Well, I did it. I survived my first marathon. Lord knows if/when I will ever run one again (I am definitely on the fence at this point), but for my initial attempt, I am pretty pleased with the results.
In the week leading up to race day, Philadelphia experienced some ridiculous weather. It was hot, it was cold, it was crazy windy, it was rainy. I was bugging out checking the forecast each day, but thankfully, we runners were graced with decent conditions (starting temps in the high 30s, ending in the low 40s, little wind, high-ish humidity) on November 23.
On Saturday I went to the race expo at the Convention Center. I’ve attended two previous Marathon expos, but each time before, I was a volunteer. There was even that one year when the mean runner people made me cry at t-shirt distribution.
|"City of Brotherly Run & Sisterly Endurance." How's that for the wordiest slogan ever?|
I braced myself for similar chaos this year, but as a participant, I had nothing but a good time. Bib pickup was quick and simple (even if I had overestimated my finish time during registration, landing myself in a way-too-fast corral), and I was able to quickly detour to the official race merchandise tent. Sadly, most of the items were butt ugly (yo, Philly organizers—who said black and gray are the only colors that exist?), but I did nab a cute race tee (the official tee is made of icky fabric and the ink transfer doesn’t look so hot) and cap.
|Why at registration time did I think I was capable of running a sub-4:00:00 marathon???|
At the expo, I scored a few of the usual freebies, and I even saw Olympian Bill Rodgers (!) from afar.
Of course, I had a big Sunday ahead, so I didn’t do too much lollygagging at the expo. I arranged my gear and then tucked in early, around 9:00 pm, and didn’t get a wink of sleep the whole night. At 5:00 am, my alarm officially roused me from my bed, and I rushed to have my morning oatmeal and coffee before doing a quick change and heading out the door.
|I tried to arrange most of my gear and wardrobe the night before.|
I had no idea what to expect at the official race area, so I tried to allow for extra time. I arrived around 6:00 am, and the eastern boundary of the race area was empty (and thus security was a breeze). I took advantage of this by using some “secret” port-a-potties twice, in between fueling with a banana and some Belvita biscuits, before heading to the more crowded Eakins Oval. I set up shop in front of those port-a-potties (let’s just say a GI lecture from a Clif representative at my last group run had me terrified for my stomach and bladder on race day), and I settled myself in for a wait. After 30 minutes of standing around, I finally got to an empty stall, and it couldn’t have come sooner: by this point, it was just 5 minutes until race start!
I jogged to the nearest corral, which serendipitously happened to be the Gray corral, the one behind my all-too-fast Green assignment. I had been told that everybody is quick out of the gates at this race, but a snafu with the elites at the starting line meant that my group didn’t hit the timing mat until 7:19.
|Waiting to start.|
|The Gray corral was pretty chill waiting for our start.|
I had been worried that I would be caught up with faster runners in the first few miles, but that never was the case. I didn’t feel rushed at all: actually, I felt more packed in at this race than at any other previous effort. I didn’t feel like I had any real room to bob or weave until about mile 18 (and the course narrowed again between miles 19 and 21, so the relief was brief). Being slowed down was fine with me: I had no pace expectations going into this race. I thought I could possibly run 4:15:00 if I pushed myself, but 4:30:00 was much more realistic (and still fabulous in my eyes). I even welcomed the possibility of a 5:00:00 finish. After all, FINISHING was the goal.
In the first six miles, we surged down the Ben Franklin Parkway before heading through the Loft district and along the Delaware River. From there, we coursed through Society Hill, Old City and Rittenhouse before pointing west to University City. During this first part of the race, I had issues with my waist pack flopping around uncomfortably, and so I came to a full-stop (on the sidewalk, out of the way of other runners, don’t worry!) a few times to adjust. I ate my first gel at 0:39, and it was, not surprisingly, disgusting (Clif Vanilla—certainly not as bad as the Gu Vanilla Bean, but it’s nothing I would ever crave).
Although the early miles technically housed some of the most interesting sights of the course (Love Park, City Hall, Ben Franklin’s grace, the Ben Franklin Bridge), I was slightly distracted by the millions of potholes (seriously, Philly, you need to pave those streets) and my elbow-to-elbow contact with my fellow runners. Spectators along Chestnut Street had us boxed in to half the normal course width between 6th and 22nd Streets, and so I was ecstatic when we hit the spacious Chestnut Street Bridge: we were about the venture into the part of the course that I know best, University City and Kelly Drive.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my recap tomorrow!