Autumn Whirlwind

It has been a busy and interesting summer and the same can be said for how the fall is going so far.

My pavement related and offseason training goals this past summer were all but shattered when I caught a severe cold bug from (presumably, not 100% sure) a friend who was in town to visit and the result was severe bronchitis – at one point we suspected pneumonia, but thankfully the X-ray came back negative – that kept me from training or even excercising most if not all of June.
I returned to basic exercise (i.e. anything that didn’t involve running) only the final week of June and running the first week of July. And this was after SEVEN weeks of not running – I had taken two weeks off after Broad Street and was planning on light training when I contracted the bug. So coming back in the thick of the heat after seven weeks of no running?

Ugly. Just it was hilariously ugly.

I struggled to even run quarter mile intervals on the treadmill and my first run back with City Sports was a nightmare in nearly every sense of the word. Thankfully keeping at it, by the end of July I was back to basic distance, but pace, I was still off (slower) by roughly a minute/mile pace, and I was slow enough to begin with by most people’s standards.

At the same time, with work burning me out, I had taken a few short holidays to recharge. I screamed for a European vacation, especially with both the pound sterling and euro falling dramatically, I could afford RT to Ireland for 550. Yes, you are reading this correctly. $550.

Strangely, at the same time, I was also concerned about my moving expenses going to DC – especially if I took on a new job, absorbing (in most cases) relocation costs. As a result, my longer holiday for the summer was spent in Quebec. Amtrak train trip was entirely free for myself, along with a few nights in a Marriott hotel, thanks to the points I’d accumulated from my own work travels. Canada was a double edged sword – it was an aggressive agenda, seeing both Montreal and Quebec City in 6 days, 2 of which consisted of the Amtrak ride through the Adirondacks. It was a scenic ride, but overall the trip meant we were constantly on the go. It was great for keeping me in shape, but my mother was more exhausted after that week (despite my multiple warnings about the agenda and pace of the trip – several times I offered her to prolong the trip to ease the pace, but she refused as she had a religious pilgrimage the days following our return). Still I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the sights, the food and everything in between.

But breathers aside, it has been a busy summer. I visited my friend Caroline in NYC, who is training for the NYC marathon, spent a few weekends with other friends exploring the city and just overall doing fun stuff. But now a lot of the fun is slowing down – or stopping altogether – as the fall gets even crazier.

Thankfully I did not schedule myself for any half marathons at all this coming fall, between my anticipated job search, a wedding that is taking place abroad and a few other things I would have to tackle personally, scheduling my long runs for the Philadelphia Marathon was tough enough.

Training for the fall came slowly and steadily, and strangely enough, I’ve been training conservatively enough that the chances of injury to my shin are very small compared to what I encountered in 2013 when I tried to train for the half and the full and maybe leaving out a half and structuring around it might have been the answer here. Although I have been trying to keep my runs to no more than three times a week and only in excess of 14 miles for my long run do I increase to four, but never five times as my shins need longer time to recover from the longer runs. This still gives me a day to do weighttraining and a day to rest entirely. And so far it’s been fine.

My family continues to use my passion for running and travel – nothing new – as a lightning rod and sadly that has not changed. It has made things more difficult for me mentally as I cope with other issues and stress in general. Somehow, that passion will carry me through the finish, through the end of the marathon, and my time altogether in Philly. Ironically this is my last opportunity to ever run Philly and see the city in its utmost passion neighbourhood by neighbourhood – although Broad Street has done a pretty bang up job of that as well. Looking ahead to next year, I am slated for the DC marathon in March 2016, but after that, I’m looking at a general focus on my body strength and less so on endurance. I am thinking 2 races ranging between 10-13 miles – easier to train for and a much easier ability to adjust for, as personal priorities shift with my scenery.

To put it frankly, aside from focusing on my new job – wherever or whatever that might be – I will place a much heavier emphasis on my social/personal life – at my age, it is very difficult to meet new friends, although in DC, with many people my age, single, adventurous and ambitious, I won’t feel as out of place as I ever did in Philly. I remain optimistic I will find a crew of people with interests similar to mine (fitness overlapping or not) and maybe a few developing closer connections with. A stronger support network that I never really had living in Philly, that’s for sure. And even more critical now with my brother taking a position in Minnesota, much further away and moving further away myself from my own family, even as fractious as our relationship can be sometimes.

