Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Pre-Race:
With the race just a short 20 minute drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge, not much race prep was needed. The expo was in the Philadelphia Convention Center which is common and convenient for the big Philly races. I drove in on Saturday and walked a few blocks to the expo. I got into the registration area, picked up my bib and headed in to the expo to check out the vendors. As soon as I left the registration area I found myself in what had to be one of the largest race-related apparel shops I have ever seen, it was huge! Competitor, which took over the race a couple of years ago, is a for-profit organization so I wasn’t terribly surprised but the amount of apparel was quite impressive.
It was great to be able to meet up for a bit at the expo with a Daily Mile friend (don’t worry Marcie, I won’t put our picture on the blog ). We had a great conversation about marathon training, race day strategy, and the overall chaotic state of our lives. It’s funny how you tend to be more conservative in your advice to others than you give to yourself, and Marcie caught me on this when she asked me, “OK, now how are YOU going to run the race?”. We had a good laugh because she’s seen my training and past race reports and knows I tend to have one speed on race day. I did have in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to put myself in a position to jeopardize NYC in November and if I had any warning signs during the race I’d shut it down. That being said there was no reason given good weather that a PR wasn’t possible, in fact I was expecting it.
Race day morning was uneventful. Got up, got out the door and found a good parking garage about a mile from the start. I wanted to get in about a 2 mile warmup and 2 mile cool down so I figured if I parked far enough away it would force me to get the mileage in for the day to count as a long run. It worked out perfectly as the garage was right next to a Holiday Inn which allowed me to use a proper restroom before heading to the start.
Pre-race tip for Big Philly races: Don’t line up at the first porta-potties you see on the Ben Franklin Parkway, walk further down toward the art museum. I saw the lines at least 20 or 30 deep at the first set while the potties by the art museum had no line at all. This was true last year at the Philly Marathon as well. This is because 90% of the runners are heading west on the Ben Franklin Parkway and usually line up at the first row they see.
Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Race Start:
It was nice to be in corral 1. While it wasn’t a seeded placement and only based on the estimated finish time I submitted, it was cool to be upfront. The elites were just in front of us and it seemed that most of corral 1 was filled with running teams from NYC. I counted a good 5 or 6 teams from Brooklyn, Central Park and the like. The weather was really nice, there was a cool breeze and the temperature was comfortable. If I was greedy I would say I would have taken another 10 degrees cooler but after the summer we had I wasn’t complaining. The gun went off right on time and we took off headed into the heart of Philadelphia.
Miles 1 thru 4
Only the first four miles take you through the city and the rest of the course takes you up and down the Schuylkill. As long as you can get out in front of your corral as you head into the city you’re OK. If you get caught in a large pack of runners (or the dreaded pace groups) you can get stuck and spend some time and energy navigating around runners and avoiding getting bumped or tripped up. I had planned going out at about a 6:30 pace but I felt good and let my legs dictate the pace a bit. First four splits were 6:20, 6:23, 6:29 and 6:21.
Miles 5 thru 9
At the mile 5 marker you pass the Art Museum where the Rocky statue stands arms raised to cheer you on. The course is very flat and the only flatter course you’d find in the area are probably down by the shore where the only elevation you get is when you pass over bridges. Heading north on Kelly Drive is very scenic, there weren’t a lot of spectators on this part of the course but I was pretty ambivalent about it. I was just enjoying the shade, cooler temps and locking in my pace. The only split that wasn’t in the 6:20′s was mile 9 as we hit the only elevation on the course as we crossed over Falls Bridge to head south on MLK drive.
Miles 10 to Finish
Had less shade, warming temps and splits in the mid 6:20′s as I came around the corner of the Art Museum toward the finish. Knowing I had a PR in hand I just maintained my pace rather than fight off any runners who had spent the last 12.9 miles saving themselves for their finish line photos. I crossed the finish at 1:24:30, 44 secs off my previous best. I knew in my heart that had this been my ‘A’ race I probably could have dialed it up and got in under 1:24 but it wasn’t worth the injury risk or the risk to my training schedule for extra recovery time (see Marcie! I was conservative!). I’ll save a sub-1:24 for next year…
Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Post Race:
Got a solid PR, some good confirmation of my training and a chance to push myself hard in the heart of my NYC training schedule. As of 9/23 I’ve got six weeks of training left with two of those being recovery weeks. Still a lot of wild cards are out there but a day doesn’t go by where that sub-three isn’t on my mind so the next six weeks will be very focused.