Monday, November 22, 2010

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

This post could have easily alternatively been titled "I Only Heard 'Eye Of The Tiger' Once".

I really have to start this with Friday night.  I had packed my bag for Philly on Friday night so that I wouldn't be running around forgetting something on Saturday morning.  I had a dream that night that I forgot to put my wetsuit and my bike helmet in the bag.  When I woke up on Saturday morning I was relieved to realize that I hadn't forgotten to pack anything.  I wasn't going to be swimming or biking before this marathon!

Saturday morning Drew and I took the train down to Philadelphia and got in around 10:30.  We took a cab to the hotel and dropped off our bags.  The room wasn't ready and they told us we should check back later in the afternoon.  We then walked over to the Convention Center to the Expo where I picked up my race number and stood in a ridiculously long line to buy a new running hat with the Philly marathon logo on it.

After that we went next door to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch.  We did some walking around before heading back to the hotel around 3, where we were told that our original room wasn't ready, but we were being upgraded to a room on the 12th floor (original room was on the 5th floor).  I'm not sure it was a huge upgrade, but I was glad to have a room.  We also found out that the hotel offered late check-out at 3 PM for a fee of $35, which I was ecstatic to find out.  It meant that I'd be able to take a shower after the race on Sunday!

We had an early dinner at Olive Garden (go ahead and judge if you must, but I dare you to say that you don't think the salad is good...).  That was nice because it meant that I was in bed and asleep by 10.  I woke up once, at 2:37, but fell right back asleep until my alarm went off at 5:15.  I also found out in the morning that there was some sort of party going on on our floor around 2:30, so I'm sure that was what woke me up.  It was the most restful sleep I think I've ever had before a big race like this.  And probably just further proof that I really wasn't all that nervous about the race.

I got up when my alarm went off at 5:15 and started getting dressed and getting ready.  I was really excited to see that at 5:15 it was 41 degrees, so it was well above freezing!  I ate two Clif bars as my pre-race breakfast.  I wasn't all that hungry, so getting it all choked down wasn't as easy as it sounds.  I also had some water to chase it down.  I was all ready to go and left the hotel at 6.  I got into the elevator with another woman who was running the marathon and we walked to the race start together.  It was nice to have someone to chat with on the way there.  It was her 8th marathon, 2nd time at Philly, and she said that it was a great race.

I made my way to the port-a-potty line and had to wait in line for a while (which I had anticipated).  And then when I got to take my turn, there was no toilet paper (another thing I'd anticipated).  I'd just like to suggest that perhaps they could plan for this?  I mean, it's not like 20,000 people just showed up randomly to use the bathrooms!  After that I made my way over to my corral, which wasn't clearly marked or anything.  I think that organization and information on this race weren't that high.

I had only been standing in my corral for about a minute or two before I heard someone yell "Amy!".  I looked around because I knew that Meggan was going to be in my corral and I thought it was her.  But then the person yelled my last name and I turned around and it was Laura!  She had come down from New York to cheer for me!  We talked for a few minutes and she told me that she was planning on seeing me again at Miles 6.5, 14 and 25.  It was really nice to know where to look for her!

Finally, it was 7:00 and the Elite athletes were off and running.  And I thought the rest of us would be soon, too.  I had taken off my sweatpants at 6:55 and took off my fleece when the Elites started running.  That was a mistake.  Because what wasn't in the informational e-mail that they sent out was that this was a wave start and it took my corral 25 minutes to cross the start line.  Luckily, I had kept my hat, gloves and hand-warmers, so I wasn't freezing, but I was definitely cooling off waiting for us to get to the front! 

And then it was our turn!  Within the first quarter mile, I could just tell that it was going to be a good day for a run, and I was ecstatic about that prospect.  After about a half-mile, I took off my hat and gloves.  I put everything inside my hat and carried it until I saw Drew around Mile 1.5.  I threw it to him and I think it ended up working out well since he was able to use the hand-warmers throughout the rest of the day.  I guess he didn't want to wear the Hello Kitty hat.  Which was too bad since I only wore it running for a very short time and got a lot of compliments on it.  Maybe it's a good thing to hold onto?

I crossed Mile 2 at 21:05.  In my race plan I wanted to cross Mile 2 no sooner than 21:00, so I laughed that it was only 5 seconds after that.  Either way, everything was going according to the plan.  Also around Mile 2 was when I ran into what I'll call "Loudest Runner Ever Girl".  It was insane.  I mean, I'm running with at least 50 other people in a nearby vicinity and she was the only person I could hear clip-clopping along.  Of course, she was listening to an iPod, so she couldn't tell how loud she was.  I decided that I couldn't take it so I'd either have to speed up or slow down.  I chose the former.  I was not going to make it listening to her run for another 24 miles. 

