For the Love of Running: The Philadelphia Marathon Expo and Tweetup

1 welcome bridge

Despite deciding to drop the Philadelphia Half Marathon I had previously registered for I still wanted to head to the expo and pick up my stuff (hey, I paid for it after all!), meet some friends also at the expo or working at the expo. And why not. I live here, I have a day off, and it’s not every weekend we have an expo.

It was a good thing I did though. Massive changes abound from last year, most notoriously the layout, the see-through plastic check-in bags (which should be obvious given the Boston Marathon tragedy), the headline sponsor, and from what I understand the higher number of total race sponsors overall.

First, the layout. I arrived at the convention center alone at around 12:15pm. Doors had opened at noon today and opened until 9pm, Saturday’s hours were from 10am-7pm.

As I was about to walk into the hall, a few flustered runners came storming out, saying they were frustrated in not being able to find packet pick up.

That was NOT a good sign. Sure enough I went in and all I saw were vendors.

4 full floor

No signs directing runners anywhere to packet pick up. I wandered around aimlessly until I stumbled into my City Sports running teammates at their store stand and asked them where packets were. Their answer? Way in the back.

And they agreed with me: completely inane to not even have signage up. And if they did, it was clearly NOT obvious where packets were.

I hung with them for a few minutes, both my crewmates Matt and Faith were running the full marathon and both were raring to go, even if Faith was nervous.

I walked past their stand to the Gore-Tex stand. Gore-Tex recently assumed the title sponsorship position, so naturally I was curious to see what they had to offer. Sure enough they had running gear and I queued up for a paper test to see if I had won a pair of shoes. Of course, I didn’t. I soaked the paper in their pot of water only to reveal the message:

“It’s a great day for….a run.”

Well, duh. Every day is a great day for a run. So what the heck did that mean?

“Sorry there,” said the attendant in a British accent. “You didn’t win a prize, but feel free to check out the rest of our station!”

Behind the Gore-Tex stand in the very back was the packet pickup. It was hidden by a large curtain panel, which explained why it was near impossible to find. Queues around 12:30pm weren’t too bad, bag pickup was smooth and I had no issues.

2 queue

The T-shirt however was not a hue I was too fond of, but the plastic check bag was completely understandable.

8 kit

The back of the race shirt looked like this:

9 kit back

After passing through check-in, was a much more massive merchandise area. Endura-Fit manufactures Philly Marathon kits every year and their area was at least twice as large as they used to be.

3 sales floor

As usual, the displays of jackets, armwarmers, baby clothing and everything was on a prominent display. As if their clothing couldn’t get any more bright and in-your-face, I stumbled into their sports bras.

11 crazy bra

Indeed.

After exiting the official shop, did I pass through the vendor section. The usual food vendors like Cascadian Farm, Larabar, Food Should Taste Good, and other brands had their shop set up. Success/Minute Rice had their rice stand and other companies had plenty of samples for expo goers to check out. Also unlike last year there were significantly more race vendors there to promote their races. I talked to CGI Racing (for whose Love Run I signed up for next March) and the race director of the Pittsburgh Marathon. I also saw a promoter for the Ottawa Marathon which is somewhere I would like to go as their race is quite scenic (and it’s in Canada to boot).

Finally, one of my more favourite stands in my racing history – the Clif Bar Station.

5 clif bar

Mind you, I sampled their Clif Bloks and their granola bars (which admittedly isn’t my cup of tea, but also sampled their protein bars. I totally dig their mint chocolate and peanut butter bars.

Finally I made my way over to the Fan Area, where they were distributing a number of things, including a life-size poster of the elevation chart.

10 poster

The Kids Zone was in the next area over.

6 kids

Finally in the center of all the action was a Chevy, parked there like I’ve seen cars of other sponsors.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if the winner of the race won a brand new car? That would be a sweet deal.

With the exception of no sign directing the runners for their bibs, the race expo was monumentally better than it ever has been in previous years. Even then, on Day 2, they fixed this mistake. My only suggestion is that I wish they would have an elite runner speaking at some point, I had checked their speaker schedule and none was to be found. With Competitor having abandoned their support for the elite runner (or should I say greatly lessened), this would be an area for the Philadelphia Marathon to distinguish itself.

On Saturday I had visited the expo again, however mainly to participate in what was called a Tweetup, a meetup of of Twitter friends, in this case, from the running community. Ironically I had helped to draw the entire thing up when I was still planning to run the half but being injured interaction with other runners was even more important. Despite a few bumps in the road in meeting up, we managed to pull it off.

We had all agreed to essentially meet up at 1pm. Around 12:30pm Allie (@anpearce) had messaged me that the restaurant would not give us a table until our anticipated party of 10 would arrive. I immediately hauled tail to the Field House where I met Allie, Wayne (@runnerwayne5), and Claire (@clemmini18). About 10 minutes later Steph (@mcginley43) and Anni (@annibanani2) arrived, but still short on numbers, the waitresses did not give us our table. Finally after Allie mentioned to them we were ready to go, they told us it would be a 45 minute wait to an hour.

Oh dear, time for Plan B. Anni then phoned Moriarty’s who thankfully had a crowd leaving at the very moment we called and in a flip decision, we headed over two blocks South. There was only one more issue: Rose (@RoseRunsOn) and Bang (@runbangrun) were on their way, and knowing they were from out of town, I was hoping they could find their way here.

They were familiar with Philly, thankfully and after a few tweets, were with us in short order. Another friend of theirs, Melanie would join us later on.

12 tweetup

I would later find out that I had actually met Claire before through Vee at the Amish Half, which we all ran in 2010. What a small world. And it was Claire who told me of her experiences at the Hershey Half Marathon which I hope to run next year. Other discussions about race preparation, careers, schooling, helped me to get to know the others better as we bonded over soup, sandwiches, and for the supporters, beer.

In the end, we all agreed we should do it again, and specifically, we’d be up for doing another Tweetup come that weekend in March for the Love Run. Ladies, if you are reading this…WE SHOULD DO IT AGAIN!

Hopefully this go around, I can talk about how excited I’d be to run the race, instead of sit it out!

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