Monday, November 19, 2007

RR - Philadelphia

Race Report
Sun, Nov 18/07
Philadelphia Marathon
Philadelphia, PA
Marathon # 293 - State #50

I did it! I did it! I completed a marathon in all 50 States + DC for a second – and final – time!
Read my lips “I will not run the 50 States a third time!” Why did I do it a 2nd time? Good question!
After I finished the 50 States for the 1st time in 1995 followed by the provinces of Canada in 97 and the Continents in 98 I figured I needed another goal to keep me motivated. So I checked my marathon log and determined that I had already run about 20 of the States a 2nd time – so I might as well run all 50 again? Well it took three years to complete the 1st loop and 12 years for the 2nd! At that rate I don’t believe I will stay healthy or live long enough to do it a 3rd time? And I would rather spend my limited marathon/travel budget on countries instead of doing the States again! I have two running buds in Sarasota who are psychologists/psychiatrists and I have given them permission to commit me to an institute if I even talk about running the States again!

Now that the cheering is finished it is time to write the actual race report.

It was only fate and convenience of schedule that dictated that PA was the final State. I chose Philadelphia as the marathon because I had heard that it was a good marathon and I had not run it before (a rule of the 50 States Club). The marathon did not live up to its good reviews!
Since my Sports Manager is on the injured/disabled list I asked a good friend from Sarasota if he wanted to go along as Sports Manager? Frank – the only other sane person in the world- is recovering from back surgery but the allure and reward of also watching his lovely daughter Alexis (who lives in Philly) cross the finish line of the Half Marathon was enough to entice him to make the trip. Until we saw the weather forecast a few days before the race! Cold, windy and rain!

I flew up on Sat afternoon, picked up a rental car and tried to find my way to Temple University’s Liacouras Center to pick up my race packet. What a mess! The traffic in Philly is horrendous! The Liacouras Center was much too small to handle 16,000 runners and there were over 1,000 runners lined up to pick up their packet. I called Frank and Alexis and told them that they had better get down there asap because the wait/delay looked very long. Fortunately I was only half wrong – the line moved quickly and it only took about 30 minutes to get my packet. I didn’t even try to visit the expo because the crowds were too big and the space too small!

There was no race info in the race packet but luckily I had picked up a race guide while standing in line. It explained that instead of a timing chip the race was using a RFID Tag that attached to the shoelace and could be discarded after the race. It is much better than the old chip technology because you don’t have to struggle to hand it back in after the race! After another fight with traffic to drive two more miles to my hotel and find parking (very little parking in Philly and very expensive), I barely had time to check in before my support team picked me up for dinner. Alexis had a neat goody bag for me (made up for the fact that the race had no goody bag) – salted chips, M&Ms and Gatorade – all part of my evening ritual before going to bed! I didn’t have to find a mini mart after dinner.

We enjoyed a great pasta dinner (instead of paying $25 for a pasta buffet offered by the race organization?) and retired early since the race started at 7am. I watched the weather channel – the news was not good – cold and wet on Sun morning!

I dressed in layers for the race. Tights and LD race shorts with three layers on top – and gloves. Luckily the forecast was not 100% accurate. It was cold and windy with a temp of 42 F at 7am but the rain held off. There were some light drizzles before and during the race but mostly it was just cold and windy! I joined 16,000 runners at the start line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts while the Emcee raved about Philly and delayed the start of the race by 15 minutes I was upset because I had arranged a late checkout (12:30pm) with the hotel and they were using my shower time! I lined up with the 3-hr pace group to reduce my delay in getting to the start line – I crossed the start line exactly 1 minute after the official start. By mile two I was concerned that I had overdressed. I was HOT! I shed my throw-away sweat shirt and continued on. I passed mile 3 in 27:38 but was still fighting with elbows to maintain my own space in the crowds. When I passed mile 5 in 45:44 I had settled into a smooth/easy 9-min pace. Decision time! That pace would get me across the finish line under 4 hrs but I would have to hold that pace over the entire course and I knew that was unlikely because of the lack of training. If I wanted to beat 4 hrs I would have to lower the pace to 8:50s for the next 10 miles! I didn’t feel comfortable/confident in doing that because this was only the 1st of three marathons I must run in the next two weeks and I was concerned about aggravating the injury to my foot. So I decided to hold the 9-min pace for as long as I could and see what happened? The first half of the course was interesting as it passed by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, Drexel University, the Zoo and arrived back at the Museum at the Half. I passed the Half in 1:58:47. I was still on pace but my legs were telling me that the 2nd Half would not be as fast. I decided to hold the pace as long as I could. However when I reached mile 17 in 2:35:39 the split was 9:33 and I knew a sub 4-hr finish wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to slow down and let the old legs dictate the pace and not aggravate the foot injury. It started to drizzle again and the temps actually dropped and I was so glad that I had not discarded my 2nd layer of clothes as I was going to around the Half!

I continued to jog though 20 miles in 3:04:24. At mile 21 the 4-hr pace group passed me and my mind must have been foggy because I decided to stay with them figuring they would drag me to the finish line? The pace dropped to 8:50/9:00 and my heart monitor started beeping wildly as my heart rate soared past my upper limit but with the excitement of breaking 4 hrs the body started kicking in extra shots of adrenaline and I felt good! Until mile 23 (3:32:00) when the pace setter announced that they had crossed the start line at 3 minutes! They had 2 extra minutes in the bank! Poof! - my balloon/hopes burst immediately, the extra shots of adrenaline ceased and my legs suddenly felt like they weighed 1000 pounds! I had to really struggle to keep the old legs moving the final 5 Km to cross the finish line in 4:02:40.

I was happy. I had finished Marathon #293 and State # 50! And my foot had not hurt until about 20 miles into the race! In spite of not having to hand in a timing chip the finish chute was a mess and it took about 5 minutes to get through the food tent to the family meeting area where I had arranged to meet my support team. By then I was starting to feel cold because I had not left any warm-up clothes at the start line. After waiting 15 minutes I started to shiver and figured that Frank must have become cold and left – and I didn’t blame him! Unfortunately they had my camera so there is no finish line photo. The roads near the finish line were closed to traffic so I couldn’t hail a cab and it was a very long and cold walk back to the hotel!

I later found out that my support team and I missed connecting by only a few minutes and they waited around for about 30 minutes after I left. They were obviously tougher (or more stupid) than me?
Because of all the problems with the race organization, late start, poor water stations, etc I cannot give the Philadelphia Marathon a good rating! I would not run the race again!
For me the best part of the race is that I finished it and my 50th State so I am finished with my insane quest! I can now focus my energy and time on my next (immediate) goal. I must run another six marathons between now and March 2/08 when I line up at the start line of my hometown race in Sarasota to run my 300th marathon! And instead of running states I can spend my money on adding countries to my list. In fact my next four races are international marathons. If I can get through the next two marathons in Asia next week – I believe I will be able to accomplish my next goal!

Stay tuned!

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