Things are complicated, but somehow I’ll sort it out.

For now, the pavement brings me peace, a peace that still, little else and only a number of people that I can count on one hand, can bring. Even on the upswing, with my first slew of interviews in November, the pavement helps me to calm the nerves before the storm.

One thing at a time. For now, the pavement helps me digest both the good things and the bad. One step at a time.

The Love Run, Race Recap, Part 2

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The Love Run 2015, Race Recap, Part 2

Race: The Philadelphia Love Run
Location: Center City, Fairmount Park and Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 29 March 2015, 8am
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible
Weather conditions: Very chilly, start temp of 27F, windy. Rose to mid-30s by 10am
Course conditions: Course was changed from last year partially because of the regatta. Flat downtown and mile 5 Fairmount hill remains the same. Mile 9 climb to the Strawberry Mansion bridge was new and circle through Dell Music Center was new.
Preview: CGI Racing, a NJ-based race company, runs their second iteration of the Love Run in Philadelphia, with a course change and way more awesome perks this year.

Race Preview

The forecast was clear unlike last year’s rainy quagmire but the downside was the silly low temperatures. Below freezing to be exact. Also because of a regatta, the organisers were forced to change the route of the course – it was certainly different and the second hill into Strawberry Mansion would prove to be quite unkind, though a good preview of a training run for an even more difficult course in Lancaster in two’ weeks time.

The first half of the course took us through Center City and back on the Parkway and through Fairmount Park and the Please Touch Museum. The second half went hairpin on Martin Luther King Drive but took a detour into Strawberry Mansion before getting back on MLK Drive and down to the finish on Eakins Oval.

The Race

Walking up the parkway en route to the start line, my fingers were freezing and freezing fast, despite wearing gloves. I searched in vain for City Fit Girls, but despite searching the group tent area, they were nowhere to be seen. Bag drop off was straightforward, and the corrals were set up the same they were last year, on the East end of the Eakins Oval.

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Announcements, the anthem, and a loud roar started as the race got underway.

Mile 1: Chinatown

Within the first mile, I passed several Chessie Photo photographers and tried to feature prominently such as to get captured in the moment. We passed throngs of spectators on the parkway and through Chinatown. Right on 6th Street, and another right on Market Street. Potholes on this first mile were quite annoying. Actually they were very annoying.

Mile 2: Market East

Just like last year, a DJ spun tunes as we passed the Mile 2 marker at 7th and Market Streets. It was a routine sprint back to City Hall and back to the Parkway. I recalled nearly missing this water stop last year, so I positioned myself on the left to collect my first bit of water. Steady and straightforward I proceeded, around City Hall, to JFK Boulevard, and then back on the parkway.

Mile 3: The Parkway

An increase in spectators occurred as we hung a right back on the Parkway, through Logan Circle and back towards the Art Museum. I tried to take note of some of the more funny signs, including the Grumpy Cat memes. On the way back up, I caught a few more photographers and I veered as far to the right as I could to again catch the cameras. I always enjoy looking through the race pictures 🙂

As noted in last year’s review, the key difference between this course and the Rock n Roll course was that instead of veering right to Kelly Drive, you made an immediate left to Martin Luther King Drive and then onwards to the hill that laid into Fairmount Park. This is a race that for once, does not touch Kelly Drive and it is a good way to mix things slightly up from both of Philadelphia’s fall races.

Mile 4-5: Martin Luther King Drive

Also like last year, Martin Luther King Drive took on a long stretch, crossing underneath several bridges before heading through the hill leading into Fairmount Park’s west end. As we came onto the slow and gradual painful hill leading up to the Please Touch Museum, I managed to push through and only stopped once when I felt my heart rate whirl out of control. I continued steadily up the path without too much trouble after that.

