Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Report: Philadelphia Half Marathon

I have run a few half marathons in Philadelphia:
  • The Rock n’ Roll half marathon (2010 and 2011)
  • The ODDyssey half marathon (2011)
And now the half marathon that is part of THE Philadelphia Marathon weekend.

Beware: this is wordy.  Perhaps excessively so.

My alarm went off at 5am and I realized that I actually slept a solid 6 hours of sleep.  My typical race-eve sleep is not so good…it takes me forever to fall asleep and then I wake up several times, worried that I have overslept.  But it’s dark outside, so there’s no way to tell.  This time I didn’t remember waking up once.  I would not normally be proud of a whopping 6 hours of sleep, but I slept for about 9 the night before so I was feeling good.

In my barely awake state,  I recalled how I had just run the half marathon and finished in the upper 2:07s, and I was ok with that.  Then I realized that I had in fact NOT run this half marathon yet and needed to get out of bed to go do that.

My clothes were all picked out from the night before.

IMG-20111119-01186 (1024x766)

Also, since I’m aware that I won’t run all the tangents in a race and therefore my Garmin isn’t going to match up with the race clock, I had considered wearing a pace bracelet.  Kristy gave me some good advice about printing up a tiny little pace chart to put on my race bib.  So I did!

IMG-20111120-01221 (1024x768)

This came from the pace calculator at coolrunning.  There’s an option to ‘calculate splits’ then I printed it smaller, covered it in Scotch tape so I couldn’t sweat away the ink, then I taped it onto my bib for easy reading.

Back to the morning of: I had some peanut butter on a slice of cinnamon bread at 5:30.  I got out the door by 5:45, and ate my banana in the car at 6.  It was dark outside.


I was tipped off to some good (free) parking in Fairmount Park if I arrived early, but I’m pretty sure my 6:30 arrival for the 7am start was not so early, so I decided to park in my usual Philly race garage at 19th & Market St., and did my 1 mile warm up walk to the start.

Walking up Ben Franklin Parkway toward the Art Museum/starting line, 6:48am:


Past the starting line, continuing back to my corral.


View from my corral’s starting area at 6:58am:


There was an announcement that there was a situation and it might delay the start.  Minutes later the “situation” had been taken care of.  The first runners started only a couple minutes after 7am.  It was a comfortable ~50F.

After 20 minutes or so of standing around, my corral was ready to start.  I crossed the line at 7:23am or just over 18:07ish after the gun went off.  The 18:07 is important only because that was a number I had to subtract from the race clock at every mile.

I heard on the loud speaker that Mayor Nutter and Bart Yasso would be available for high fives at the starting line.  I stayed to the left to high five Bart Yasso

The course was pretty crowded for most of the first mile.  My goal was to keep it slower, i.e. over a 10:00/mi pace.  Done.  Since I was somehow already slightly off by mile 1, I hit the lap button on my watch when I ran next to the 1st mile marker (that’s why there’s a .02).
  • Mile 1- 10:04
    • .02- :14
  • Mile 2- 9:28
  • Mile 3- 9:36
  • Mile 4- 9:40
  • Mile 5- 9:40
Mile 2 was down Christopher Columbus Boulevard.  The Eagles drumline was playing as we rounded the corner.  It thinned out a bit here since the road is wider.  I remember seeing lots of guys off to the right peeing behind trees and converter boxes and I felt annoyed that as a female I could not pee so easily in public, in broad daylight.  Seeing them pee made me think that maybe I had to pee, but when I saw a 10 person line for a port-a-potty, I changed my mind, because there’s no way I could PR if I waited in line.

There was a water stop under an overpass and our next turn was South Front Street, which was a narrower road, so things got crowded again.  A few 20-somethings had set up a small table on the sidewalk with some small Gatorade bottles and a couple red cups, which appeared to be a personalized aid station for their favorite runner. I was amused.

Around mile 4.25, I realized I was getting warm and didn’t need my arm warmers anymore.  In fact, I was sweating through them.  After fussing around with them, I ended up folding them up nicely and sticking them in my ifitness pouch.

At 50 minutes, I took a gu.
  • Mile 6- 9:40
  • Mile 7- 9:00
A little after mile 5 we turned on to Chestnut Street… it was nearly 2 miles of amazingness.  Fan support was unbelievable and I felt SO excited to be running.  I had some kind of crazy runner’s high here.  I felt cool since taking off my arm warmers, I remember thinking how perfect the weather was, my legs felt fresh, and running felt so effortless.  I can’t wait to see official race photos, because I’m pretty sure there may have been a rainbow shooting out of my butt.
And I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up running approximately mile 6-7 at a 9:00 pace.  Holy crap.  I looked down in the middle of that lap and saw something in the 8:00s and tried so hard to back off…only bringing it down to 9:00.

Also in this part, I crossed the 10k mat at 1:00:30, which was an average pace of 9:44 and a predicted finish time of 2:07:35 (I signed myself up for free tracking via email).
In this stretch I high-fived an IHOP chocolate chip pancake,  and saw some memorable signs including:
  • woman with a sign promising cupcakes at the end (lies!)
  • “Hurry up Kristen (or other common girl’s name, I can’t remember), It’s your turn in Words with Friends!” 
  • “On a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 13.1”
  • “You trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage”
…and many spectators cheered my name- which was weird at first, but pretty cool.  This was my first race where they put your name on your race bib.
  • Mile 8- 9:52
    • .10- :56
  • Mile 9- 9:48
  • Mile 10- 9:42
After the insanely fast lap, I made myself slow down a little and pulled off to the water tables just after mile 7 to dump a couple cups of water into my handheld bottle.

