Where do I begin with this race? I signed up to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon several months ago through a charity entry with Back On My Feet. I ran the race last year but ended up having a bit of a rough time with it. I enjoyed running through Philly, as always, but the race was just an off one for me (though not enough to take me out of doing any more races, that’s for sure). So, I signed up and started poking and prodding my friends, coworkers, and family to help me out and donate to my race cause. I feel a lot of love towards BOMF and wanted to not only hit my fundraising goal, but exceed it. Through their awesomeness, I actually was hooked up with a pair of Saucony Ride 7’s. Gore-tex is the official sponsor of the Philadelphia Marathon and offered pairs of shoes incorporating their technology to a handful of people associated with BOMF, including fundraisers. I was contacted and asked if I’d like a pair to train in and run the race in if everything felt good. Who could say no?
About a week and a half before race weekend, I hit my goal and once the company matches go in, I’ll have raised over $1000 for BOMF! That started the excitement of the upcoming race! I enjoyed having a bigger purpose to just running the race and was happy to not only meet the minimum, but pass it. I am eternally grateful to the people that helped me get there.
Saturday rolled around and close to lunchtime I made it into the city to go get my packet and say hi to some friends at the expo. The expo was your usual affair of vendors/speakers with free samples here and there to collect. I got my bib, shirt, packet, and then grabbed a bite to eat with a friend at Bar-ly in Chinatown (good food and beer at that spot!). When I got home, I did my usual pre-race prep of laying out all my gear for the morning and making sure all of my gadgets were charged up. Since I was a “late entry” from being a charity racer (you aren’t fully registered til you hit the minimum), I didn’t have a name printed on my bib. This was actually great because I could write in whatever name I wanted! I went with the obvious choice (can’t believe I hated that nickname ages ago). I wasn’t entirely sure if my outfit would be okay with the weather. Race time was expecting upper 30s, cloud breaking into sun, and at the finish it would be above 40. I went with a pair of Nike shorts, a long sleeve Nike top, Pro Compression socks, my Ride 7s, and a Moving Comfort sports bra.
Bright and early on race day I got up, got dressed and put on sweats, readied my gear bag for the check-in, threw some peanut butter on a bagel, downed a 5-Hour Energy shot, and was out the door with a bottle of water for the drive into the city. My plan was to park in University City near Drexel’s campus (my old haunt) and walk to the start crossing over Spring Garden Street. There were runners everywhere getting warmed up and heading to the Oval.
I was rushing to get downtown so I could meet up with the rest of the BOMF runners to get a team pic, but trying to find parking in UCity delayed me a bit and I ended up missing the group shot. Boo. I made a pit stop in an empty row of porta-pots to pee one last time, took off my sweats and checked my gear bag, then wandered to corrals as the national anthem rang out across the crowd. It was nearly time! The parkway was packed and I ended up just hanging in the corral ahead of mine. I felt a little weird about it, but the crowd was too thick to try to work my way back to where I needed to be. I felt calm but excited as the first group of elites went off on their way.
We shuffled up to the start and a little after 7:00am we were high fiving Mayor Nutter and running up the parkway.
Miles 0-6: Center City
This part of the course is flatter than flat and full of a lot of people cheering. I spotted the City Fit Girls cheer group and gave them a shout and a wave before taking off towards Love Park. The first three miles flew by. I wasn’t really looking at my watch as I had my sleeves down, but just enjoyed the music I had pumping through my headphones. The city definitely felt electric! Running up Columbus Blvd, I tried to keep from weaving too much and just ran what felt good. I skipped the first water stop as I wasn’t really thirsty yet. Coming around the bend to head toward South Street, we passed the Sixers cheerleaders and soon a row of fans offering booze and water to anyone that wanted to partake. The crowd wasn’t really thinning out on the road yet, so I ended up sticking to the outer parts of the turns to get better space. I got warm enough to pull up my sleeves and checked my Garmin for the first time. I was averaging just under 8:00 and felt great. Coming up Chestnut Street, the high buildings messed with the signal and my Garmin drunkenly thought I was running sub-6:00. I laughed as that was definitely not possible! I spotted the Back on My Feet cheer group and shouted at them as I passed by. Nearly halfway through!
Miles 7-10: University City/West Philly
This is probably one of my favorite parts of the race. I went to Drexel for my chemistry degree and running through the campus just gives me such a good vibe. It was great to see so many students up early cheering for the runners. I kept my pace steady around the turn onto 34th street and readied myself for the climb. I slowed a little, but kept driving my knees upward and varied between pushing hard then relaxing a little until we started cresting the hill. Once we got to the bridge by the zoo, it was a nice downhill jaunt before I readied myself for the next climb. Lansdowne is no joke. I’m not sure how it compares to Hospital Hill at the MC Historic Half, but it’s hard work to get up it. Last year I ran/walked the hill and I was determined to not stop this time around. I slowed to above 9:00, but kept going and soon the hill was over! Cresting that hill felt great and I picked it back up again. I saw some great signs along this stretch and then decided to take a very brief walk break through the water stop just so I wouldn’t slosh it all over my face. Shortly after came the last downhill towards MLK Drive and the final stretch of the half!
Miles 11-13.1: West River (MLK) Drive & Finish
I kept my stride short on the downhill to prevent slamming too much on my heels and knees. I was still feeling really energetic. I breezed through mile 11 and then finally felt the hills catching up to me halfway through mile 12. I checked my watch and knew I was making good time. Even though I was feeling a little fatigued, I made a point to stay as far under 9:00 as I could. I had a specific time in mind (and not my previous best time for a half) and knew I was close to try to get it. The Art Museum got closer and closer and soon I was heading up the final small hill. I had a lot of awe for those runners that would not be joining me to head to the finish, but instead were heading to Kelly Drive to go run another 13 miles. Maybe one day I’ll be one of them, who knows. Once I saw the finish line in view, I threw myself into a sprint as much as I could. I smiled and threw my hand up as I crossed the finish knowing that I had now beaten my fastest time from MC Historic Half just six months ago!
Pumped doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I shaved 7:38 off my time from the spring and came within three seconds of beating my 6’1″ boyfriend’s fastest half marathon time (if only I hadn’t walked that one water stop!!!). I was beaming! I met a college/work buddy for some hellos, grabbed the rest of my food, picked up my gear bag and made my way back towards University City. I stopped to watch the runners making their way past the Art Museum and again sat in awe at those who said they were going to turn left this year.
I felt all the happy, post-race feels, hopping on Instagram and Facebook to congratulate every person I saw posting about their race experiences. I had though the MCHH was going to be my favorite race of 2014 (and onward), but Philly came back and proved why I adore this city so much. The running group I interact with on Facebook, the awesome people in my life that supported me for this race, the amazing work BOMF and all the charity partners do, the incredible fellow runners on the course, and the kick butt fans that came out to watch all of us on a cold November morning made this the best experience it could have been. I cannot wait to come back next year. I’m excited to see what my races in 2015 will bring and how far I can take this little running hobby of mine. ;)