When I didn’t get into the New York Marathon this year I decided to run Philadelphia instead. So this Saturday I was up early, at the green line at 6am, South Station at 7am, and via the majik of Bolt Bus passed by Newark at noon to arrive in Philly at 2:15pm. I found my way into the 30th Street transit station, cool place. Asking around, ended up ticketless on a SEPTA train (their MBTA commuter rail equivalence?). Two stops later, I’m off at the convention center without ever having paid – sorry transit system peoples! Wasn’t my intention to short you.
At the convention center I found the marathon expo (along with some World of Warcraft event). Got my shirt & number, walked around a bit looking at merch & decided to buy a new hat. After that swung by the booth for the New Jersey Marathon. This is a race I’m registered for next May so I’ve been following them on Facebook as they work through the process of getting squared away post-Sandy. I listened to the race director describing the damage to the boardwalks along the course (obviously the houses there are damaged too). They are putting together a Restore the Shore run for next weekend, and are kicking proceeds from new registrants to their marathon event to recovery efforts.
After the expo I checked into my hotel & walked around downtown Philly a bit. After dinner I tried to get into see Lincoln but being a new release the early showings were all sold out. Instead I retired early to rest & rehydrate & watch K-State get humiliated by Baylor, losing our shot at a national championship.
Race morning! I woke at 3:30 even though my alarm was set for 4:30. As usual too excited to sleep much. Starbucks didn’t open until 6 (and the hotel breakfast wasn’t until 7) so I had bought a coffe + scone the night before. No peanut butter this time.
At 5:45 I stepped outside to walk to the start, about two miles from my hotel. Cold out! I’m immediately glad I decide to wear tights. It’s fun to walk towards a race like this – within a few blocks people from all directions started to coalesce into a mass as we picked up other runners. By 6:15 I was in the start area, queueing for a last shot at the porta-potties. At 6:45 I was in my corral (black-2). At this point I realized I had gotten myself seeded too far up as the slowest pace group visible was 3:25, 10 minutes faster than my PR. With the New York Marathon being canceled some 3000 entrants there (including Marc) were allowed to do a late cross-registration with this event. I couldn’t really move freely around due to the fencing but could kind of see over to where I thought the NYC people were. All along the course were signs like “Philly loves NYC refugees” and so on. It was actually quite touching.
Start: The course started off along the Ben Franklin Parkway towards the downtown area – rows of museums giving way to very tall buildings.
Mile 2: We hit the waterfront of the Delaware River at the aptly named Race Street. The Ben Franklin Bridge here is quite huge, carrying I-675 to New Jersey. This is the last photo I was able to take during the race, as apparently it was too cold for my touchscreen to work anymore.
Mile 3.5: Still running along the river – there’s a huge tall ship anchored here. Steven mentioned to me later that this is some sort of Naval Yard thing – I’m guessing it was visiting the Independence Seaport Museum.
Mile 4: Fun few blocks – lots of young professional couples on the stoops of their brownstones. I’m all for cheering for races but these folks are seriously up and out early on a cold morning.
Miles 5 to 7: This is one of the more exciting parts of the race, along Chestnut Street. I haven’t run with this sort of sized crowd cheering us on since NYC in 2005. It was several people deep on both sides of the road, and loud. At the 10K mat here I’m at 51:40, an 8:19 split.
Mile 7-9: This is “the big hill” of the race – honestly it was next to nothing compared to Newport or Vermont. Once I saw how small the big hill was I knew times were going to be fast. Around mile 8 we passed a bunch of frats and sororities for Drexel and there were kids drinking & hollering from their porches. Drexel’s mascot is the Dragon – pretty cool. I should have gotten a hat with that instead.
Mile 10: The course looped around the “Please Touch Museum” which just seemed like a fun place from the outside. They were handing out Cliff-brand Gu here – I took one and immediately started to feel ill to my stomach. I got steamrolled here by the 3:35 pace group – they must have been in the corral behind me so I know I’m behind PR pace. I decide to not let another pace group go through me.
Miles 11-13: Running south along the Schuylkill River. I’ve since learned this is pronounced “School Kill” which seems awfully violent. At the half-marathon mat I’m at 1:51:00, an 8:28 split. This is a relaxed pace, right about what I was hoping for. Unfortunately I’m required to stop here for GI reasons.
The second half of the race is basically one long out and back run. I usually hate these, but this one was not bad.
Mile 16: I know YJP is around here somewhere, but I start looking for her early on purpose. She told me she was planning on her wearing burnt orange so it’d be easier to spot her – unfortunately this turned out to be the same color all the volunteers were wearing. Regardless, I found her & her friend around 16.5 and even manage to shout and startle her new puppy Turtle. Seeing her here was a big mental boost. Also I loved knowing where they would be on the return as it gives a short-term goal to build towards.
Mile 17: This part of the race was cool – we cross the Schuylkill again on the Falls Bridge, which gives gorgeous views downstream. There’s a short dog leg down and back on the south side before crossing the river again and heading further east.
Mile 18: We entered the neighborhood of Manayunk, a cute little area where again some fans had lined the street (the first mass of people since the half split).
Miles 19-21: At the turn around I’m doing ok physically but trying to stay focused is difficult. I’m talking out loud to myself here but most of the other runners have headphones in so my mild insanity goes unnoticed. I spend these two miles looking for Marc coming the other way but can’t find him – eventually the course splits off and I stop looking for him.
Mile 23: YJP again! This time I get a high five and snag the emergency sports beans I missed at mile 16 (which means I don’t have to take the second Cliff Gu I obtained, which was most decidedly a good thing).
The last three miles – usually I’m bonked out of my head at the point, but not today. I know there’s a hill at mile 25 and honestly I find myself looking forward to it. When the upslope comes I put my head down and pass quite a few people in the last 1.5 – according to my GPS my last mile was an 8:16, my fastest since the 8:02 at mile 7. The last 0.2 is flat across the finish and the crowds are huge – I don’t hear my name called but still it’s exhilarating. I finish with an 3:47:18, an 8:40 split, beating my goal time of 3:54 by seven minutes. I’ve ended the year faster than I started it down in New Orleans, which given recent injuries is more than I could have asked for.
The post race was a bit of a cluster, long slow lines in the chute to get OJ & some carbs. Oh and also a cup of hot chicken broth, surprisingly excellent. I drop something on the ground and realize I can barely bend my legs to pick it up – in the process of doing that I drop my phone as well and have to repeat the whole ridiculous process. I’m soaked & suddenly realize I’m now freezing so ‘quickly’ find my way to the greeting area where I see YJP & co again. A quick cab back to my hotel & as hot of a shower as I can stand, and that’s that.
I’ve been playing around with the concept of acceptable marathon “driveabilty” for a while. Earlier this summer I decided (after the six hour drive from Traverse City, MI to Chicago, IL after the Bayshore Marathon damn near killed me) that a race had to be within four hours to travel on the race day. I should have revisited this idea before deciding on the (seven hour) bus home from Philly – the return trip was a leg-cramping nightmare, arguably harder than the race itself. Seriously, future me. No more race-day road-trips like this. Please please please.
Overall, I loved my experience at the Philadelphia Marathon. Great atmosphere, surprisingly pretty course, quite fast. I’ll do it again in a heartbeat the next year it doesn’t conflict with the master plan. My sixth & final marathon of 2012, and second fastest ever. I’m happy to scratch specific resolution #2 off my list.
Next up, it’s only seven weeks until Ragnar Key West! And after there there are various planned marathon adventures for 2013. But those can wait for a more rested day.