Philadelphia Marathon Pre-Race:
When the number of years you have left before getting your first AARP card are measured in single digits, you always have some issue you’re dealing with leading into a marathon. From twinges in your glutes to phantom cramps behind the knees it’s always something. I used to stress about it, now I just expect it. Once the race starts it’s usually something totally different that you wind up having to contend with (i.e. why the heck are my shoulders so tight?). So when I started getting some nasal congestion and a bit of a dry throat leading up to Philly, I just chalked it up to seasonal allergies. I took some Claritin in the days leading up to the race and that seemed to help.
Race morning I woke up, feeling about the same. Now I’m not a Doctor. and I’m not going to give out medical advice. There are plenty of excellent resources out there you can research to determine whether you’re in a good enough condition to run. My rule of thumb is if I have a fever or congestion in my chest then it’s a no-go, it’s just too risky to punish yourself when your dealing with either of those. Do some Googling and you’ll see what I mean. I had neither, just what appeared to be some allergies or a minor head cold so I decided to press. I also have a fairly strict rule on NSAIDs. Unless I have a migraine, I avoid them entirely on race day. Just not worth the risk (i.e. renal failure). So no meds that morning.
Got into Philly about 6AM for a 7AM gun time which worked out perfect. Plenty of time for parking, a port-a-potty stop, warm-up and getting into my corral. Looked around for Fellow DMers but couldn’t find anyone (in the future if you guys see a short Italian guy wandering around a corral, it’s probably me). Going in I was shooting for a 7:15 pace until the halfway mark and then make the call about how much to dial it up or back.
Philadelphia Marathon Start:
The race started just about on time. I learned my lesson from last year and moved as much as I could to the front of the corral (Black). Last year I got caught in a lot of traffic with a pace group so I wanted to have some room to maneuver at the start.
Miles 1 thru 4: You’re basically running toward the Delaware river through Philly. You then make a right onto Columbus to parallel the river for about a mile and then you start working your way back through the city. First eight miles you’ve got to treat almost like a trail run because some of the roads are in such bad shape it’s really easy to turn an ankle if you’re not watching the road. The crowds were great and out in force which is one reason I love this race.
Miles 5 thru 8: The course gets really narrow as you head west through the city. Starting at the front of the corral paid off this year because it wasn’t anywhere near the elbow to elbow runner traffic I experienced in 2010. The Cheering crowds in the city were fantastic. Spotted the 76ers Cheerleaders and other groups out there. Great show of support! Ran for a bit with a Tri-athlete named Drew running his first full marathon prepping for an Ironman. The guy had a really smooth gait. We chatted for a bit and then went back to focusing on the task at hand.
Miles 9 thru 13. The two lengthy inclines of the course are in this stretch. Way to early to take them hard so I just ran on perceived effort. At the half way mark according to Mr. Garmin I was averaging 7:16 pace, right on plan.
Miles 13.1 thru 18: As Kevin of the TV show ‘The Office’ would say “I’m a classic over thinker” and with 12 years on active duty I tend to over plan so bear with me here.
I have two primary decision points for the marathon. Halfway and 20 miles. Prior to the halfway mark all my decisions are strategic because what I do then will affect my performance for the rest of the race (Am I on pace?, Am I getting enough water?, Stomach OK with the gels?). Between 13 and 20 is when my thinking starts to transition to tactical (How much can I pick up the pace?, that guy up there, is he in my age group?). At mile 20 it’s all tactical (Max the pace, don’t over-stride, go get that guy!, time to empty the tank). I was feeling good at 13 so I started edging my pace up to between 7:05 and 7:15. I could have gone harder but I thought that was too risky. A sub-3 wasn’t a possibility so I took it one mile at a time. Kelly drive is very scenic and there was plenty of fan support.
Miles 18 through 22: Manayunk is awesome, great crowds! I was able to maintain my pace and once I rounded the turn near mile twenty I started pushing and hit about 7:00 on my splits for the next few miles.
Mile 22 to Finish: Although it shouldn’t surprise me, I always think I’m running faster than I am in the last few miles of a marathon. Perceived effort is through the roof and then I hear the beep and I look down at my watch and have a mental ‘C’mon Man!’ moment when I see my actual splits. I started doing the math and realized I was just under a projected 3:10 finish so I couldn’t let up. Literally a tenth of a mile from the finish I saw a group huddled together in the middle of the course. As I went by a paramedic was frantically giving a runner CPR. I could only assume it was one of the two runners that past away during the race. I have a much stronger reaction now to that event then I did at the time. It’s important to get your annual physicals and see a Doctor regularly but even then it may just be your time. I’m now thinking about his family and how they are dealing with this, I pray they get through it OK. At the time I said a quick prayer mid-stride and bolted to the finish. After crossing I looked down and saw 3:09 on my watch (my eyes couldn’t make out the seconds but I knew I had a little bit to spare). Official time was 3:09:20.
Philadelphia Marathon Post Race:
Found my wife and headed home. Now you know what they say, how after a distance race your body’s immune system is weakened?…it’s true! My little head cold on Sunday morning turned into a cough and low-grade fever by Sunday night. So I was physically miserable but had a new PR and a finishers medal on my wall. Totally worth it.