I went into this race with the purpose of: using it as a practice with 40,000 of my closest friends, and getting a Philadelphia bucket-list item checked off (full list coming soon).
Met up with my friend Adam, and we took the Broad Street Line Subway from Spring Garden up to Olney. We got on free by showing our race numbers. Cool! I was racing with my “Students Run Philly Style” T-shirt, the same one I ran in for the Philly Half Marathon Last Fall. Since we bring it up, lets do a quick recap of my other long distance races, to put into perspective where my head was at and how I was feeling.
- Half Marathon from Poconos 70.3 (minus the swim) – 9:06’/mile. Just over 2 hours.
- Half Marathon from Philly Half – 8:44’/mi, 1hr 54mi.
Having finally learned how to not run like a seal, I’ve been running ~20mpw for the past several weeks (ranges from 15-26 with an injury thrown in), and the distances have been between 3-8 miles. A lot of the runs have been in the 7:40’/mi range, with a few sub 7′ 3mile runs and some low 7′ 6mile runs. As such, my goals were: 1. Under 8’/mi, under 7:40’/mi, under 7:30’/mi.
So, anyway, Adam and I arrived at Olney, and discovered what 40k runners looks like. It was a zoo. We had about 45′ til the race started, so I figured plenty of time to go find a bathroom. Nope. At 8:25, five minutes before race time, I had just asked a nice lady who came well prepared if I could have her roll of toilet paper, as she had just exited. I was then descended upon by a flock of girls, all needing some. At 8:29, I emerged from the bathroom, and made a valiant effort to shove to my corral. No such luck. I ended up in the back of the orange section, one section behind where I was supposed to start (purple!).
The first mile I spent, in what felt like a sprint, as I ducked, dodged, and weaved around all the people I was behind. I ran a 7:07 first mile and was like “holy crap, you need to slow down or else this will get miserable.” I tried to ease off, into a ~1:55 per quarter mile pace, but it wasn’t really happening. I occasionally came up above 1:50, but I felt good, so I figured that as long as I didn’t feel like I was going hard, I might be able to keep it up. Somewhere in mile 2-4 I caught up to Adam, who was supposed to start behind me, and ran with him for a couple of seconds. By mile 3, I was thinking to myself, “wow, only 2 more miles, and then I’ll be halfway done!” City Hall was around mile 6, and I could see it off in the distance. By mile 5 I was fairly constantly putting down 1:47-1:49/quarter mile, and feeling pretty good. We rounded City Hall and continued onto South Broad, and from here on out it was all straight. By this point, I said to myself, “okay, 2 more miles, and then lets shoot for sub 7′ on the last two miles.” My watch was showing my average split as being in the low 7:teens, so without having the brain capacity to figure out time remaining and feasible speeds, I couldn’t figure out how much lower I could get it, but I figured 7:10 or better was as good of a guess as any. As that “2 mile out” distance approached, I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable, but no where close to the worst pain I’ve ever felt (a rowing workout, most likely), so I kept pushing. I got to 2 miles out and figured I could go hard for the last 14 minutes. By mile 9, I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t see a finish line or anything that looked like a chute, and I didn’t really know how it was going to play out. I took a GU that I had in my pocket and kept pushing. By mile 9.5, my HR was starting to push into the high 180s (a threshold we crossed at mile 7), and I had seen 189 on my watch a couple of times. We passed into the Navy Yard, and I’ll never forget this:
there were soldiers cheering for us.
It boggled my mind. My pain immediately went away. I worked my way over to the right hand side of the course to offer a brief, pained “thank you” as I ran past each group of them. I don’t know why they felt the need to cheer us on, but God bless them even more. My last quarter mile I ran a 1:34, and crossed the finish line in a time of 1:11:44, good for a 7:10’/mi split. In those last 8 quarter-mile distances, I ran a 1:46.1 twice, and everything else was under 1:45.
Afterwards, I got a pretzel and some water, found Adam, and then discovered that his boyfriend had gotten on the Northbound train instead of the Southbound train, so we waited for a while for him to show up with our clothes to change into. We had a celebratory beer, and then I hopped on the train to go back up home to go coach my kids at Philadelphia Cities all afternoon.
My final results were 1672 out of 34,057 finishers (I guess a lot of people didn’t finish?). I was happy with the results and my fairly constant, even splits throughout the whole race. I would have liked to have had a better finishing kick, and I’d like to investigate my pain-pouch a little more, as I know that I can’t yet put myself in the same type of pain from running as I could from rowing. But that will come with time.
On to Florida on Sunday!