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Philadelphia Marathon - RunMarathon

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
United States
Philadelphia Marathon
41F / 5C
Total Time = 3h 38m 17s
Overall Rank = 1916/8925
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 259/826
Pre-race routine:

The night before we decided to eat at this Cantonese joint... wow, was that a mistake! However, in retrospect, it was probably better than the Palestinian/Taiwanese/Egyptian/Iranian joint we were gonna eat at. (I kid ;))

We had pizza the night before (nothing new race day or the evening before!), did some stretching, and Bill & I's pre-race routine consisted of walking a mile and a half to the start line.
  • 3h 38m 17s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 20s  min/mile

My buddy Bill and I both signed up for the Steamtown Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon. I told Bill if I BQ'd at Steamtown that I would run Philly with him 6 weeks later. Bill paced his brother-in-law at Steamtown, I BQ'd, and so now it was my turn to help pace Bill at Philly.

Bill's prior PR was a 3:51 at the Long Island Marathon earlier in the year (his first marathon) and his final 10k was pretty ugly due mostly to freak hot and humid conditions. Bill was then nice enough to pace his brother-in-law at Steamtown and they finished just over 5 hours. Needless to say, Bill was not entirely confident going into this race; however, I was. We'd run a bunch of 16, 18 and 20-milers together, Bill had over 1100 miles running for the year, and with the cool conditions predicted for Philly, I knew he was due for a big PR.

We decided we were going to run with a Pace Group and let the pacer do all the thinking and just focus on staying with the group. At the last minute I convinced Bill to jump up from the 3:40 to the 3:30 pace group. If experience racing long-distance road races and triathlon has taught me anything, it's this: if you want to hit an approximate Time Goal it is better to bank a little time early on; as opposed to starting slower and then trying to make up time on the second half. (And not too mistake this with going out too hard too early.) In short sprint-type races it is more possible and probable to speed up the last few miles, but in long distance multi-hour races, the chances of speeding up the last few miles are next to zero. The last few miles are often all about survival in distance racing. The only people I know that consistently negative split the second half of a race and their last miles being their fastest are Elites. And, well, that's why they are Elite. :)

So there we are at 6:50 AM, huddled together with 20,000 plus other runners in the middle of beautiful Philladelphia, only four rows back from the 3:30 pacer. The race starts and the pacer takes off!! Before we know it the 3:30 cardboard sign taped to a straw and five little balloons is bobbing up and down amongst the sea of humanity close to a half a city block ahead of us! At this point I'm thinking, WTF now?! The first few miles were pretty congested, the usual group of runners went sprinting past us like it was a 5k. I was feeling very claustrophobic and I was just longing for any of my past smaller races where it's just so much more of a pleasant and roomy beginning.

Relying entirely on past experience, I knew the worst thing I could do this early in the race was A.) Panic! or B.) Stray from our original Game Plan and Goal Time. It was Mile 3, we were running in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge alongside the Delaware River with the red morning sun rising behind us, and we had just thrown down a 7:30 mile!! The Pacer was still well ahead of us, but close enough now that we could catch him with a quarter mile-long push.

I had to make a decision right here and now. We were going stick to our original Game Plan, which meant pushing to catch him and then hopefully recovering and settling back in after riding his coat tails for a bit. OR, we were going to switch Game Plans. Whatever decision we made I would be responsible for. I asked Bill some less than obvious questions to feel him out and see how he was feeling this early on. Prior to the race we had agreed on a 'Plan A, B & C' and 'Goals A, B & C'. Thanks to prior planning and reading how Bill was feeling, I decided to switch to 'Game Plan B' -- I would pace Bill myself -- but I chose to stick to 'Goal A' -- 3:30:00 Finish Time running flat 8 minute miles. I slowed our pace down, Bill seemed to settle in to a more relaxing pace, and I was hoping that I had made the right decision.

The first 8 miles of the race wind through the city of Philly itself. The running herd eventually thinned and I was able to focus on taking in the scenery. The city was very clean, the roads were smoothly paved, and I was absolutely taken aback with the beautiful and abundant historical architecture everywhere - ornately designed buildings, statues, fountains, lanterns, giant-sized antique clocks, this place just oozes American History at every turn.

Somewhere around mile 7 or 8 we left the city and cheering crowds and entered a park that butted up against the Schuylkill River. At Mile 9 we climbed what I would describe as the only legitimate hill on this course. It was a decent climb and I tried my best to keep the pace and effort even for Bill. I was constantly reminding Bill to focus on maintaining an efficient and tight form while staying relaxed. The at the top of the hill was a georgeous Memorial Building, and then shortly after we hit a round-a-bout that circled an impressive Civil War Memorial. Following this stretch was a steep downhill that led us to a road that ran right along-side the Schuykill River to our left. At this point in the race we were passing many of the 'early sprinters' who were now fading. I kept checking our splits at each mile and we were averaging between 10 and 15 seconds ahead of 3:30 Pace. I was ecstatic and Bill seemed to be doing very well.

