Philadelphia Marathon


20 November 2011

I ran this race 2 1/2 minutes slower than my first marathon, while shooting for 7:00 minutes faster.

Despite regular hill training, hills tend to be my downfall in any long-distance race. That held true today. The first half has two pretty good hills, but short. The entire second half was a series of rolling hills, with at least one fairly steep, long hill. By mile 18, my hamstrings were becoming a problem and I was having trouble getting full leg extension because they were both so tight. I had to stop a couple of times to stretch and the final three hills I just gave up and walked up, then ran down the other side. I’ve got to figure out something when it comes to hills. They generally don’t bother me, so I’m assuming this is an imbalance that shows itself when fatigue sets in. I’m only slightly disappointed, because I know there’s a learning experience in every race and I just like to run, even when it sucks.


Cons of Philly Marathon

Nightmarish course. It has way too many turns and three complete turnarounds– turn around and go the other direction in the span of a few feet. The entire second half is an out-and-back. Running a marathon is as much mental as it is physical and seeing runners come at me for nearly seven miles only exacerbated the hill difficulties.

Water stations were completely unpredictable. I admit I had only perused the course map in the weeks leading up to the race and I didn’t really look at it until the day before, but I’m used to long distance races having water stops at every mile, or at least at regular intervals. Water stops were as follows (estimated distance, since none corresponded to the actual mile markers):

  • 2 miles
  • 3.5 miles
  • 5 miles
  • 7 miles
  • 8 miles
  • 10 miles (+ gel)
  • 11 miles
  • 13 miles
  • 14.5 miles
  • 17 miles (+ gel)
  • 18 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 21 miles
  • 22 miles (+ gel)
  • 24 miles
  • 26 miles

This clearly shows that locations are not chosen for runner needs. At the very least, there needs to be a sign before each water stop indicating where the next water stop is, so that you can plan better. Had I known that I would be running up to 2.5 miles between drinks of water, I would have brought my own. (Good lesson for next time.)

Gatorade should be in GATORADE cups and water should be in plain cups.  Every. Single. Time.

At one point, the porta-potties were across a street that was open to traffic, so runners had to wait at the light to cross to go to the bathroom. That’s not great.

Number of runners = less than half that of NYC; width of streets = less than half that of NYC (MAJOR crowding first eight miles meant lots of bobbing and weaving). Of course, half the runners were doing the half marathon, so crowding became a non-issue once they veered off to their finish.

Didn’t hear “Eye of the Tiger” one time all day.


Pros of Philly Marathon

There was a lot to look at. The first 7ish miles are in Center City, then you move through University City (with a vibrant Greek row) and past the zoo into some really pretty parks. From mile 11 you are running alongside the Schuylkill River, which is also pretty. Philadelphia has monuments everywhere, so there were lots of those to look at, even if you don’t have time to stop and see what they’re for. There are also a number of museums and we passed a couple of cemeteries I wouldn’t mind going back to see. The start/finish line is in front of the art museum and the “Rocky” steps. The Rocky statue wears a race jersey.

Early start. I’d rather start early and be done early than start late, even if that means the risk of some pretty cold weather in November.

Low-key crowds. This might be a con for some people, but I prefer a quieter marathon experience.

Wide open finish chute/meeting area. No long lines! Family can come right up to the finish!

Your name on your bib!

Great medal!

High-fived the mayor at the finish!



Waiting for post-race pictures.


Saw Hal Higdon at the expo. Thanks Mr. Higdon for great training plans!

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