First, I can’t believe it’s December – this past week was so busy with Thanksgiving. I hope everyone had a wonderful week and weekend to close out November. Second, I barely saw a computer all weekend but I finally gotten a chance to finish up my Philadelphia Marathon race recap late last night, so here ya go!
Let’s back up a second.
Why did I sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon?
I had several reasons that I signed up for this race. It was my 3rd marathon, but I hadn’t done one since 2007. And that race, the Marine Corps Marathon, hadn’t gone very well. I only had one child then – she was a toddler and I found it extremely hard to run, let alone and train for a marathon, while juggling the responsibilities of motherhood and my job. I was overweight and was trying to lose baby weight and get back into running after only just becoming a runner soon before that pregnancy. I had a number of issues in training and during the race and overall the experience was less than satisfying. I’ll spare you all the details but I was glad to have finished but it didn’t feel like a success.
That less-than-solid marathon experience has been nagging at me for years. I’m in much better physical shape now, and mentally I’m in a better place for the juggling act (with even more kids!). So I really wanted to erase the MCM as my most recent marathon experience.
I also spend so much time talking and writing about running that I really wanted a fresh marathon experience. I’ve focused on half marathons for a long time and I just felt ready to go the distance. I had heard such great things about the Philadelphia Marathon and running through the city seemed exciting, so when I was looking for a late fall race, it simply spoke to me.
I thought I’d leave in the evening after the kids’ dinner time for my overnight to Philly to minimize the time away from the family, but as the race weekend drew closer I realized that packet pickup closed at 7pm. And I live 2.5 hours from Philadelphia. So I left in the afternoon and had an easy drive straight to the Convention Center. I arrived about 45 minutes before the expo closed, and packet pickup was a breeze.
I walked around to the vendors that were still set up, browsed the offerings, and bought some race-day fuel. I stopped by the Cliff Pace Team booth and picked up a 4:15 pace band and made plans to start with that pacer. I knew that was a little ambitious since my marathon PR is 4:17 and I didn’t train properly for this race, but I figured I’d start with them so with a bathroom stop and other unknowns of running a marathon, I’d hopefully finish under 4:30.
It was a good thing I got there when I did – the convention center meant business about the expo closing at 7pm. They weren’t letting people in the building at 6:55pm! As I exited I heard people pleading with the Convention Center staff – they just wanted to quickly grab their packet and were denied.
TIP – leave extra time and don’t get there close to closing time or you won’t get your bib!
NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE:
I was staying at a hotel near the airport, so I left the expo and headed out to my hotel. I set everything out to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything and made the final decision on my race outfit.
I popped the watch in the charger and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for a pre-race meal. I decided on chicken parmesan since it was what I ate before my very first marathon in 2005 – the Bank of American Marathon in Tampa, Florida. That race was an awesome experience so I thought it would be good luck to eat the same meal. It looked a little messy but was just what I needed.
I read the extensive Marathon guidebook that was in the packet and made my morning plan of attack before going to bed. I loaded the address of a parking garage into my phone’s map to make the morning easier and set my alarm.
On race morning, I woke up before 5am, got dressed, made coffee in the room, and grabbed food to eat in the car. I drove downtown, which was a breeze. The streets were blocked en route to the parking garage I had identified, but I found another garage with no issues. Weekend parking was $8 (way less than what I pay in DC or Baltimore!), it was a few blocks from the finish area, and it could not have been easier. Yay, Philly!
I walked several blocks to the starting area and was shivering – it was cold and windy! I was glad for the gear check so that I could keep my jacket for a while. I hit a portapottie further away from the start, and lines were moderate.
I then found the gear check and said goodbye to my warmth. Gear check was easy – they even tagged the bag for me.
After I ditched my jacket I decided on one more portapotty stop for good measure, but the lines were insane. Thankfully, I made it through before the race started but felt in a hurry to get to the corral.
I had seen signs for the Black Corral on my way over that way, but needed to find the Purple Corral. The sky was lightening up and it was a really cool scene with all the runners in downtown Philadelphia.
On my way to the corral, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and he introduced himself – it was Frank who blogs at The Fat Runner! Read his recap here – he had an epic half marathon that day! It was really awesome that he said hello, and it totally brightened my morning.
So then it was time to find the Purple Corral. It was pretty crowded trying to squeeze through and find the right area.
I hopped over a few fences, pushed through crowds, and found the corral!
If you recall what I mentioned above from the expo, I decided to start with the 4:15 pacer. I knew this finish time was a little ambitious for me on this day. But I wanted to give it a shot to start.
I love the start of a race – the excitement and energy is so amazing. And at Philly, the half marathon and the marathon started together so each person was starting their own journey at this starting line and there was an energy and intensity in the air.
When our corral moved forward to start, it was a crush of people funneling towards the start and I was immediately way behind the 4:15 pacer in the crowd. I didn’t want to stress so I just kept him in sight as I crossed the starting line and through the busy first section of the race.
I was able to keep him in sight at the same distance from me for quite a while, and then lost him at a crowded water stop. It was just me from then on, and I decided to stick to the 4:15 pace band as much as I could.
I found the city of Philadelphia awesome. I loved it and wanted to text my husband from the race course that he would love to live in this city!
The course was crowded and full, but not unmanageable – I didn’t feel as though I was crushed or that I couldn’t run my own pace, other than at the beginning of the race and a few other tight corners.