I followed my strategy of taking water at all the water stops and walking through them so that I didn't spill water on myself.  It was working out really well and lots of other people were stopping as well at the early stations, so I didn't feel out of place.  At Mile 5, I had my first Gu just as planned.  I saw Drew again shortly after that around Mile 5.5 and then Laura was there at Mile 6.5!  (I should really give Laura credit as Drew got the top picture and Laura the bottom one.  It's obvious who was the better photographer). 


It was nice to know that I'd be seeing them again later on, too.  I continued on my way and it was pretty uneventful until Mile 8.  That was when someone must have stepped on a full Gu packet because I heard the noise of it exploding and then felt it all over my right leg.  One thing you don't really want is a packet of Gu running down your leg.  I can tell you that.  Luckily, there happened to be a discarded t-shirt on the side of the road shortly after that, so I wiped it off as quickly and as best I could and continued on.

I had made my own marathon pace bracelet.  I had done it for a 5 hour marathon and it was nice to see that as the miles passed by, I was slowly gaining on the times posted on the bracelet.  It went from one minute to two minutes and kept growing from there.  I felt really comfortable running and knew it was a pace where I could really sustain it in the long run.  I'm also glad that I didn't go any lower on the pace bracelet that I wrote down because it was my ultimate goal to finish in less than 5 hours and I never really felt any pressure to make up time since I had so much leeway.  

Miles 11 to 13 were a bit hard for me.  Not physically, but we were running directly into the sun and I wasn't wearing sunglasses or a hat.  I felt like I was squinting and so I tried running in the shadiest parts whenever possible.  If I had to re-do this exact race again, knowing what I know now, I think I would have done two things differently: (1) worn a cheap pair of sunglasses and thrown them away at the half-marathon point and (2) picked up a pair of the Philly marathon gloves I saw (I saw at least 5 complete pairs, but just didn't feel like stopping to pick them up).  I really just wanted them as a memento because they looked so nice.  Not because I actually wanted to be wearing gloves. 

Just before reaching the point where the half-marathon split from the full marathon, I heard someone cheering for me (louder than the other cheering I had heard) and I looked and saw that it was Krista!  I knew she would be there somewhere and I was so glad that I got to see her!  It was a nice extra boost!  I saw her husband running later on and cheered for him.  He probably thought I was crazy, but I felt like I had to do it!  I saw Drew again after the half-marathon point.  I was shocked to discover that I beat my previous stand-alone half-marathon time by at least a minute and a half (real results unknown thanks to ridiculous split times from  I also had a much easier half-marathon in Philadelphia than I did in Atlanta.  Guess all that extra running paid off!

I saw Laura again somewhere between 14 and 15 and then headed off for a long stretch of running.  The second half of the marathon course is a mostly out-and-back course that takes the runners out to the town of Manayunk.  It was pretty quiet on the run out there.  Once the half-marathoners left the course, you're sort-of left wondering where everyone went.  It was pretty much right then that I decided that my next marathon will either be a marathon only event or one where the half-marathoners split from the full marathoners a lot sooner.

I had kept going with my strategy of taking Gu every 5 miles and had them at Miles 10 and 15 as planned.  I still kept having water at every aid station along the way.  They were handing out Gu packets just before Mile 10 and I saw that the flavor was Vanilla Bean (my preferred flavor) and I grabbed one and tucked it into my pocket just in case.  I also cut my finger on this same free Gu packet around Mile 18, so in the end, I'm not sure it was worth the trouble.  Especially since I didn't need it!

It was probably because of this cut on my thumb (actually under my thumb nail) that I noticed that my hands were really swollen.  I couldn't even move the ring I had on my right ring finger, which is normally easy to move around.  I was sure that this meant I didn't have enough salt, but my hands didn't hurt, they just looked like clown hands.  I guess I know what they'll look like if I get really fat.

I thought it would be until I got back to Mile 25 that I would see anyone that I knew again, but it turned out I got really lucky and saw Katie at Mile 20!  She had told me that she had made a neon-yellow sign that said "Go Runners - Kick Asphalt".  Knowing in advance what the sign was going to say made it really easy to spot her!  Believe me, I had just spent the last 20 miles looking for that sign!  We exchanged high-fives and I continued on my way back out of Manayunk and into Philadelphia. 

To my marathon brain, my swollen hands meant that I should eat more Gu.  To my Monday post-marathon brain that actually bothered to look at the nutritional stats on Gu, I realize that there is very little sodium in a Gu packet.  So, even though I ended up having all 6 Gu packets that I had originally brought with me, I don't know that it did my hands any favors.  Somewhere around Mile 21 there was a guy handing out soft pretzels.  I decided to take one, not to eat, but to lick the salt off.  Boy oh boy was that tasty.  I felt a little bad wasting the pretzel, but I did get what I wanted out of it.

When I passed the mile marker at Mile 20, I just felt like screaming to everyone, "this is further than I've ever run before".  And, truthfully, I wanted to scream that after every single step.  I was so excited that I was that far along in the race and that I was still running and feeling great!  