Mile 6: Please Touch Museum

We hung a right on 41st Street, which to my chagrin, like last year, was pothole central. Honestly, this race reminded me exactly how terrible, no how beyond terrible, the roads were in Philly. We passed two groups of cheerleaders as we snagged more fluid before heading the long downhill back to MLK Drive.

Mile 7-8: Montgomery Drive to Strawberry Mansion

Once we veered left from Montgomery and back through MLK, we eventually hit the second hill that led upwards to Strawberry Mansion. One part that irked me about this was that I was completely unaware of the course change – totally my fault – but also that the gels were right behind the water and Gatorade and I had hit them without warning. I actually had to TURN AROUND and nearly hit two runners as I backtracked. I was honestly pretty annoyed at the lack of warning – there honestly need to be signs on course indicating what amenities are on course.

And if that weren’t bad enough, I was staring another slow steep climb up the way to the bridge. My legs were just not feeling this climb but I forced myself up.

We crossed the bridge across to Strawberry Mansion, and wound up circling near an outdoor music hall before getting back to the bridge we’d come from. Then another right down the ramp off the bridge where we came from. Back onto MLK Drive.

Miles 9-10: Hairpin Run

We kept going up MLK Drive until the infamous hairpin turn. Normally I touch the cone at the very end of the turn for good luck but unfortunately for me, a lady was standing right above it. Darn.

2 mile 9

The way back, my lungs started getting congested. Just awesome. Not really.

Then I had to remind myself yet again that this was a training run. And that time really didn’t matter as much. Not today.

Miles 11-12: The Stretch Home

Last few water stops. I started playing a slew of music in my head. Skillet, Radiohead, Alanis, everything that could move me. It did get harder by the foot and at points I felt like I was overheating. I had taken my gloves off at least by the halfway point, but my chest felt that overheating sensation and I was out of fluid entirely.

Mile 13 and Finish: Eakins Oval

As I crossed the bridge, the spectator crowd grew. Up the last climb. One last push.

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And like that, it was over.

Aftermath

Like last year, the first thing I saw were the medals. Quite a nifty design, though I’ve preferred some of my other medals a bit more.

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I promptly picked up my medal and then a mylar sheet to conserve heat. We made our way down to the main tent, where water bottles were set off to aside and there could have been more volunteers handing out water bottles. Our bags were small plastic lunch bags with tastykakes, a Smuckers circular peanut butter jelly sandwich, a banana, an orange and another bottle of water. Quite similar to last year.

2015: A Crazy Winter

2015 has brought a number of things both running and non-running related to the forefront.

On the non-running end, is the realisation that my life is in need of a serious change and a lot of change simply won’t be happening until I get myself on the move literally to DC. The job search is underway and I’m open to a range of positions in both the private and public sector. As I’ve said to many of my friends, Philly was great the last almost 15 years, it’s great and practical for graduate students to live, but as a permanent place to live, no way. I’ve met a lot of friends over the years, but only recently have I made 1-2 friends that I could see myself forging long-lasting relationships with.

Even then, the ones that I’ve been extremely fortunate to know have introduced me to new adventures – skiing, travel, more cooking adventures, and ironically, the impetus to move on to DC.

instructor

The ski adventure in Blue Mountain was pretty scary – it look me a bit of time – a bit too much time to pick up the basics of skiing, and I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that I’m not used to moving with my hips and the motion of road running my body was used to moving in one direction. The lesson itself was quite aggravating as I continously was the one to struggle in the class. After the lesson was over though, a few hours later I was slowly getting it. I was fearful of injury though, so I didn’t take too many risks taking on some of the more complicated hills.

$90 was enough for us for a lesson, and access to the beginner and bunny hills. The more complicated ones required more expensive rates or passes, etc. Not that it mattered, the way the day went I was sticking to the bunny hills for quite some time.

ski shoes

The shoes were extremely uncomfortable and almost painful to walk in. Still all in all, a good day, and a good bonding experience. But unfortunately these memories have been a bit too few during my time here, and as I get older the lifestyle amongst people here is very different from the path that I want to take in both career and in life. So it goes. Happy hunting to me.

