Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Recap and Race Report
Race: Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon
Location: Fairmount/Kelly Drive, Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 21.1 km (13.1 miles)
Date/Start Time: 18 September 2011, 0800
Distance Travelled to Compete: Negligible – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
Weather conditions: Clear to partly cloudy; temperatures started mid-50s, and progressed to low 70s by 11am. Perfect running weather.
Course conditions: Flat all around. Course leads through Center City Philadelphia, with a turnaround in Washington Square West. Runners head back into Fairmount and deep on Kelly Drive into the East Falls neighbourhood, doubling on Martin Luther/West River Drive and back to the Art Museum.
Preview: This race, whilst expensive as a road race, and particularly for a half marathon, is a good one, as it’s a home race for me, and a tuneup for what I see it prior to MCM. As Philly is, this course is also flat all around, and features post race concerts by Bret Michaels as well as other amenities. I have heard that course support is excellent, and from what I saw at the expo, the staffing, race crew and all, I expect this will be an awesome time.
The volunteer “Race Crew” held our expo just shy of Chinatown in the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 13th and Arch Streets in the new wing of the convention hall. Brooks banners and garb dominated the hall, as they are one of the headline sponsors. Packet pick up was very organized, and upon entering check-in was shocked at how many corrals there were. I was in Corral 10, which made me think I had to be starting in the very back…until I saw there were 23 corrals.
I proceed to the Brooks area, where they were freely giving out prizes – t-shirts, winter training hats and bandanas, as well as a truck where they tested your gait and could market their shoes. Once I left the Brooks area, I proceeded to hit up the samples and the rest of the expo, curious what products were out there. Saw some new ones and oldies but goodies, as they say.RACE DAY:
I leave my building with the runners from mine and the adjacent building on our street around 7am, reaching the parkway around 7:15am. Get my gear checked promptly, and barely managed to get in my corral by the time the first few corrals went off. There were far too many people in such a packed area (Eakins Oval, Art Museum) which irritated me at times – Shamrock Fest had slightly more than the amount here, yet I didn’t feel I had to bump into people at every turn. MCM with 30,000 strong is congested from what I hear, but the corral area is MUCH more spacious. Eakins Oval was very cramped.
I’m in the 10th corral of 23 corrals. We make our way up, and 16 minutes after the gun goes off, we’re in prime position to begin. And then, we’re off.
Just before our corral goes off: The announcer screams at several runners in our corral, “Stop taking pictures of each other, you guys are about to go! Are you guys going to update your Facebook status now with a picture of you at the start line?” The rest of our corral including myself, laughed.
Mile 0.5: We’re already seeing the leaders blaze past us at (their) Mile 4. I was in Corral 10 and the leaders had at least a good 16 minutes or so head start on us. Unbelievable. Several runners remarked that they were either from Kenya or all-star collegiate athletes.
Mile 1: Now, I’ve never booed spectators, but seeing a spectator holding up a sign that said “Run like a flash mob is behind you!”? I mean really? I guess out-of-towners might have laughed, but those of us living in Center City, and Rittenhouse Square (the targeted neighbourhood in Philadelphia this year) certainly wouldn’t. I’m sure he meant it as a joke, but still… (NB: More information on the Philadelphia flash mobs here. These weren’t ones that danced out of nowhere, these were ones that beat people up and robbed them.)
Mile 2: Gorgeous view of City Hall. Watching my breathing as I started at a faster pace than normal, largely to test my knees. They felt alright, but not great. Ran down Market Street by my office (workplace) and through Washington West and into Old City. A few ladies in tutus bounced past me. We made our first turnaround past Independence Mall and the Constitution Center at 4th Street, right by the Fox News building.
Mile 3: More jumping cheerleaders. And then headed into Chinatown, and that neighbourhood was packed with spectators.
5k marker: Still in Chinatown. A few idiot pedestrians tried to cross the street, causing a few collisions with other runners. I saw my friend Vee briskwalking at 10th and Arch, Oakleys and multicolored skirt and all, and I yelled her name, but unfortunately she didn’t hear me.
Mile 4: Coming back to the start point and at Logan Square. MORE idiot pedestrians tried to cross the street in the thick of runners. UH HELLO?!?! I saw enough of it, that I might actually write to the race directors to have a few more stewards on the city streets…at Broad and Arch Streets, in particular, there was a 50-year old or so guy, dragging his suitcase and just STANDING there, gawking at us in the middle of the street as the runners had to avoid him on Arch Street. HELLO!?!?? That’s what they have the damned sidewalk for!!!!!
Mile 5: We start to hit the beginning of the infamous Kelly Drive stretch. No complaints here, but I’m starting to feel a bloated stomach. No idea why – when I went to the bathroom, I could tell I was hydrated well enough and I had a bowl of cereal about an hour before gun time. Because of a 50-degree temperature at gun time, I’m not perspiring as much as I dreaded.
