Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap and Race Report
Race: Philadelphia Half Marathon
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 20 November 2011, 0700
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Clear to partly cloudy; temperatures started high 30s and quickly shot up to high 50s/low 60s. Wind started at the beginning but quickly died down.
Course conditions: Flat through most of Center City and South Philadelphia. Turned into Powelton Village and Mantua, where a hill picked up at Mile 8 and another at Mile 10 leading into the concourse at Fairmount Park. Wrapped around MLK Drive and finished back at Eakins Oval, in front of the Art Museum.
Preview: Only three weeks after MCM, most people thought I was insane for doing this race. Personally I had wanted to run this for fun, no time goal, just wanted to enjoy myself at home again and meet up with other runner friends who were really putting themselves to the test with their full marathon here.
I had attended this last year for the Rothman 8k and this year’s Expo was bigger, although the variety of vendors this year was disappointing and in my opinion did not match the vendor lineup from the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Packet pick up was very organized and there was a lot of freebies to go around, mini CLIF bars, LUNA bars, chocolate covered pomegranate seeds by Brookside, and such. Normally I don’t comment on these things but for some reason it stuck out.
The variety of vendors was another story though. Aside from the freebies, the vast majority were running shops, hydration kit sellers, promoters for other races. Now let’s face it this is a running expo. But for some reason at other expos, I feel there was a little more diversity especially with the headlining or major sponsors. It did NOT feel that way here at all. I remember the Volkswagens in the corner, but that was about it. It could have been better, and heck I think last year’s lineup might have been better. But honestly a minor point compared to everything else.
The race shirt and bag? Awesome. Or at least I liked the design. Solid black with the slogan on the front and the course map on the back.
Before the gun: With a 0700 gun time, we set out early from the neighbourhood, and we saw several dozen people trickle up with us through the financial district. Getting to Eakins was a breeze, where bag check-in went smoothly and I managed to get myself in the starting corral with relative ease.
Miles 1-2: Fairmount to Chinatown. We started going southeast on Ben Franklin Parkway and veered left on Arch Street into Chinatown. Spectators were cheering everywhere and flat and fast these first two miles were a relative breeze. Of course, my muscles spoke soon after this.
Mile 3/5k: Old City. We proceeded south on Columbus Boulevard into South Philly and Pennsport neighbourhoods. On a side note, I couldn’t help but tremble at how close I got to my ex’s place (we broke up on rather dismal terms in early October – hah!) but breathed a sigh of relief as we proceeded north on 6th Street. Oddly enough I started to burn up, and the temperatures soared up to the point that by Mile 4, I shed a layer and tied it around my waist. It was utterly annoying, but that’s Philly weather for you.
Miles 4-5: Pennsport. Very run of the mill, very relatively flat and fast through South Philly. Still crowded and was still paranoid about tripping. My muscles were shaky but I maintained my steady if not slower pace compared to usual for the obvious. I kept my breathing steady, trying not to think of how fatigued I was getting up. But I finish what I start…
Mile 6/10k split: Washington West and Rittenhouse Square, nothing like the hometown crowd cheering you on. I felt a burst of energy heading west on Chestnut Street, pumping my fists easily through 15th Street. This area is probably the most packed out of all the spectator sites, although for those running the full, I do hear Manayunk boasts quite a crowd at Miles 20 and 22. I piqued my head for sights of anyone familiar but alas I could not. We crossed the bridge leading out of Fitler Square and into University City soon after.
Mile 7: University City and Powelton Village. Suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore; I needed a bathroom break; unfortunately I took it at what appeared to be the slowest queue: mile 7. Normally the loos were the worst towards the beginning, and here the line wasn’t too bad, but dear, people were taking much longer to the point I had to ask if people were actually IN them. This MUST have cost me a good five minutes and I could tell given that I had started with grey corral folks, and then I saw the blue and then the orange parade as I finished what I needed to do.
Miles 8-9: Mantua. As bad as I’d heard this neighbourhood to be, I’m sure the sights of runners probably brightened up an area that normally most people wouldn’t be caught dead in. North on 34th we headed to Fairmount Park’s concourse. A steady hill had started back in Powelton Village and proved to be a growing pain as I continued up 34th. I was starting to tire out prematurely, the penalty for overtaxed muscles. Thankfully another runner, who was running her first marathon, piqued my attention, asking me if I was stopping at the half or continuing on. I told her I paid my dues three weeks earlier and that this half for me was just to go out with a bang. She told me she was nervous, but I tried to encourage her saying the worst was behind us (which it mostly was) and the second half of the full marathon course into East Falls and Manayunk was totally flat. I bode her good luck as we split off.
Miles 10-11: Deep into Fairmount Park and the Concourse. Good lord, now I recall the big hill at 10 that my colleague Sergio warned me about: it was the same bloody hill that was mile 13 of the Odyssey Half in May. Déjà vu…strangely however, in spite of the aching that was the previous few miles, I soldiered rather easily through this part, not so much because of the strength I had, but at this point any strength I was pulling together was my out of body experience; it was mental.
Miles 12-13: Back on MLK Drive. I swore it must have felt like the longest run. At this point I had to take run/walk breaks because my ankles were really starting to hurt like they did after MCM, given my gait, my ankles do upon occasion strike each other but between that and the extremely high impact I had to be extremely careful. The cheering crowd grew larger and louder on me and soon enough I saw the split signs designating the full marathon runners to veer left and the half marathon runners to veer right, as I did. This was the end, I thought, the end to a hectic, painful yet fulfilling year.
The finish: My body was sore, but there it was, the finish line.
I asked for this one. Easily 15 minutes over my average time, but did I have a goal? Nope. I ran a full marathon just 3 weeks before, and going into the race, my muscles did not feel that great at all. Not sore, but worn and a little tired when I woke up. But I knew I could pull through without injury. I just wanted to go out and end with a race in my hometown and post-party with friends, which I did.
At the same time, should I decide to do the full in a future year, this gives me an idea of what to expect the first half of my race. There’s no way I could have done the full here on top of MCM, although I know several people who did this full as the second of two within the month, either from NYCM or MCM or something else. Unfortunately I don’t have that ability and this half definitely pushed me to my limit.
It would be another 2 weeks before I exercised or worked out and another week after that before running 3 miles again. But now I know what my body can handle under an extreme schedule that people more athletically able can push.
I’m a little disappointed in the expo, but race day organization itself was solid. Swag was solid, so in essence very little to complain and I hope I can do this hometown race in future years!