That said, my moving away has made my spring race schedule pretty solid, cut and dry, although courtesy of several running events, I’ve gotten the chance to secure complimentary entries to both the Love Run, which will be in NINE days…

Love Run free entry

and the Perfect 10 Miler in central New Jersey in October, courtesy of a Valentine’s Day event at Philadelphia Runner.

Perfect 10 free entry

Participation in the latter is VERY much up in the air as it’s in the thick of when I’m looking to move to DC. I had explored car rental, which would pretty much exceed what I’d pay for Broad Street, so it looks like I’d have to pray someone local is also doing that race and hitch a ride or I’d wind up passing my bib off to someone else who I know was at the event, which thankfully I know several people. Everything else aside, though, I do want to run the Philadelphia Marathon. Yes, all 26 miles.

I’ve lived in Philly for 15 years, and been running in Philly for the last six. Graduate school was largely to blame for being unable to run – the one year (2012) that I was slated to run the full, my body broke down under a crazy school load and I had only recovered in time to run the half that year.

I’ve kept up running with City Sports and I’ve had a number of awesome memories with this group. I definitely want to stick with them until I move for good, and seeing as they have 2-3 run clubs with their stores in DC, would hope that the same camaraderie exists with their DC groups.

candy

But most of this winter, my training’s been indoors due to the snow and my long hours at work. The Love Run half will essentially be a training run for my race in Lancaster on the 11th of April.

Broad Street is what I’m pumped for, as nearly everyone and their mother I know is running it. And it is most likely my last chance to be running this race, so I will enjoy every mile.

The training continues, onwards and upwards. And so I continue to work towards my goals, on and off the pavement.

Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap, Part 1

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Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap and Race Report, Part 1

Race: Philadelphia Half Marathon
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Forecast as it stands is a start temp of 38F (3C) and rising to about 52F (11C). No rain in the forecast yet, clear to partly 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.
Preview: Fourth time’s a charm, right? The usual routine end to the running season for Philly, and nearly everywhere else. This race potentially could be my last here, but itching to do the full, I may have to come back here next year even if I have already moved out of Philly. For sure though it will be the last time I run the Philly Half.

Part 1 of my recap will cover the expo. Part 2 will cover the race itself.

Expo:

The expo is held at the usual venue of the PA Convention Center; last year’s expo had much more to offer goers than before. Additionally, what makes things more exciting is that this year, I have a solid group of friends that I’m running with, thanks to City Sports, and a solid group of supporters. So I am very happy and grateful for that.

I walked into the usual Hall F of the convention center on 11th and Arch, and honestly this year’s expo was even bigger and better than the last. More race reps to check out local/regional races, more vendors, more freebies (and some pretty awesome ones too!), and caught up with quite a crowd at the expo. Couldn’t go wrong in any aspect.

The hall had ample room even for the big crowd. Packet/kit pickup was seamless.

1-3 pickup

The shirts in my opinion were awesome, although I have seen some complaints on social media about the make of the shirt (Leslie Jordan, versus last year’s Endurafit) and the cheesy slogan. Yeah it’s probably cheesy if you’re a local. But honestly I didn’t care. I have so many winter long sleeve shirts I didn’t care as much.

Front:
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Back:
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There were a lot of different vendors, including race reps from both local and national and even Canadian races as well. Asked many questions about the course, transportation for point-to-point courses, and such.

Food giveaways included quite a few food freebies, including Food Should Taste Good, Larabar, Nirvana water, but most importantly, seasoned organic beets by Love Beets. SO good.

1-6 beets

The other new product that caught my taste buds was the Mamma Chia snacks, tried the apple cinnamon paste and it was pretty darn good.

For those of you questioning nutrition on the course, you will have the opportunity to try the gels at the Clif Bar station: 2 caffeine (citrus and mocha) and 2 without (vanilla and raspberry).

I caught up with some friends from the run club and met some of them in the Gore-Tex booth. Everyone seemed quite relaxed going into the weekend, and I had gotten a few invites for post-race parties. Beers, lounging around, a well deserved lazy Sunday after all those weeks of training.

In the middle at the Gore-Tex station, runners could try on shoes with Gore-Tex waterproof technology, if they wanted and they could enter a raffle to win shoes and such.

