PHILADELPHIA MARATHON RACE REPORT
It’s pretty hard to beat a race of 30,000 runners that starts at sunrise against the backdrop of the Art Museum of Philadelphia (remember those steps that ‘Rocky’ Balboa/Sly Stallone ran up…turned around…fists pumping…can’t you just hear the music now…getting stronger…) on a crisp November morning.
This is a good race: I loved everything about it.
And…not having to qualify or enter a lottery just for the right to walk up to the Starting Line made it even sweeter!
If you like running in the late Fall, Philadelphia won’t disappoint you. It was a crispy start but, as soon as the sun came up–exactly at 7:00 am when the first flight of runners left the Start–you know exactly why this is a great time of year to run.
The entire event is top-notch. In no particular order, then…
Philadelphia is actually pretty close to Toronto. I flew down, and was able to depart Toronto (I took Air Canada…lots of flights…it’s about an hour in the air) on Saturday morning, arrive/check-in to my hotel and be on my way to pick-up my race kit by noon. There’s lots of hotels…all of them within twenty minutes of both the Expo and Start/Finish Line.
The City is completely walk-able, and absolutely everyone is ‘up’ for Race Weekend. How nice is it to walk into your hotel…see signs welcoming runners…water and bananas in the lobby on Race Day: I hate to say it, but Toronto could sure learn some lessons. You walk into a restaurant and people ask if you’re running…and after it’s over…you hobble into another place…and they ask how it went. It adds so much to the ambiance and fun of the experience.
I was able to leave my hotel, walk to the Start Line, clear Security (two minutes) and drop my bags in about half an hour. It was cold standing around in the dark before the race but…that’s part of it as well.
The Start is spectacular as you run around/through the entire Museum/Cultural area of the City. If you’re from Toronto, it would be very much like starting on University Avenue just south of College with Queen’s Park as a background. From there you’re on a very urban course through neighbourhoods, along the Delaware River, by City Hall, Ben Franklin’s burial site, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, University City, and the Philadelphia Zoo after which the Half splits off and wraps up. The Marathon then goes on along the Schuykill River on a basic ‘out and back’ for the rest of the course.
That ‘out and back’ was a bit discouraging. We’ve all been there before, but if you don’t really have a sense of where the turn-a-round is, it seems as if you’re running further and further away from where you need to be…and you know you have to come back at some point so it seems never-ending. The turn-a-round point is actually about the 32K mark. It’s a grind on the return (this certainly wasn’t helped by 25-30K headwinds) but…that final stretch when you come ’round the bend and finish once again in front of the Art Museum is pretty special.
The course itself was flat…no hills to speak of, really. Crowds were fantastic…all the way. Scenery was interesting and I didn’t find the route boring…it’s one way to see Philadelphia at a good pace.
In terms of my own performance, I didn’t do as well as I hoped. My goal was to crack the top ten and while I finished 19th and in the top one-third of my Age Category, my time was incredibly slow. The headwinds didn’t help but…I think this one would count the LE (Learning Experience) category rather than as a PB line item. I was running pretty much what I wanted for the first 30-32K but…when I hit that point, I simply ran out of gas. I was tired…beat…and without any stamina to finish.
Now, I enter every single race to win: that’s what motivates me!! The funny thing is that I wasn’t crushed after running a slow time. When I crossed that Finish Line and walked down the chute, I kinda stepped outside of myself and looked back…and I saw me…and all of the other runners sharing a singular–and yet collective–space in time. I didn’t run my best race…but I had done the best I could do on that particular day…and…damn in…I just ran a Marathon! That alone was a humbling, special bond of experience that I never dreamed I would be a part of.
I thought about all of the friends I’ve trained and run with over the last year…and they’re the best gang in the world!! Every single one of them plays a unique part in every step you take for 42.2 kilometres. That is as good as it gets and there’s no way they can put that in any kind of gel that I know of. However, before you think I’ve gone all ‘mushy’…rest assured that I haven’t ‘settled’ for my performance and it’s on to Boston and New York in 2016: training starts…well…maybe next week!
My Dad always told me to stop and find time to smell the roses. It seemed a bit corny when he said it and while I knew what it meant, I’m not sure I appreciated it with the spirit in which it was said.
I do now…every single left…right…repeat.