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 Philadelphia Marathon race report

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Philadelphia Marathon race report Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:30 pm 

My recovery from the New York City Marathon two weeks ago seemed to go pretty well and as incentive to stay fit and perhaps improve on my dismal performance at NYC I decided to give the Philadelphia Marathon a try today (Sunday 10/20). I wasn't expecting to be recovered well enough to be able to run a 3:30 and qualify for Boston but then on the other hand, since the course is "supposed" to be flat and the weather was predicted to be much cooler, I thought I'd keep my options open on race day.

I managed to get in about 6 days of running in the intervening two weeks; a total of about 30 miles. Most of those were easy recovery runs and a couple were comfortable sub marathon pace runs. My legs were feeling pretty good after about a week, and so I decided to go ahead and register online for the marathon.

By race weekend I was wondering how much fitness I may have lost. I mean, since tappering for the NYC Marathon I hadn't really run a strong workout in about three weeks. And I knew that regardless of how well my legs were feeling they probably weren't as strong as they were before the NYC Marathon.

Part of me wanted badly to try to take advantage of the course and weather to try to run a 3:30. I decided to do a little strategizing. I figured I'd go out at an 8:15 pace and then guage my fitness after the first 6 miles. If I still wasn't sure then I'd try to maintain that same pace until the half way point and do another assessement. If I felt good I would drop the pace to 8:00 (or less, depending on how far into the run I was). I planned to do another assessment at 16 and 20 mile marks. If I still felt strong I would then try to drop the pace over the remaining miles to reach a 3:30 finish. I had the various options planned out and written down on a wrist band so I wouldn't have to think too much about it during the marathon.

I hit the Expo on Saturday evening and picked up my race packet and demo-ed a pair of LOCO running shoes ( I've known about this company for some time and had recently checked out their shoes on their web site. They sound like a company driven to provide a good quality shoe for running and not for fashion. You can't say this for any other shoe company. I was extremely impressed quality of the material used throughout the shoe, especially the sock liner (insert/insole). It was sturdy and robust. Most shoe companies scrimp on the sock liner and they're nearly paper thin. I often replace the sock liner after the first week of use. This sock liner was thick with good cushioning. In fact, I think this sock liner is better than the SOF SOLE I usually buy. They felt good on my feet and I was impressed by the sense of commitment this company seems to have. So I took a risk and bought them. I'll know better how good they really are after I've had a chance to run in them for a couple weeks. I'll let you know.

I arrived at the Marathon Sunday morning about 2 hours before the 8:00 race start. The weather was absolutely PERFECT. The temperature when I arrived was about 36 degrees, sunny, and no wind. The weather forcast called for the temperature to rise to about 50 by noon.

I did a little warm up jog before the start and my legs felt surprisingly springy. I immediately re-adjusted my plans. I decided to go for the 3:30 time from the start. I found the Clif Bar pace team at the start and figured if I could keep them in sight it might help. I was still keeping an open mind and was prepared to make a mid-course correction to slow down to a pace that would still allow me to finish with a respectable time.

The horn went off and the race was on. The crowd of about 10,000 runners (that's the count I heard over the PA) forced me to start slow. This was proabably good because I feel I went out too fast at New York. I waslooking for the first mile marker but never saw it. So I pressed my split button at 9:00. By this time the crowd was starting to thin and I felt myself settling into a rhythm. I saw the second mile marker and my split was 7:20. So I figured my first mile was probably closer to 8:20 and my second mile was closer to 8:00. I was happy with that. As the course took us through the first series of neighborhoods my pace dropped closer to my new goal pace. I was pretty much right on target through the first half of the race. There was a significant hill at the 10 mile mark that gave me a split of 8:26. I was surprised because I didn't feel like I had slowed, at least not by that much. but I didn't let it bother me and I reminded myself not to try to make up for lost time. I planned to either have the energy at the end to make up for lost time or I wouldn't and I'd live with it.

The crowd support in Philadelphia is much different from NYC; much more scarse. The crowds seem to come in clusters. There are specific areas of the course where the crowd support is great and other areas were there is no one for a few miles. I found this to my liking. The silence allowed me to focus on my pace and running form. And when the crowds appeared I was ready to be cheered on and interact with high fives. It was a real nice mix.

The course is advertised as fast and flat. Well, it had a fair number of hills. Though most of them weren't anything to be concerned about there were a couple that were fairly long and steep. I think there were enough hills to expect that you'll have a few miles that will be slower (by 15 seconds or so) than your average pace. Enough to be concerned if you need to maintain a specific pace to reach a time goal.

The course cover interesting areas of the city. The first half of the race is a bit different from the second half in that it is mostly through the city and involves a good number of turns. The second half is out and back along a parkway that has nice scenery but doesn't change much from mile to mile.

The half way mark returns the runners to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is where the race starts and finishes. Specatator support here is awesome. As I got to the half way point and headed out on the last out and back loop I was still feeling pretty strong but I was starting to fall off my pace a little. I felt like I was running faster than my watch showing me. My experience tells me this is a bad thing. But I told myself not to worry. I focused on staying relaxed, not over striding and keeping a quick turn over. I was hopeful that I'd have some energy at the end to make up for any loss time.