The speaker lineup featured a lot of local running leaders including Philly Runner’s Ross Martinson, and a former Olympian, whose name I couldn’t remember. Ah if I could only remember the name

Overall, Philly Marathon expo just keeps getting bigger and better. If you are travelling in from out of town or just getting to the expo Saturday, this will not disappoint!

More Miles and More Friendships

The autumn has proven to be extremely busy for me, many miles clocked in various cities for business, and followed up with two weeks in cold London. I’ve been running everywhere figuratively and literally, seeing the world and the country…all whilst keeping up with my Philly Half training. I’ve posted pictures of my excursions on Pinterest for both my UK trip and the downtime on my business trips to Atlanta.

Note: More details on the trips to follow in separate posts…

Atlanta’s miles were brutal, the place is very hot and hilly (hence its nickname Hotlanta) and the drivers are so terrible that running can be a leap of faith unless you are near the Botanical Garden in Midtown. London on the other hand was colder (about avg 50F) and rainy half the time.

Upon return home, I attended more running events as I ramped my training. Somewhere in there, I’ve made more friends and built relationships through events held by City Sports and Philly Runner, two stores whose running groups have been key to my training discipline and sanity and social world. A few smattering of pictures:

Halloween run with City Sports:
halloween run

The “candy” we got post-run – VERY yummy, the caramel ones taste more like chocolate. No wonder they do, given the ingredient list.
supercandy halloween

Costume Run with Philly Runner, part of their Halloween tradition.
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Philly Runner’s 10 year anniversary party – congrats to Ross Martinson and his crew for boosting the running community in Philly the last decade. Even after I leave Philly, I won’t forget all the fun memories. I only wish my schedule would have allowed me to parttake in a training team for one of the Philly races, nearly everyone I know has greatly benefitted from it!
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Getting photobombed at the 10-year party:
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It’s been quite a busy yet fun time meeting more people and I’m happy that I will be celebrating an early Friendsgiving with them! Here’s to more awesome memories over the next year racing and training in Philly and beyond!

Have you travelled anywhere interesting recently? Where have you gone? How did you get the miles in?

Any questions about the destinations I’ve been to, just give me a shout!

A Lift from Master Fate: The RnR Philly 5k

Last year, I’d sworn that I would not run the Rock n’ Roll half marathon after viewing my disappointment at how last year’s race went and in general, the “corporatization” of the race that once used to be the Philadelphia Distance Run. The hiking of the starting price for this race didn’t help either. And so time passed, and as I aligned my personal and racing commitments, I decided, then instead, to focus attention on a local race, the Hands on House race, held near my hometown, despite the hills and the challenging course in general (link), I figured this would be a nice change of pace.

Except, work commitments, being as they are, scuttled my ability to run this race. I am still training for a good distance prior to a slight break in October because of international travel, but I could no longer do any half marathon prior to this break, which I’d previously had hoped to. I was seriously bummed, dealing with a number of situations in the last few months, I had very much hoped that after last March’s Love Run in the pouring rain, another race weekend and race would help give me the lift that I very much needed. Having to pull out of Hands on House meant that my next race weekend would not be until November.

corral

Until last Thursday.

I attended the City Sports run club’s usual jaunt on Thursday, that evening’s session sponsored by none other than the Competitor Group who sanctioned RnR Philly and other RnR races. At the end of our run, they raffled off several prices, two of which were free entries to the Philadelphia race, a free code that could be used for either of the 5k or the Half Marathon, each run on different days for those who wanted to run both.

To boot, the leader also took us out to Tria, where I took on an Italian ember spiced/herbed beer.

beertria

The rep read off the ticket numbers for each of the prices. Personally, I secretly hoped I would not win the code as I was flying out to Atlanta that Sunday morning, so participation in the half would be a moot point.

“Last three numbers are 131,” he read out.

“Oh wow,” I exclaimed to my friend Rachel next to me. “That IS me.”

Befuddled not knowing what to do, I stared at the envelope debating whether to give it back, since I simply couldn’t do the half. Then the race rep explained that if I wished, I could also use it to run the 5k, by which point had risen to $50 for registration. A few of my teammates suggested I sell the race entry, although said entry code would expire 31 August, so even raffling it away would be inefficient at best. At Tria, I searched through the Delta schedule to see if it was possible to even consider switching my flight. Then I counted the weeks between the present time and the time of the half.

