Yesterday was marathon number 13 for me. It was also my third Philadelphia Mararthon since 2011. I chose it as a fall marathon option in 2011 due to the timing and because it was not too far from home, about a 7 hour drive. My wife and I really enjoyed the trip which made the decision to return an easy one.
One thing about Philadelphia for those who have not been there is that references to the Rocky movies are still very present. I lost track of the number of times I heard Eye of the Tiger and Gonna Fly Now playing along the course yesterday.
I can’t claim to be a big fan of the movies but I recall watching the first three because my dad watched them and Rocky IV seemed like a great movie to me when I first saw it when I was 10 or 11, in part because the Cold War was still underway and the villain in the movie was Soviet.
On that note I began my race weekend by waking up early and going for a very easy run over to the Art Museum to run up the “Rocky steps”…
Sunday morning I had my usual wake up call for breakfast at 3:30. I tried to eat as quickly as possible and make as little noise as possible to not wake up my wife and kids. Usually try to get back to bed after eating but there was no point yesterday because my adrenaline was already flowing.
Given that I was ready to go and I was not sure how long it would take to get through security I headed over to the start line probably a little earlier than I needed to and there I was sitting along the Ben Franklin Parkway at 5:45 yesterday morning. A couple of volunteers were also there but I was the first runner in the maroon corrall.
The last time I ran Philly I was cold waiting for the race to start. I learned my lesson this time and had a pair of throwaway pants and gloves from the thrift store to keep me warm. I also had an old running pullover I no longer used.
Now on to the actual race. If you don’t want to read any further because I’ve rambled on long enough already here is the short version. My first half was slower than expected because I had to make a stop that cost me valuable time, much of the first 32 km was run into a headwind and I ran my fastest second half to a marathon ever to finish strong.
If you are still with me here is the more detailed version. Since there were only 3:05 and 3:15 pace bunnies my plan was to stay between the two and aim for a sub 3:15 finish. That plan was going well until I had to make a stop at a porta potty around 17-18 km into the race.
Around the 24-25 km mark I noticed there was a pacer ahead of me. I assumed it was the 3:15 pacer who must have passed me when I stopped. I eventually caught up to the group and asked the pacer if he was on target. He told me he was about 27 seconds ahead of his goal at that point. Given that I needed a buffer for a BQ I took off ahead of the group and continued to run my own race.
For those of you who have not run the Philadelphia Marathon the second half is an out and back that takes you out to the Manayunk neighbourhood. At the 32 km mark you turn around and run back to the finish line.
I hit the turnaround feeling stronger than I ever have at that point in a marathon. To add to that we ran much of the initial 32 km into a wind. Once I turned around I knew the wind would finally be at my back. Also, for a final Rocky reference Living in America by James Brown was blasting in the background as I hit the turnaround brininging back memories of this…
At this point I knew that barring any issues with muscle cramps I was going to reach my goal at the finish. I must say it is much more fun to be the guy who is still passing people in the last 10 km of a marathon than to be one of the people who are starting to hit the wall. The fact that I was still going strong gave me all the motivation I needed to finish and if that was not enough over the final 1 km – 800m I had multiple spectators calling out my name as I went by because I was still running hard and trying to pass people in front of me.
I managed to cross the finish line with a chip time of 3:12:29. Although that was 10 seconds slower than my time here in Ottawa in May it was 8 minutes faster than my previous Philadelphia efforts and thanks to the fact I move up into a new age category for 2017 it gave me my elusive BQ!
Following the race my 6 year old was dying for a cheesesteak so we grabbed a cab and headed to Geno’s for one of these…
I normally would not eat a cheesesteak but I have to tell you they taste pretty good after running 26 miles. If you do go to Philly I recommend a trip to Pat’s or Geno’s after the race.
With regards to my result, unfortunately I know it does not guarantee me entry to Boston. For 2016 the cutoff was 2:28 under the standard and I gave myself a buffer of 2:31. My plan for the spring will likely be to try and improve on my time from yesterday to improve my chances of getting in. For now I’ll take some time to enjoy the fact that I met the qualifying standard for Boston. Having one of these seemed appropriate last night…