Mile 6/10k marker: More sets of cheerleaders, including a large group of them dressed as bumblebees. I’m starting to lose some steam, so I go ahead and I pop my second GU (first one was had 15 minutes prior to start) with some water. Chocolate Outrage for the win! I hit my halfway split at just south of an hour.
Mile 7.5: I started hearing the rock band across the Schuylkill River blasting as the runners on the other side of the river (presumably on mile 10) were racing by. The music on our side of the course (north of the Schuylkill) was pleasant, but I was starting to lose my groove interestingly enough and needed something to mentally keep me going.
Mile 8.4: It was 67 degrees now, and my hands were going numb. No I’m not lying about that. It was so bad, that my arms were stiffening up. Not good. The GU station was up, and I grabbed not one, but two (runners were actually allowed to grab two). Roctane in Blueberry Pomegranate, although they had plenty of other flavours. The sad part? Didn’t actually ingest either of them. What I did need them for then? To keep my fingers moving. They felt they were turning to stone and I couldn’t figure out why.
Mile 9/15k marker: Finally, East Falls, a critical part of the course. Calumet and Midvale Avenues and then the bridge to cross over to West River Drive. The end was gaining near. More scores of cheerleaders and guys dressed up in shirts that said “Free High Fives.” It was unfortunately at this point where I seriously started to lose steam, as my quadriceps muscles started to tighten very badly. I wasn’t feeling dehydrated at all, so I couldn’t figure out what the issue was. More critically I was coming off shaky knees this week due to aggravating them on Wednesday’s tempo run, so I was forced to slow down. I had to take a few run/walk breaks, to my chagrin, but unfortunately I’m too close to my big fish in MCM to risk injuring myself. I continue to monitor my breathing as I pass the rows of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s signs encouraging their Team in Training runners.
Mile 10.5: Montgomery Drive. I feel the end getting closer, but I’m continuing to run out of steam. The Cytomax was helping me to keep going and keep stable, but this was clearly a combination of injury paranoia and the tightened muscles, as I know some people keep going even with tight muscles. At the 10 mile mark, I’m well over 1:30 (ugh) as my fatigue is taking a much larger toll on me than my lung capacity did earlier in the race.
Mile 12/20k marker: Nothing brings a smile to my face more than that damned 20k marker.”20k!” I screamed, “yesssss!” Seriously, with my thighs and ankles (particularly my right ankle) aching, I was anxious for the end. On the other hand, a guy with a Miller Lite t-shirt was holding up a sign that said “Hurry Up! We’re almost out of beer!” (The funny part is that it was completely serious – Miller sponsored the event by providing a bottle of beer in the refreshment area.)
Mile 13: Up the STEEP hill on Martin Luther King Drive. It was short, but at Mile 13…with the throngs of spectators cheering us on, I forced myself to maintain pace up the hill – under most circumstances – I would have walked the hill like I did the Odyssey. But at the same time I’m thinking if this causes me problems, I’m going to have even more problems 41 days from now at MCM. Hello Arlington Cemetery at Mile 25…
And 2 hours or so later…
THE FINISH LINE:
This was not my best race, but I knew I had to play it smart coming off an injury and with my real big fish so close. I worked on catching my breath and loaded up on the goodies in the so-called Secure Zone: Marathon Bars by Snickers, water and Cytomax bottles, bananas, Dole fruit pieces and frozen strawberries. I skipped out on the pretzels and the bagels as I couldn’t carry any more. My boyfriend called me to figure out where I was, he had JUST missed me at the finish line and he was looking for me to try and videotape me crossing the finish. Unfortunately, he told me he was at letter A (they had arranged the sections from A-Z but when you left gear check, you see Z first, so it took me forever to get to A).
By the time I made my way to him, the announcers were presenting awards to the winners. Nonetheless, I finally found him and spent some time with him. He looked at me awestruck, and I backed off thinking he’d be grossed out by my sweaty self. (I’d never had a boyfriend during any of my races, so I had no idea what it was like to meet up with a significant other post-race.) Thankfully he didn’t seem to care though. We walked down the parkway, until I split up with him to join my other runners from my neighbourhood at 20th and Hamilton for a post-race celebration.
The expo, registration processes, and packet pick-up were VERY well organized. The information booth had all the information I needed for spectators. Eakins Oval is unfortunately very cramped but I give the organizers a lot of credit for putting up LOADS of signs and making places easy to find and easy to get to, a HUGE contrast to finding places at the Merrell Mud Run. Corrals were marked and easy to get to in spite of spectator and participant overload. Music was solid all around, goodies, refreshments and course support was excellent. The only downside on refreshments was that Miller actually DID run out of beer. (Hah!) But they are a corporate sponsor, not the race organizer. Only real complaint I have were the spectators in Chinatown and just north of City Hall. You definitely get what you pay for with the Rock n’ Roll series – a good show indeed. If I decide to not run this next year, it will more or less be due to my schedule or the fact I want to put in more hours of training and weights prior to my fall marathon.