Thanks to GORE-TEX® I was given an opportunity to run the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon. I have always heard good things about the event, so I was excited to run it.
Training for the event was a bit unconventional. While getting ready for Philly we were also training for The North Face GORE-TEX® 50 mile Endurance Challenge in California. We put in lots of long runs and high mileage weeks.
Looking back, hindsight is 20/20, I should have done more race specific pacing to keep the speed up. Another issue I had to work through in the training cycle was a wicked case of Plantar Fascitis. To deal with the PF, I went to True Sports PT in Fell Point, Maryland. I was able to get back to running with only a little time off through exercises, massage, and dry needling.
By the time the marathon rolled around, mileage wise, I was more than prepared.
Philadelphia and the Expo
Driving into Philadelphia from Baltimore, we were impressed with the skyline, but the beauty of the city was highlighted in the partly cloudy day as we pulled up to the hotel right in front of the Philadelphia City Hall. This is a beautiful public building with and at the same time odd to see air conditioning units hanging out of windows. In a way, it reminds me of most American cities, beautiful, but not perfect, opulence mixed with grime. There is a twist of progress and vacancy in the metro area.
The expo was a decent size and vendors offered up just about anything you would need to run the race from shoes to gu’s, gear, and glide. Don’t worry if you forgot your favorite socks or gloves, you can pick some up at the expo. The race swag was good too. The shirt was a long sleeved black tech tee with a well thought out and designed graphic on the front and a map of the course on the back. It is a race shirt I will actually wear.
We originally booked the Four Seasons Hotel for the event. We thought, why not splurge, after all, it was only for a weekend. The hotel was under construction and was not ready for occupancy, so our reservation was transferred to Le Méridien Philadelphia. To say that we were unsatisfied with the hotel is a major understatement. I do not recommend staying at this hotel.
There is no sound that an alarm can make at 4:30 a.m. that won’t annoy you. If you have a recommendation let us know. I downed a banana, bagel with peanut butter, coffee, and some water. We left the hotel and started the mile walk about 40 minutes before the start.
When we arrived at the entrance of the corrals, there was a line that strung out almost a quarter mile with anxious runners trying to get through a poorly manned security checkpoint. The mood was near panic as the clock ticked down to the start. The line started to turn into a polite bum rush.
The bibs had your corral designation on them, but it seems some of the slower runners were not interested in being further back and ignored their starting place causing a slow start to the race. We wove our way through the stampede, but it took several miles for us to catch up to the pace groups we wanted for the race.
My favorite part of the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon course was winding through downtown. Spectators lined much of the first 10 miles and were a great support.
Heading out to the zoo, the hill portion of the course kicked in. It turned out that the hills were a good challenge, but what really turned into a challenge was the wind. I was going along with the plan up until mile 16, then the combo of wind and hills started to eat into my pace. I went from elation at mile 13 where I was a little ahead of goal pace, to drifting back like a bottle dropped off a ship as I watched the 3:20 pace group ever so slowly pull away from miles 16-20. I kept sight of them trying to will my legs to overturn with a little more giddy-up than they had. A new race goal went into effect as the 3:25 pace group glided by me at around mile 23.
While I was certainly struggling at this point, something fantastic happened. I didn’t go negative, and I did continue to push as hard as I could. I wasn’t going to the dark place where you beat yourself up and second guess your training, nutrition, and heart. I realized I had to finish the best I could and to keep moving forward. Don’t get me wrong it was hard. I was feeling nauseous and my legs were filled with lactic acid. When I saw strong looking runners starting to drop out and walk, my mind was telling me that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad option. I went with my heart and kept running even though my splits were progressively slower every mile. The finish line was such a welcomed sight.
As any runner knows, the sight of the finish arch can summon the last bit of energy you have and get you to pick up the pace for a strong finish. I had nothing left to give so I shuffled as fast as I could and secured a 3:36 finish. No PR, no BQ, but a real satisfaction of where my head was during the race. I had a glimpse of the possibility of a better race. I can do tougher workouts, cross train, work on the diet, but without the mental part I can’t win. The positive attitude carried over to The North Face GORE-TEX® 50-mile Endurance Challenge in California two weeks later. I had a very good race and my head stayed in a good space.
The medals are one of my favorites for sure. They are actual mini liberty bells that ring. As runners were leaving the race, it sounded like a heard of cats.
Other than the start security debacle, this was a well-run event with a scenic venue through one of the USA’s great cities. You need to put Philly on your marathon list. It would be great if they jumped on the free runners photos trend that a lot of races are starting to adopt.
Originally, I was planning on running the race in the New Balance Vazee Pace. After I had some PF issues during training, I opted to go with the Hoka Clifton 2. The run was fueled with GU and the Carb Boom! that was provided on the course. Other gear: Under Armour ColdBlack™ Running Singlet, Mizuno Rider 5.5 Running Short, GORE Running Windstopper™ gloves, Forever Forward Visor, and Feetures! Socks.
Author: Thomas Neuberger