It seems like just yesterday (July 2013 to be specific) that I made the decision, with no running experience, to run a half marathon. Trained for 2 months and went out there and finished. 1 year and 4 months after making that decision I have now completed #3!
This past weekend was the Philadelphia Marathon. The premier marathon for the city of Philadelphia. They offer both the marathon and half marathon options during the same time of day. Before I get into my review of the race I first want to discuss my training. Mainly because I felt like I under-trained for this but got my best results to date.
I followed the same training plan I always have for halves. 8 week training; 5 days per week, 3 days running, 2 days cross training. You run 1 long run a week and increase the distance 1 mile every week. Well my long runs stopped somewhere around week 4 (7 mile long run). For the remaining 4 weeks I only really ran 2-3 days per week. Usually about 4-6 miles per run. Overall I never ran over 7 miles.
However for actually doing little running I ended up PR’ing my 10K distance by a minute and my Half Marathon distance by 8 minutes. So clearly the lack of running didn’t have a negative impact. I attribute these results to two things. First being I decided to do some healthy eating this time around. I focused on eating chicken, steak and vegetables during the week and stuck to it pretty good. So overall my body felt better. And secondly this was my 3rd Half Marathon and 9th race of 10K or better, so as with anything repetition makes you better.
Now onto the race review…
Expo’s for major races in Philadelphia are always fun. And this one was no exception. Bib pick up was easy, the swag bag had some good things in it, and they allowed you to make corral adjustments on site. Outside of that there was plenty of shopping to be done. Typically in expos I do not take advantage of the shopping aspect. I get in and I get out. This time around I took advantage of it. My primary reason was because I got a hotel by the race location so I was in the city for the night and on top of that I was alone so had time to kill by myself. The other reason was now that I know what running a Half Marathon is like, I knew the things I needed to buy that I didn’t have. Things like gloves, socks, body glide and a few other odds and ends. So I took full advantage. I also registered for a free entry to the Broad Street Run, which is another major run in Philadelphia and hard to get into so I couldn’t pass that up.
Gore-Tex is the company that manages this race. And overall they did an excellent job. Gear check was super easy. They used UPS trucks to store gear and there were plenty lined up making it easy to walk up and drop your gear off and pick up after the race. The corrals were properly listed and easy to get into and they roped off enough space for runners to make their way to the start line. These things all seem like common sense, but trust me I have run some races that have made these things a nightmare. After the run they had the proper amount of volunteers for medal, heat blanket and food distribution. Again I can tell you stories of nightmarish post race scenes. This race had 30,000+ runners, for them to handle these things with no problem is not something to be taken lightly.
The course was great. Philadelphia is not a very large city so mapping out 13.1 and 26.2 miles for a race can sometimes be difficult. The race started outside of the famous art museum steps. Rocky fans will recognize them easily. It ran through center city and down Columbus boulevard. The difficult part about running down this street is that you have a major body of water to your left hand side for about a mile or two. Normally this is not a problem because it makes for a great view, but this is November in Philadelphia. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that a major body of water creates cooler air pressure. So it was probably 5-10 degrees colder running down that road than the rest of the course.
The course than ran through the city of Philadelphia. This was probably the coolest part of the race. By now we had reached the 5 mile mark. I felt like by this point my body was in cruise control. Which was a weird feeling for me because as much running has I have done I never really felt like I have gotten to a pace where I feel like I am pushing myself but comfortable at the same time. It was an odd feeling. The cool part about this point in the race was that we were running down a two lane road that was pretty small for as many runners as there was. And the spectators were crowding the road cheering everyone on. So it felt like we were running down our very own personal 2 mile long receiving line. What made it better was the race printed the runners names on the bibs so every now and again I would hear “Way to go Chadd!”
By mile 9 the race turned to Fairmount Park. This was a little more difficult. The park is very hilly and winds around. So needless to say this is when the course started to test me. The cool part though was around this time I felt a large group behind me and the next thing I know the 4:30 marathon pace group was engulfing me. I heard someone yelling encouragement and the next thing I know I am running side by side the pace leader. My marathon time would be 5:00+ so needless to say I didn’t run with them for long. But still cool to be apart of the group for a little while. By mile 10 I had to slow down a bit and apply a walk/run method. All the while I was shooting for a 2:20 finish so I was checking my time at each mile marker and I was keeping a good pace. I ran mile 11 straight through and applied the run/ walk method during mile 12.
Finally I turned the corner and saw the thousands of people cheering towards the finish line. This finish was a lot cooler than runs I have experienced in the past in the same area. Mainly because the finish line was further back so runners ran longer through the spectators. It was really cool to run almost a quarter mile while thousands of people are cheering you on.
Overall this was a great run. No complaints can be made on my end. There were plenty of water stops, the course was great, the volunteers worked hard and the race organizers made sure everything went off with no problems. The Philadelphia Marathon is the premier marathon of this city and I can tell why.