you!!! I loved this race and would definitely either run the course again or sign up for the half.