As I mentioned about 1,000 times, on Sunday I ran the Philadelphia Rock & Roll Half Marathon. I ran this race for the first time back in 2007 when it was still known as the Philadelphia Distance Run (I believe this was the first year that what is now the Competitor Group took over operation of the race, but it remained the PDR until 2010 I think), and again in 2011 and 2012. The race course has a well-earned reputation for being fast and mostly flat,, making it a good choice for my first attempt at my sub-2:10 half marathon goal.
Race morning started with breakfast at 5:00 AM, and by 6:15 my Dad and I were on the road. With the race schedule to start at 8:00 AM, and an expected field of 22,000 – the largest in the 36 year history of the race, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time before the start of the race. We arrived at the start area around 7:00 AM, and I immediately jumped in line for the port-a-potties. Fortunately, the lines weren’t too bad at this point and I only waited about 15 minutes. After a quick stop at bag check, Dad and I made our way towards my corral to wait for the race to start.
Since this was my first big race post-Boston, I was expecting an increased security presence in the start/finish area. While I did see security guards stationed at the entrance to the corrals, they didn’t seem to do anything more than move out of the way of people trying to enter the corrals. Even after taking my place in the corral, my Dad was able to stand right next to the barricade chatting with me until we finally started moving towards the start. Another word on the corrals – while I appreciate the placement of port-a-potties near the corrals (I was in corral 14 and there was a bank of port-a-potties right next to us), I did not appreciate the eau de port-a-potty while waiting for the race to start.
Finally, at about 8:23, we made it to the start and were underway. In an effort not to bonk as I usually do in half marathons, I decided not to use my iPod until mile last planned fuel stop at mile 9. As usual, the first few miles were crowded and I tried to focus on keeping an even pace and not weaving too much. Since I had my CamelBak, my plan was to skip the water stops so I tried to stay as close to the center of the road to avoid the crowds. The course narrows quite a bit around mile 3 on Arch Street and I was very surprised to see that there were cars parked on the street. Between the water stop tables and the cars, this part of the course was very difficult to navigate. Fortunately, once we made it back out onto the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the course widens and it was easier to find a path and settle into a pace.
After coming past the Art Museum, the course goes out Kelly Drive towards the Falls Bridge. I do not have the best history when it comes to running “The Loop,” usually this is the part of the race where I start to pay for my early mistakes and contemplate jumping in the river to swim back to the finish. This year I reached the 10K mark feeling pretty good. I had a little discomfort in my left outer knee, but nothing significant and I didn’t feel it influencing my pace in any way. As we approached the water/Gu stop before the Falls Bridge just before mile 9, there was a guy with a megaphone saying that we were currently running 11:36 pace. Umm, not even close dude. Maybe if we had started the race with the leaders at 8:00 AM, but I knew from my Garmin that I was probably closer to 9:30 average pace. I powered up the small incline, made the turn onto the bridge, and was greeted with this sight:
My dear friend Jackie, her mom, and my godson were waiting on the bridge! I knew that they were planning to be there, and seeing them was just the boost I needed. I was still feeling strong and their encouragement and enthusiasm were just what I needed to power on to the finish. Just after coming of the bridge we reached the nine mile mark. I made a quick stop for a Shot Block (I had taken Shot Blocks at mile 3, 6 & 9, and water at every mile), popped in my headphones, and gave it everything I had for the last 4.1 miles. As the miles ticked by, I developed I stitch between miles 11 and 12 and stopped to walk for a bit. At this point, there was very little shade and the sun was quite warm. The compression socks that seemed like a good idea in the first half of the race now felt way too warm (lesson learned there). Also, it was much more crowded approaching the finish then it was in past years (at least for me. Combination of increase in runners and my faster pace I’m sure). I hit the 13 mile mark and charged up the last incline (evil) to the finish line. Mission Accomplished.
After crossing the finish line, I made my way as quickly as possible through the finish area to collect my gear and find my Dad. Post-race my left knee started to bother me quite a bit. Fortunately, by the time I made it home and showered, the discomfort had subsided and I hope after a few days rest I will be just fine.
Overall, I’m thrilled with how this race went. I knew that I could reach my sub-2:10 goal, but I didn’t anticipate besting my PR by 10 minutes. I still plan on running the Trenton Half Marathon in November, but for fun rather than a PR. Until then, I plan to take it easy this week, and then start to build my mileage back up.
Now it’s your turn! Did you run the half marathon on Sunday? How was your race? Tell me about it!