But my nemesis began to raise its ugly head around mile 14 and I decided to stop for a bathroom break at mile 16. I had been watching for an open port-o-john, but since there was only one at each water stop and each was occupied I deciced to watch for a good spot in the brush alongside the road. Knowing I was on the bubble and time was critical, I ignored the briar patch I had to run through to get to a secluded spot behind a tree. I returned to the road about a minute and a half later. With that added time I knew I had my job cut out for me. But the stop had refreshed me and I felt strong over the next mile. I was still optomistic that I could make up the lost time in the last few miles.

The trip into the briar patch had left a few thorns in my hands and legs which I methodically removed as I ran. And I noticed that my legs were pretty scratched up and were starting to bleed. I thought "cool, this might make the race photos a little more interesting."

As I hit mile 18 I started losing more time each mile. Again, I tried to quicken my pace but my pace seemed to get a few seconds slower each mile. I knew that if this kept up I wouldn't have a chance at hitting 3:30. When I hit mile 22 and my pace had increased to 8:15 I pretty much knew my chances were "slim and none, and slim was out of town." My thoughts at this point was to minimize the damage. I now knew that I was losing strength and there was no chance of making up for lost time. I thought "the only way I'm going to get to the finish any faster is if a tornado sucked me up off my feet and dropped me at the finish line." But then it ocurred to me. I looked ahead of me and I looked behind me. I scanned once, twice, and a third time. I thought "if I can just find someonea wearing a Jean's Marines t-shirt who might be able to tell me how I could cut short the course." But I couldn't find anyone and knew that I was all on my own. Ha ha ha! It was amazing that I still had a sense of humor at this point in the race. I wonder what I would have done if I had actually seen someone from Jean's Marines. Maybe having someone chase me to the finish line would have been a good strategy.

As I hit the 24 mile mark my hips were starting to ache. But I realized my legs were just feeling tired and not cramping like they did at NYC. I was very pleased about this (see, there's always a silver lining if you look for it). I was really noticing the a lack of energy at this point. This is rare for me. I usually have trouble in the latter stages of a marathon due to cramping and not energy. I was a little baffled about this because I had worn my fuel belt with three bottles of Cytomax and a full gel flask. I had ingested all of these at regular intervals and even took a Glif Shot at mile 18 (boy do those suck...too thick). I tried to find someone in front of me to pace me but either I soon passed them or they just shot ahead of me. I expecially notice that I was passing more people than were passing me. This was the opposite of how things were at this point in the NYC Marathon.

As I approached the 25 mile mark I was feeling pretty exhausted and my hips were screaming. But the spectator support was picking up at this point and the cheers from the crowds really helped. I tried to acknowledge those who called out my name but it was hard to take my eyes off the road. I was working real hard to keep my legs moving. I could feel I was slowing down. I knew I wasn't going to hit 3:30 and began thinking about my chances of improving on my marathon PR of 3:32. My watch said I did the 25th mile in 8:23. That wasn't as slow as it felt. But I knew that a PR time was probably out of the question now too. I comtemplated stopping to walk during the 26th mile but knew that simply wasn't acceptable when your that close to the finish. I kept trying to gauge how much farther I had to go. I felt myself slowing even more during this last mile. But as I neared the turn to the front of the Art Museum and the finish line I hit the 26 mile mark before I expected it (8:33, still not as slow as it felt). I could hear the roar of the crowd getting louder and began to feel a little more energy in my legs. I decided to try to pick up the pace and was happy to feel my pace quicken and I managed to cross the finish line feeling "relatively" strong; quite a contrast to my NYC finish.

After all of that work and struggle I was quite dismayed after I crossed the finish line to have a volunteer hand me my finisher's medal still folded up and in the plastic wrapper. Am I snob for thinking that was a bit tacky. I mean, is it too much to ask the the event organizers to have had all the medals ready to be hung over each finisher's head, or at least handed out without still being in the package? At NYC they have special racks where they hang all the medals. The volunteers grab an arm full at a time and pull one off for each finisher and place it over your head. Or, when the finishers get really thick, they hand it to you.

So I didn't hit my goal of a 3:30 finish but then I knew the odds weren't really in my favor. But I gave it a try and feel good about having made the effort and given it a good try. Two weeks ago at NYC I had my third worst marathon finish, and today I had my second best. So, now I'll rest up and try again in another month or so (or when the next good marathon opportunity comes along).

Here are my mile-by-mile splits.

Mile Splits Time
1 9:00 9:00
2 7:20 16:20
3 7:45 24:05
4 7:59 32:04
5 7:58 40:02
6 7:59 48:01
7 7:55 55:56
8 7:59 1:03:55
9 7:55 1:11:50
10 8:26 1:20:16
11 8:05 1:28:21
12 8:04 1:36:25
13 8:05 1:44:30
14 8:02 1:52:32
15 8:02 2:00:34
16 9:44 2:10:18
17 8:00 2:18:18
18 8:07 2:26:25
19 8:06 2:34:31
20 8:08 2:42:39
21 8:10 2:50:49
22 8:15 2:59:04
23 8:04 3:07:08
24 8:13 3:15:21
25 8:23 3:23:44
26 8:40 3:32:24
.2 1:37 3:34:01

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Philadelphia Marathon race report Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:21 pm 

Way to go mfox!!! Wow, I can't believe you ran another marathon just 14 days after NYC. You must be crazy! Judging by your splits, you kept an impressively even pace the whole way through. I enjoyed reading your report, too: it sounds like you really enjoyed yourself out there today. Well done! Now get some rest-- no more marathons for you for at least a few weeks. :-)

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