Somewhere on the way back into Philadelphia, another girl came up to me and asked what pace I was running.  I told her I didn't really know, but something faster than a 5 hour marathon.  She said that she had been behind me for the entire race and that I had been amazingly consistent in my running (which was awesome to hear).  She said that she thought she was on pace for a 4:35:00 marathon.  I hope she made it.  She ran ahead of me at the next aid station when I stopped for water.  Either way, it was nice to think I was being consistent from mile to mile. 

It wasn't long after this that I heard "Eye of the Tiger" for the very first time.  Frankly, I had expected to hear it all the time.  I was actually a little bit disappointed that I only heard it the one time!  Don't worry, though, I totally sang along to myself even after I couldn't hear it anymore.  As a total aside, I've loved this song since I first heard it in after-school care when I was about 8.  If I had known then that it'd be played during my first marathon, I'd never have believed it to be true. 

When I saw Laura again at Mile 25, she got up and ran with me for a minute or so.  She said I was looking great.  I still felt really good, which was encouraging.  I was actually shocked by the number of walkers out there on the course.  And, truthfully, I was really glad that I wasn't one of them.  I never ever felt like I wanted to stop and walk (other than at an aid station) and I never had to convince myself to start running again after drinking my water.  It was what I wanted to do.

I saw Drew one last time at Mile 26-ish before I crossed the finish line.  I definitely tried to pick it up toward the end for the finish.  I finished the race with the exact same look on my face as I had when I started - a smile.  It was awesome.  I loved, loved, loved the marathon.  I want to do another one.  I'd sign up today (provided it was a few weeks away). 

Things I learned:
1.  Having my name on my shirt made a big difference in the amount of cheers I got, even though everyone had their names on their bibs.  I would 100% recommend this and do it again myself.
2.  For my next marathon, I'll only run 3 days a week.  Keeping the same rough mileage, but fewer days running.  And also maybe mix in some cross-training in there.  It would have been nice to feel like I had to do some biking instead of feeling like it was an optional rest day.
3.  I loved it.  I know I'm not fast, but I think something about these longer distances I'm just suited for.  I finished running and immediately thought that I can't wait to do another one.
4.  I want my next marathon to be a marathon only so I can experience that without feeling the loss of the half-marathoners. 
5.  I trusted my training and it carried me to the finish line.  I am so proud of myself to have finished my first marathon well ahead of my goal time.  It was better than my wildest expectations.

I ended up seeing people I knew a total of 9 times throughout the race, which was awesome.  Couldn't have asked for anything better.  Even though it probably would have been more fun for Laura and Drew to hang out together and cheer for me that way, it was a lot more fun for me to know that it would be two separate events.

My post-marathon legs were slow.  After getting my medal and mylar blanket (which was a lot warmer than I would have ever given it credit for), Drew and I made our way back to the hotel.  The curbs were definitely the biggest challenge for me on the walk home.  When I finally stopped moving and was standing still, my legs felt like they had just gotten off a treadmill and I should keep my forward motion. 

Moving from a standing to a seated position seems to be the hardest thing for me (both after the marathon and today, Monday).  I could feel my quads getting tired somewhere around Mile 23, so I'm not surprised that they're taking the brunt of this the day after.  I'm quite proud that I actually walked to work today, instead of taking the subway, but I think it's good for my legs to keep them moving whenever possible.

The best part about it?  I think I'm now 100% officially a runner!

Time: 4:41:28
Distance: 26.20 miles
Pace: 10:44/mile
Calories: 2689
Maximum HR: 188
Average HR: 173

10K: 1:06:26
Half-Marathon: 2:46:59
30K (18.6 Miles): 3:46:10

These split times cannot be correct.  At least the last two must take into account the 25 minute difference between when I crossed the start line and the total clock time.  I mean, I don't think I really ran the last 7.6 miles of the race in 55 minutes (which would be 7 minute miles).  I'm beyond disappointed that I don't actually know my half-marathon time because I'd really love to know how much I slowed down for the second half. 


  1. Congrats! You did awesome for your first marathon! What a perfect day you had!

  2. Congratulations!!! Glad to see you had a great first marathon in Philly as well. I know I'm pretty hooked, and completely agree with your thoughts about the half marathoners splitting off so late in the game.

    Also, I definitely think my half and 30k splits are wrong as well. So weird!

  3. Nice job! About the splits, they are from gun time, not when you crossed the start line.

    I saw you in the corral but I was nowhere near you!! If you come back and do Philly again, we need to make plans.

    Any ideas for your next marathon?

  4. And I love your Rocky picture! I don't think my husband saw that!

  5. Awesome job on your marathon - it sounds like it was a great day for you! You are most certainly a runner! Congratulations!

  6. I was so glad I saw you and you heard me cheering! You looked so strong at mile 13!

    You are officially a runner now!

  7. Great recap! You did awesome and it was so fun to see you at mile 20 :)

  8. Great race report! I love hearing positive first marathon stories. Congratulations!!!