I hit ‘lap’ as I crossed the 8th mile marker to even things up again as I had managed to run an extra .1 miles by that point, according to my Garmin.

Basically mile 7 to 8.2 was one continuous uphill, followed by a downhill where I got a big whiff of the zoo.  I don’t remember thinking much here.  My legs definitely felt the hill, and I tried to rein in my speed on the downhill, knowing another steeper hill was coming at mile 9.  I looked to the right at the river below and saw some speedier runners down on that part of the course (mile 12ish).

Soon it was mile 9 and I was running up the hill from the ODDyssey half marathon…(except in that race, it was at mile 12.5).  The steep part was about a quarter mile long.  I was running next to a couple people running together for a charity, and one of the women kept yelling, “I love hills!”  I love hills!!” also barking this at people who were walking up the left shoulder of the road.  After the really steep part, the incline continued, but more gradually, for another half a mile.

This part is kind of a blur.  I was just happy to get to the top of the steep part.  I’m pretty sure brain activity was minimal here.  They were giving out Clif Shot gels in mocha and raspberry based on the packets all over the road.  I know I grabbed another cup of water to dump in my water bottle just before the 10th mile, but I have absolutely NO recollection of this.

  • Mile 11- 9:33
  • Mile 12- 9:11
Just after mile 10 there was a glorious down hill.  I realized I had been running for around 1:40 so I took my second gu while coasting down hill.  I don’t remember much until turning around along the river at about mile 11.  There was a DJ set up between the road and the river with people dancing in costumes including a bright orange full furry hippo costume with a sign that said “Stay Hungry.”  This was very amusing to me.

Math became more difficult at this point (you try subtracting 18:07 from the race clock/adding 18:07 to your pace strip times).  At the 11th mile marker, my total time was about 40 seconds slower than it should have been according to my little pace strip.  I was a little bummed but thought I could make up the difference if I picked up the pace for the last couple miles.

There started to be signs for the marathoners to stay to the left, and half marathoners to stay to the right.  The end was within reach!  Part of MLK Jr Drive is severely sloped.  I could see it being a problem for people with IT Band issues.  There were sidewalks off to both sides though.

By mile 12, the race clock (-18.07) matched up with my pace strip almost exactly.
Blur, blur, blur, try to run faster, blur, blur.   Notice people cheering on overpass.  Blur, blur, blur.
  • Mile 13- 9:08
I could hear the announcers reminding people to stay to the left for marathon, stay to the right for half marathon.  There’s a slight uphill approaching the art museum and mile 13 and a lot of spectators.  I don’t remember looking at or paying attention to any of the spectators in this area.  I knew I was supposed to stay to the right, but people were slowing down on the uphill, and I couldn’t get through.  I remember passing along the the middle and hoping the announcer didn’t scold me.
  • .19- 1:27 (7:30 pace!!!)
I started sprinting as I came in front of the art museum and that may have been a little soon, but I knew if I could see 2:24:xx on the race clock that it would mean sub-2:07, and I kept telling myself I’d be able to see the race clock at the finish line any second now.

Longest curve of my life.

The announcer was calling in some of the runners, I heard him reference a guy running to my right who ran the entire half with a huge American flag.  I don’t think I was really in control of my legs at this point and I was worried I was going to plow him over.  I know I saw 2:24 on the clock as I ran under, and I remembered to stop my Garmin pretty quickly but I didn’t know what my time was until I checked my phone a little later:

2:06:48, 9:40 average pace! Negative splits!

Guy that I may have run into had he crossed my path, after finishing:

Somehow, 7 minutes after finishing, I checked the results that were emailed/texted to me and managed to tweet this:


Text tracking seems to be received faster than email alerts.  My reading comprehension skills were clearly suffering after running since I was unable to read that the 2:07:35 was only my predicted finish based on the 10k split, not my final results.

2:06:48 is a new half-marathon PR for me… by 5:13 over my last half marathon in September.  Despite those little hills.

IMG-20111120-01204 (1024x756)

After crossing finish, I immediately got a bottle of water, a heat blanket, and medal.  It was only in the mid-50s when I finished.  PERFECT!  I would have even taken a couple degrees cooler.


I downed the water while waiting in line to have my picture taken with my medal, then I waited in line for food, and then I waited in line for a free massage—which was totally worth it.  I talked with a speedy 2:57 marathoner while waiting for the massage.

I’m hoping to talk Dan into swapping out our comforter for my cool new heat sheet:


  1. Yay race recap!

    First, I demand a picture now with a rainbow photoshopped coming out of your butt.

    Also, I think you can run a sub 2 half. :)

  2. What an amazing race you had! Absolutely awesome - a HUGE PR!!! So funny but as I was reading I was also thinking (like Kara) that you could run a sub-2.
    I'm glad the pace band worked out.
    My favorite part of the race is Chestnut Street! Incredible crowd support.

  3. Great recap, and great time! I can photoshop that rainbow coming out of your butt if you'd like ;-)

  4. Congrats on having such a successful race! I enjoyed reading it! Great job && WAY TO PICK IT UP FOR THE FINAL KICK! (something I've still yet to accomplish)

  5. sounds like a great race! huge congrats on your PR!

  6. Awesome job!! Just signed up for my first half in March, so it was fun to read about your experience..well done!!

  7. thanks for sharing! I'm doing my first half in Philly next month and am searching for reports on the course. Your post was helpful and fun. Great job!!!

  8. I'm running this race next weekend and your recap is awesome! so many helpful details. Thank you :)


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