So I’ve completed my marathon! It might have taken me a month, but it was a lot of fun.
Philadelphia is one of our favorite cities to visit. It’s only 2.5 hours away, there are lots of good museums, the historical part of the city, and great restaurants. So it was a good choice for a destination race.
Our first stop of the day was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ellen had gotten tickets for the Léger exhibit. I didn’t know much about Léger going in, but I learned a lot about his role in modern art.
We then drove to our hotel. I am absolutely in love with Kimpton Hotels. The boutique style, the friendly staff and the small touches just make it like staying with friends. Maybe even better. So when we could book a race rate at the Hotel Monaco, it was a no-brainer. And they did not disappoint, we had a great stay.
It was now lunch time, we didn’t have anything specific in mind, so we went to the Food Network app. There was a Spanish restaurant, just down the street that was recommended by the “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show. Our meal at Amada was delicious. From the brunch menu, we shared lamb meatballs, potatos bravas, tortilla espanola, lemon ricotta pancakes and chorizo con papas. Everything was so good!
Next stop was the Philadelphia Convention Center, as I had to get the race packet. For a race with 30,000 runners, the packet pickup was well organized. We walked through the expos, picking up all the runner fuel food and thinking about races in all the interesting places. Once you have the bib, it’s on!
We went into Reading Market, always a fun place to visit. Having had the big lunch, we snacked only on a cupcake from Flying Monkey Bakery. How can you resist that name?
Back to the hotel briefly, it was then time for dinner. Ellen had picked a French bistro, Bistrot La Minette. It was a nice .7 mile walk, and we love exploring the neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The restaurant was cozy and warm. Ellen had trout for dinner, I had butter-basted chicken. Great meal! Walking back, we went down South Street, which is quite the visual experience of bars, restaurants, stores, tattoo parlors, etc. It wasn’t exactly our crowd, but it was fun to observe.
The race start time was 7am on Sunday. That meant my pre-race meal at 4. I slept okay, but was paranoid about sleeping through alarms. So I got up a little before 4 and had a banana, granola bar and apple sauce. Then back to bed for a little more than an hour. Thought I was just going to lie there, couldn’t get back to sleep. But eventually, I must have fallen back asleep, until the alarm went off at 5:10. Up, showered, dressed, out by 5:30. In the aftermath of Boston, they asked for runners to be there 2 hours early to get through security. That seemed ridiculous.
The hotel was 2 miles from the start line. I took the SEPTA subway one mile to City Hall, so then just had a 1 mile walk. There were lots of people on the street, it was a fun atmosphere. First thing I walked past was the famous Love statue. Not so crowded at 5:45.
Security was not difficult to get through. I eventually found my way to the purple coral, the place for fast runners like me (hah!).
It was right near the Rocky statue. Rocky was in race mode, as he was sporting the race shirt.
I don’t think I’ve run a race this large before. Just seeing all the runners lining up was pretty exciting. Right at 7 the race started. Took my coral just around 20 minutes to get to the start. And we were off! I was trying to hold myself back, but I got a little caught up in the excitement. First mile was my fastest of the day, 8’52”. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep that up. Next mile was just a little slower, 9’01”. I was happy to have banked some time, but clearly this wasn’t going to last for the whole race. So I settled down in mile 3, a comfortable 9’30”. We had run across the city, past the liberty bell to the Delaware River on the east side. We ran along the water for a little bit, then back west. We ran on South Street, which was familiar to me but quite different early on a Sunday morning.
Around mile 5 was near the hotel, so I was looking for Ellen. She wasn’t certain when she was getting up, and wasn’t certain she would be there. But I had a hunch she would be. Came up 6th Street, and there she was. I was excited to see her, put an extra spring in my step. In fact, mile 7 was back to 8’55”! Running across Walnut Street was probably the most exciting. Somewhat narrow, it had so many spectators on both sides. It was thrilling to have so much support and made the middle part go fast.
Crossing the Schuylkill River and things changed. Course less crowded with spectators. I think it was Drexel we ran through. A fraternity was out, offering Keystone Light. Right, like I’m going to lose time to stop and drink bad beer!
The course was amazingly flat, until mile 10 where there was a small hill and then a very long one. Had my slowest mile there, but it was only 10’05”. It was followed by some turns around a park and then a steep downhill. Downhill should be easy, right? It wasn’t. It was really steep and a little painful. That brought us down along the river though. Soon I was about 11.5 miles in and the Art Museum was in sight. I tried to pick up the pace a little, but managed only 9’54” on mile 12 and 9’43” for mile 13. We crossed the river, went around the museum, and suddenly had only .2 miles to go. The mayor of Philadephia, Michael Nutter, is a big supporter of the race. He was standing right at the finish line. I got my high 5 from him just before crossing the line. Turned off my watch, saw my time, which was officially 2:07:27, a pace of 9’44”. That was almost 2 minutes faster than Atlantic City last month, so my 2nd fastest of 4 half marathons. Was very happy with my race.
I got my medal, aluminum blanket and some food. I had thought it silly to take the subway back, so I walked the 2 miles back to the hotel. I was slow, but so were all the other runners. I did think that somehow all the curbs has been raised a couple of inches, as lifting the feet to step up and down was difficult.
Ellen had spent the morning after seeing me wandering the city. She had gotten back to the hotel just before me. I cleaned up, we checked out, and then headed to lunch. That was another selection from the Food Network app. Guy had visited Percy Street Barbecue, so so would we. We had a great meal, Ellen had ribs, I had brisket. Oh, and I had a root beer shake to celebrate.
We then got going for the drive back home so we could pick up Colby.
I had been a little concerned about running such a large race. But Philadephia did great at staging it and spreading out the start, so it never really felt that crowded. You got a lot of energy from the crowd. The cheering and the signs made it fun to people watch as you ran. The signs entertained me, although a “Go Victor” sign around mile 8 choked me up, thinking about my dad. But I was just that more determined to run hard. I am leaning strongly to running this race again next year, it was a great complete weekend.
So a very successful running year is drawing to a close. I’m running the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K next week for the 16th straight year. I’ll run a couple more weeks into December and then take a two week break. I exceeded my 1000 mile goal for the year in October, I’ll have run one 10 mile and 2 half marathons. I’ve stayed healthy. I’m very thankful.
Thanks to Ellen for so many reasons, mostly for putting up with me and allowing me to pursue this passion. We enjoy these destination races. Thanks to all in the DC running community, and friends both real and virtual who have motivated me and kept me accountable. This discovery of running as a passion is not even 3 years old, but it’s something I enjoy very much.