I had such a great time looking at the other runners’ outfits, gaits, dedications for people they were running for, charity shirts – I just loved the whole atmosphere of the marathon.
I saw one guy running barefoot – I can’t imagine!
I saw two different runners carrying an American flag through the race.
By mile 10 I had to stop and adjust my left shoe a couple times. It was digging into my foot in an odd way from when I did my ritual pre-race retying of the shoe. It was only a quick stop both times to re-tie, but I felt like I lost my momentum and was frustrated.
Right after the second shoe incident, I encountered the most amazing spectators that really pumped me up!
Overall, the spectators in this race were plentiful and fabulous! This is truly a great race for having crowd support and I was so thankful for every spectator and aid station volunteer.
And just seeing a new city on foot through the vehicle of a race is incredible.
Along the route, runners had been wondering when the half marathon turnoff would be – nobody wanted to accidentally run a full marathon because they missed the turnoff sign. Well, they were in luck since it is so clearly marked there seemed to be no way to accidentally run a full marathon. We were directed by people on megaphones, signs leading up to the split – and then the split itself was totally clear.
As the half marathoners split off, it hit me – I was doing this. I was going to run a FULL marathon and there was no turning back! It felt amazing to tick off miles 14 and 15.
Around mile 15, we got into a stretch that was fairly spectator-less. I noticed that it was an out-and-back and the return was the dreaded miles 24-25 towards the finish. I got a little stressed that those tough miles would be boring and mentally prepared. I decided to finally pop in the headphones I had been carrying just in case, and just as I did we came to a hugely crowded area with tons of cheering fans so I took one of them out!
We crossed over a bridge, had an out-and-back, and crossed the bridge back again. In this section of the race I was hugely inspired by a guy running pushing a girl in a wheelchair. He ran strong and steady and it was really inspiring that he was dedicated to her medical cause.
After mile 18, I stopped for the portapottie and lost several minutes there. We won’t talk about that, but it was pretty discouraging to be out of the race for a few minutes. But after that I felt speedier and rearing to go!
Around mile 20 we got to an area called Manayunk, a really neat section of Philly. I spotted Victoria from Scootadoot (here’s her race recap). She had Instagrammed a photo of her outfit the night before so I knew what she was wearing, and had spotted her on the course earlier from a distance. I said hello and we chatted while we ran.
It gave me a boost to chat with her and I felt like I could rev up and get going a little faster.
That didn’t last long… I reached miles 22-23 and slowed down but kept running. I used the headphones again in this stretch and I wasn’t sure what I would have done without them! I had a plan to use Spotify rather than my usual Pandora station, but I was really unhappy with every playlist I had added.
I eventually just put the headphones away by mile 25 so that I could focus on the finish and soak up the crowds.
Miles 23-25 were tough! It was the area with fewer spectators and that was hard, but people were encouraging each other and cheering for the runners who were on the mile 15 section on their way out.
The finish was AWESOME! There’s a downhill stretch – a big wide street – so I felt really free going into the finish line.
And then… I was a MARATHONER (again)! It felt amazing to cross the finish line.
We received some heat sheets and that regulated my temperature well. I was feeling a little wobbly and my stomach didn’t like me from eating so many gels and Gatorade.
The medals were distributed after that – there were just tons of volunteers at the finish.
I wasn’t feeling that great – foggy and kind of nauseated, so the hot broth they were serving was a dream come true.
We also received some other snacks like a fabulous pretzel and a banana.
I grabbed my stuff from the gear check – again, super easy and I was so glad I used it – and headed out the gates.
There was a finish area – I didn’t explore much beyond the reunion meeting area and a glance at the tents.
There was a band playing and merchandise for sale.
I walked the wrong way so the trip back to my car took forever, but once I found it I had an easy trip back to my hotel for a shower, and then on to Maryland.
I felt so proud and happy to have a solid race with a finish time of 4:25. It’s exactly the time I first envisioned when I signed up for the race back in September. I knew that with proper training I could break 4:15 and some day 4:00, but this marathon wasn’t about the time. This marathon was about having a solid race.
I felt really great from start to finish – paced myself pretty well, aside from a slow-down in the last few miles. And I was solid with my fueling and hydration throughout the race.
Here are my mile splits:
- Mile 1 = 9:36, Mile 2 = 9:26, Mile 3 = 9:17, Mile 4 = 9:49
- Mile 5 = 9:47, Mile 6 = 10:34, Mile 7 = 9:35, Mile 8 = 9:52
- Mile 9 = 9:41, Mile 10 = 9:58, Mile 11 = 10:25 (stopped for shoe issues), Mile 12 = 9:37
- Mile 13 = 9:58, Mile 14 = 9:44, Mile 15 = 9:35, Mile 16 = 9:43
- Mile 17 = 9:57, Mile 18 = 10:10, Mile 19 = 12:12 (potty stop!), Mile 20 = 9:58
- Mile 21 = 9:39, Mile 22 = 10:13, Mile 23 = 10:08, Mile 24 = 10:12
- Mile 25 = 10:57, Mile 26 = 10:48.
OFFICIAL FINISH TIME: 4:25:28
I loved the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon and hope to run in Philly sometime again. The city was really cool, the course was interesting, the spectators and crowd support were fantastic, and aside from some hopping fences to get to my corral, the entire experience was very smooth.