Disclaimer: Things got SO crazy, that I forgot to post a recap of this race! As it was the first, and only time I’ve done the full in Philly – better late than never!
Race: Philadelphia Marathon
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 42.2 km (26.2 miles)
Date/Start Time: 22 November 2015, 7am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Clear to partly cloudy; temperatures started high-40s, warmed to low 50s. Became sunny.
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. Second half went on Kelly Drive, short bridge run and turn, continued to Main Street on Manayunk past Wissahickon Ave and back. Final 2-3 miles reverse on Kelly Drive.
Preview: My final attempt at the Philly Marathon and my final race full stop in Philly, and I was just aiming to try and finish given that real life severely ruined my training schedule.
For brevity purposes, I will be skipping any review of the expo – the expo was held at the same spot, the PA Convention Center, in the same space as before. Vendors, especially in the freebie product category were sparse, which was disappointing. Most vendors sold running gear and gels, both of which I had plenty of. You can view the review for last year’s expo here.
The Final March
Anticipating a significantly slower time, I had queued up in the orange (or second to last) corral, which would turn out to be a mistake as I would find out.
Before the gun: That Rocky song. That’s something I won’t miss once I leave this city, that song has never gotten me fired up.
Mile 1: Parkway to Chinatown. Like last year, we started going southeast on Ben Franklin Parkway and veered left on Arch Street into Chinatown. The crowds were their usual on Logan Circle and the Parkway and I wasn’t feeling too cold. I caught sight of an engaged couple who were wearing kits identifying themselves as getting married in six days. I can only dream of finding someone nice, let alone a runner, but I tried purging those thoughts as I turned left onto Arch Street.
Mile 2: Chinatown to Columbus Boulevard. Normally is where potholes can get annoying on the Old City end if you are not careful, but public works had since cleaned this up. This was around when a friend of mine from City Sports, who was dealing with massive knee issues, passed me. I asked how he was doing and at Mile 2, his knee was questionable at best. And he was signed up for the full.
Mile 2 was straightforward even with plenty of crowds in Chinatown. Flat road, left on (I believe) 4th Street and down to Columbus Boulevard where the first water stop was right on the corner. Holy cow, talk about absolute chaos.
Mile 3: Columbus Boulevard. South on Columbus Boulevard into South Philly and Pennsport. The first water step being on a corner created absolute chaos – I actually skipped this station because of the massive pileup of (I presume) newbie runners. Plenty of people also cheered us on from the bridges above us and the open road allowed runners to spread out a bit. Flat, and no complaints. Until we got all the way to Washington Avenue. There was our second water stop and again, it was at the corner turn. Good grief, this was ugly.
Miles 4-5: Pennsport. Very run of the mill, very relatively flat and fast through South Philly. Unlike previous years, the crowd support was significantly better. The roads were cleaned up, unlike two years ago. I looked for anyone I knew cheering in the crowd but I didn’t know anyone. I tried to keep my spirits up, it was race day after all.
Then we hung a left on South Street. So many memories. I wanted to take them in just in case I wouldn’t be back next year.
Mile 6: Washington West and Rittenhouse Square. We turned right on 6th Street, and then left on Chestnut Street. Home hood rally as I called it, Rittenhouse was the area with the greatest (by far) amount of crowd support. Random spectators here called and cheered your name (it was on the bibs) as you passed. This was quite the uplift I needed. The 10k split was roughly at 16th and Chestnut. And that’s when I knew that I was already halfway home.
Just two weeks before I’d done a 12 miler covering this same route but it felt so much better to be doing the real thing.
Mile 7: University City and Powelton Village. The queues for the toilets here were insane – I did not need to go, but 2 years ago I remember losing about 7 minutes to waiting here. Also skipped the water stations here with plenty of fluid in my bottle. Slight uphill as we progressed past Drexel and on the NE corner of Penn’s campus at 34th and Chestnut before making a right on 34th and headed to Powelton and Mantua. Deep in Drexel’s campus, one of the frat houses was blasting 80s music, and what did you know – at the time I passed it, Come On Eileen was on as the boys sang.
Miles 8-9: Mantua. This is one of the poorer communities in Philadelphia and even this area had many supporters lined up cheering runners on as they headed towards the Philadelphia Zoo. Steady incline took some wind out of me but I steadily pushed along. Continued up 34th Street and up the Girard Bridge.
Miles 10-11: Concourse, Fairmount Park. The so-called hill from hell. This somehow did but didn’t take the wind out of me. I remembered what I was told at Nike’s Women’s last year: lean in and breathe slowly. It’s a very slow yet steep hill and despite having trained on it thanks to City Sports, it still was utterly annoying. Came up the hill and hung a right, that was it. Several spectators held up signs urging us on.
Many people were on the concourse cheering us on. They were out of vanilla Clif Bar energy gel, and I had used mine up already, so I had to settle for raspberry. Mocha and Citrus are a no-go for me, as they have caffeine, and my body is hypersensitive to it.
Black Road was soon up and I was surging past a lot of runners. I felt strong, I felt good, which was odd, my training had not been the best this fall.
Miles 12-13: Back on MLK Drive. The loop was straightforward and then the hairpin turn. I was worried about my left knee tracking but no, I was practically flying. I felt so good. Heck, I wasn’t feeling anything. It wasn’t even a question.
I was staying left. Bring it back half.
Miles 14-16: Kelly Drive outbound to Manayunk. At Mile 15, I felt a twitch in my knee. It didn’t matter I kept going
Miles 17: Falls Bridge. It was then I heard a country-sounding song, Fly By, by Train. It got me into a groove that would eventually serve me well going into the 20s.
Miles 18-20: En route to Manayunk.