Disclaimer: As a Rock ‘n’ Blogger I received a complimentary global tour pass, which I used for entry into this race. I also received complimentary VIP access. As always, all opinions are my own.
When I started planning out my Chicago Marathon training, I had a suspicion that my motivation for long runs would be difficult to find, particularly towards the end of my training cycle. For that reason, I looked at incorporating races into my training plan where they would best fit. When I realized that this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon fell over the same weekend as when I would need to complete my 20 miler, I knew that it was a no-brainer – that Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly needed to be added to my 2017 race calendar.
Having run this race two times previously, I knew to expect a flat course for the race, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy this half marathon as much as I do. Another reason is the convenience. Since my father-in-law lives less than 30 minutes from downtown Philly, running this race gives us an excuse for a weekend trip up for a visit.
We left Virginia early Saturday morning, and after a family brunch I headed into the city to pick up my bib. The expo was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center, and after battling some Saturday afternoon traffic downtown, I was in and out of the convention center in less than an hour. After picking up my bib, I briefly walked the expo floor, which included the purchase of some new Experia socks that I found for a great deal, and then I was on my way back out of the city.
Race morning was an early one for me. My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m., I took a quick shower, and afterwards was when my stressful morning started. I couldn’t find my tea, and with 20 miles to run I was in desperate need of some caffeine. I quickly searched for an open Starbucks, but with most not opening until 6 a.m. or after, and knowing that I needed to start running my extra miles before that, I started to panic. Thankfully, I found a Starbucks that opened in Philly at 5 a.m., which was on my way to, and only a mile away from, the parking garage where I had reserved parking. After leaving the house later than I had wanted to, I was in and out of Starbucks in less than five minutes.
But my stress didn’t stop there. The parking garage that I had reserved a spot through SpotHero with wasn’t open when I pulled up. My parking confirmation said that I could enter after 5:30, but the sign on the wall indicated that the garage didn’t open until 8. After circling around for about 15 minutes I finally found an open lot with available space, but was frustrated that I had to pay a second time for parking. (Thankfully, my follow up with SpotHero a couple of days after the race resulted in a full refund as well as a credit to my account for the inconvenience.)
After parking I made my way to the start area, about a mile away, as quickly as I could. I knew that in order to run all 7 of the extra miles prior to the start of the race that I needed to start running by 6:00. At this point, it was after 6 a.m., so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run all of my extra miles. After quickly dropping my gear bag off at the VIP area and a quick run into a porta potty, I finally started running my pre-race miles at 6:35. I accepted that I wouldn’t be able to run 7 miles, but vowed to run as far as I could.
I weaved through the neighborhood streets just north of the start area. Many people that I passed gave me some weird looks since I was wearing my race bib and hydration vest. I explained to a couple of people that I had to run 20 miles that day, which resulted in some even weirder looks.
The drive to run as many miles as I could had me pushing my pace a bit faster than I would have liked for the beginning of a long run, and I wound up running at a sub 11 minute pace, which was way faster than my long run pace had been in recent weeks. After running 5.47 miles, I ended my pre-race run at the start line and jumped into my corral as it was making its way towards the start line. I had debated whether I should run more of my extra miles and just start in a later corral, but ultimately decided that I would start in my assigned corral, corral 8. After standing in the corral for just over a minute, I crossed the start line at 7:39 a.m.
I tried my best to not run too fast at the start of the race since I was already a quarter of the way through my 20 miles for the day, but the course crowding and excitement about the start of a half marathon got the best of me. My first walk interval of the race was significantly shorter than one minute, which worried me since I had already been running for an hour using 4:1 intervals. Thankfully, that one shorter walk interval didn’t wind up having a huge effect on me, and after weaving through the downtown portion of the course and making a loop around city hall I reached the 5k mark on the course at 33:52 (11:13 pace). I was well on my way to maintaining my goal pace for the day, sub 11:30.
Just past the 5k mark of the race, and just shy of having run 9 miles thus far that morning, the humidity really started to take its toll on me. It was in the low 70s throughout the entire race, but the 100% humidity felt like 1000%, and I was drenched in sweat only shortly after starting my run for the day. The further that I ran, the slower that my pace became, and at the 10k mark of the race I had slowed to an average 11:22 pace. At that point, I reminded myself that my pace prior to the start of the race was 10:53, so when I added all of my data up for the entire morning that it would help balance out my slowing pace.
The humidity was so bad that morning, and I was sweating so much, that my feet felt like I had been running through puddles all morning. Because of the blister on my heel that was almost healed prior to race day, I had thankfully brought along an extra pair of socks, and just prior to mile 9 on the course, I stopped to change my socks. They were so wet that I could wring water out of them. I am so thankful that I had put an extra pair in my hydration vest.
The further that I ran on the course, the slower that my pace became. I chalked it up to the humidity and the fact that I was running the farthest that I had ever run, and didn’t let my slowing pace bother me too much. The course entertainment and crowd support kept me going, and I pushed through despite the awful running weather. Thank goodness the course was flat and that it was an overcast morning. I reached the 10 mile point on the course at 1:59:54 (12:00 pace), and celebrated the fact that I had less than 5 miles left to run that morning.
I crossed the finish line of the race at 2:36:56 (11:59 pace). According to my Garmin I had run 13.39 miles in 2:33:58 (my watch had stopped during my brief stop to change my socks). After getting my medal, water, Gatorade, and some food, I quickly added up my mileage for the day and discovered that I only had 1.14 miles left before I would reach the 20 mile mark. I downed the bottle of Gatorade as I made my way through the finisher’s chute, stuffed my medal into my vest, and holding the bottle of water and food slowly ran another 1.20 miles. I received even weirder looks than I had during those pre-race miles. After running a total of 20.06 miles, at an average pace of 11:17, I was finally done. As I walked back towards the VIP area, I started to tear up, knowing that I had completed my peak run for marathon training and was finally in taper mode.
My first priority when I arrived at the VIP area was changing out of my incredibly sweaty running clothes. Thankfully there was a changing tent in the VIP area, and I didn’t have to try and change in a stuffy porta potty. It felt so good to put some dry clothes on, after which I treated myself to a mimosa that tasted like heaven after running 20 miles.
When I first arrived back at the VIP area, I had put my name on the massage list in hopes that the line would move quickly enough and that I would be able to get a 10 minute massage before heading back to the car. Just as I was wrapping up eating my snack, I heard my name called. That 10 minute massage was quite relaxing, and felt so good after running 20 miles. Afterwards, I slowly made my way back to my car, and drove back to my father-in-law’s house.
Despite the absolutely awful humidity, it had been another great morning for a race. I am so thankful that I ran the half as part of my long run. Not only did the course entertainment and crowd support help me to stay motivated, but having access to extra water and Gatorade beyond what was in my hydration vest helped me significantly. Had I not been running the race I would have had to stop at least once to refill my vest. I greatly appreciated having access to the VIP amenities before and after the race, particularly not having a line for the porta potties, the changing tent, and the post race food spread. It made running 20 miles a bit easier.
QOTD: When you have to run extra miles on race day do you run them before or after the race?