IMAG1539

Not enough time to ramp up my mileage safely for a last ditch half. I had declared myself out of the Hands on House awhile ago, so I did not ramp up my mileage like expected. Even then, the bottoms of my shins were beginning to act up, and I didn’t think it was worth risking it, especially as I had run this race three times already.

I decided I’d go for the 5k. I could still be a part of race weekend; I could travel at ease the next day and it wouldn’t endanger my current training.

In any case, it still felt good to be racing something prior to the Philly Half, my spirits and mind need it quite badly.

This Weekend: The Philly 10k

This weekend brings the arrival of the much-anticipated Philly 10k, a race put together by the well-known running store Philadelphia Runner and a number of local sponsors. Unlike most races in the city with the exception of Broad Street (the only large scale race that comes to mind), this race does not touch Philadelphia’s oft-frequented Kelly Drive/river loop. Instead, it starts and ends in South Philadelphia, starting specifically at East Passyunk Avenue and Reed Street, hitting Midtown Village, Chinatown, Callowhill, Old City, Society Hill, Bella Vista, Pennsport and so forth until it gets back to Tasker and 8th Street, with the finish festival at Tasker and East Passyunk.

The registration period was extremely short and sold out very quickly. At the time I was on the very tail end of graduate school and concerned about budget, stayed clear of the entry fee, priced at $55. Because of the police force and permits necessary for the respective road closure, Philadelphia Runner was justifiably forced to hike the price, and knowing the model as it is, I would not be surprised if they were losing money on the race. The collaboration of multiple volunteer orgs and the community boost that it has gotten has made the race an incredible draw.

Runners receive a finish line beer (assuming they are of age) specifically brewed by the Philadelphia Brewing Company for the race. Admittedly with the exception of their Belgian wheat, which I had at the Broad Street post-race party, I am not a fan of that brewer, but hey, I’ll pass judgment until I have it myself.

In addition, they also receive a Shake Shack Liberty Shell Custard infused with Termini Bros. cannoli.

Now that I have to see, I could see cannoli cream and bits in custard but to actually have a cannoli stuck in there, that would be interesting.

Credit: Philly.com/The Philly 10k/Philadelphia Runner

Credit: Philly.com/The Philly 10k/Philadelphia Runner

Not to mention they get an awesome race shirt, made of soft cotton.

Credit: Philly 10k/Facebook

Credit: Philly 10k/Facebook

I decided to volunteer, wanting to be a part of this experience, although to be fair, the perks offered aren’t bad either (as far as I last checked, a $20 giftcard to Philadelphia Runner, a t-shirt, and access to the local eats prepared by businesses for the runners). I have no complaints.

I made a friend, Lessa, in the last month or so who fancies the shorter distances (up to 5 miles) and has made it a personal goal to work her way up to a 10k at some point. Interestingly enough, we have a lot more in common besides running; she had moved to Philadelphia from Oklahoma, wanting to have the experience living in different parts of the country after all her life in her home state. She’s enrolled in a graduate program starting the spring semester, but is enjoying what the city has to offer for now.

I had convinced her to also volunteer with me in South Philly at a water station, wanting her to get an idea of the Philly flair to races, and of course, to have a good time. Not to mention the perks easily won her – and many others – over. Many of my other friends are running the race themselves, so I am looking forward to seeing them.

We’ve been told to report to our water station – we’ll be at Water Station #2 at 4th and Bainbridge, at Mile 5 – very early on as the race starts at 7:30am. Looks like I’ll be headed to bed very early then!

Are you running the race? If so are you ready? Volunteering? How are you giving back?

Be Well Philly has an awesome guide out there for everyone running this race – so if you are new to the area or just not familiar with South Philadelphia, this is a great resource.

Run (or volunteer) happy! I’ll be making a dash to pick up my shirt tomorrow and to check out the Italian Market, a place I haven’t been able to get to in a very long time. I plan on tweeting as I go.