We crossed over the river, the half marathoners exited stage right, and we began the second half of the marathon. The river was now to our left and a tall rock wall was to our right. The scenery for the second half of the course is awesome - lots of old bridges, sun sparkling on the river, historic statues atop the rocks, and an out & back across the river and then through town. Along the river are some gently rolling hills. However, after 15 miles of running, the gentle grades seemed a little steeper than they truly are. Somewhere around mile 16 and 17 we hit a long false flat and Bill told me he needed to back off for a few seconds. I could see he was going through a rough patch. We slowed it down a bit and at the 17-mile marker I saw that we were :30 seconds off of 3:30 Pace now. I knew a 3:30 flat was a bit aggressive, but I was thrilled we'd maintained that pace for as long as we did. Now worries though, now it was simply time to implement 'Goal B' -- sub 3:40. I told Bill of the new stratgey and that I was now going to pace us around an 8:30. We hit a new out & back on the course that went over a bridge. Coming to an almost dead-stop for the second time now on this course started to hurt and just plain suck. My lungs and leg muscles were still in fine shape, but a sore spot I'd recently developed on my outer left foot, and my pesky right piriformis muscle, were both starting to scream at me. But they were localized pains that did not affect my stride so I told my mind to ignore them. Bill was starting to suffer at this point, and at the out & back I was able to guage by the faces coming at me that everyone was starting the journey into Hurtville USA.

Miles 19 and 20 are yet ANOTHER OUT & BACK!!! through a small stretch of town. I had Bill pop an SCAP! (sodium pill) back at mile 15, he was taking gels every 40 minutes, and plenty of gatorade, but still I had the feeling from the look of his stride that one of his legs was about to cramp. The crowds at the Mile 20 out & back were a welcome adrenaline boost. But a few miles after we were back on the stretch of road alongside the rock walls and the cheering sections were few and far between. Bill politely informed me that his left hamstring was seizing. I was breaking out all the motivational mantra's, I reminded Bill that we didn't get up at 5 AM every weekend to just mail-it-in for the last 10k, that we didn't drive all this way to walk across the Finish Line.

Despite all my babble and despite Bill's mental fortitude, his left hamstring locked up and he had to stop.

We were a couple hundred feet from Mile 23, we were well within nailing a sub 3:35, and we were standing completely still. The race was now passing us by. A glorious day turned into a nightmare. But we didn't panic. I guided Bill to the side of the road. We did a calf stretch, followed by three hamstring stretches, and then I profusely rubbed the back of his thigh. He shook his leg out, popped another gel, we walked for 100 yards, and slowly but surely we started running again!! After passing mile 23 we started going sub 8:30 Pace!! I had to remind Bill to slow down! Within an instant the day became a glorious one once again. In fact, the final 2 miles of the race were to be the greatest I've ever experienced...

For me, the final miles of every race involve intense concentration and determination to squeeze out every second possible. The last leg always involves ignoring the resounding voice screaming in my head to stop because the pain is so intense. Never ever once have I enjoyed the final miles of any race. But today was different. The final miles I riled up the crowds, I high-fived hundreds of spectators, I shouted "APOLLO!" and "ADRIAN!", I fist-pumped in the air, I clapped above my head, I screamed "Thank You Philadelphia!" I had THE GREATES TIME EVER -- even the Philly Police Officers high-fived me!! Amazingly Bill and I had the entire finishing chute to ourselves. Bill crossed the line before me and I was busy running down the entire row of spectators high-fiving every last one of them.

After we crossed the finish line Bill thanked me profusely. We hugged and then I said to him, "No Bill. Thank you for the greatest race experience ever."
What would you do differently?:

Zip. Notta. Nothing. It was the experience of a lifetime! I helped a friend and in return I got the best gift of all.
Post race
Warm down:

I lived out my Rocky Moment. With my space blanket wrapped around me I ran up every last step, hurdling the last few two at a time, and I stood atop the world. Triumphant. Oh, and we had Philly Cheese Steaks, too. :)

Event comments:

This race was more of a culmination of a spiritual journey for me. I'm happy it happened in such a grand, historic city. The memory of this race will surely last a lifetime for me. Thank You Philadelpia.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2010-08-18 12:00 AM
03:38:17 | 26.2 miles | 08m 20s  min/mile
Age Group: 259/826
Overall: 1916/8925
Performance: Good
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2010-11-22 11:22 AM

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Subject: Philadelphia Marathon

2010-11-22 11:50 AM
in reply to: #3221533

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Long Island, NY
Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon

If you wear those compression sleeves on your calves Thursday at the Turkey Trot, I'm going to kick the crap out of you.

Don't worry, Brandon will understand.

2010-11-22 11:51 AM
in reply to: #3221533

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Long Island, NY
Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon

Nice job, by the way.

2010-11-22 11:58 AM
in reply to: #3221585

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Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon

thelunchbox - 2010-11-22 12:50 PM

If you wear those compression sleeves on your calves Thursday at the Turkey Trot, I'm going to kick the crap out of you.

Don't worry, Brandon will understand.

Thanks Charlie.  You are so sweet!

2010-11-22 4:08 PM
in reply to: #3221533

Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon
Great report. I am glad that you had such a rich and rewarding experience.
2010-11-22 4:37 PM
in reply to: #3221533

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Goodyear, AZ
Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon

You are a good friend, and an amazing marathoner. Just no big deal to pull out an easy 3:40

Well done!

2010-11-22 7:12 PM
in reply to: #3221533

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Ann Arbor, MI
Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon
Yes! Congrats on a perfectly executed race plan and one helluva race experience. Philly!!!
2010-11-22 7:27 PM
in reply to: #3222375

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Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon
glad you enjoyed the city!! ANd very nice race.

We do a weekly group run/stair workout on the rocky steps, pretty cool watching the sun go down with the city as a backdrop from the top of there!
2010-11-22 11:28 PM
in reply to: #3221533

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Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon
2010-11-23 6:20 AM
in reply to: #3221533

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Subject: RE: Philadelphia Marathon
Wow - what a great way to race a marathon!! Congrats on a well run plan and on being a great friend. And I totally agree, Philly was a fantastic host. Great race, well organized and absolutely fantastic crowds. I did the rocky stairs before the race good thing too since I couldn't walk afterwards!!
2010-11-23 4:39 PM
in reply to: #3221533

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