Philadelphia Marathon #2, Marathon #96

Philadelphia Marathon #2, Marathon #96

This is the 2nd time that I’ve run the Philadelphia Marathon.  Last year’s weather was perfect.  It was a bright sunny cool fall day with the temperatures cool enough keep your body temperature in check.  This year I started stalking the weather and as the days approached, was hoping that they were wrong.  The last weather report was calling for temperatures with a high of 28 but would would “feel like 18”.  I was originally planning on shorts, but the last weather report quickly changed my mind to capris.  I also went to Goodwill and purchased a winter jacket and sweatpants to wear as we waited around for the start. 

Traveling to Philadelphia by plane had gotten very expensive post-Covid, so we decided to take Amtrak which was around $200 r/t for both Kim and I.  The train was only 4 hours so it seemed like the best decision.

I was still beat up mentally from running the NYC marathon.  After I finished, I wasn’t sure if I would run another marathon again.  I was defeated and humbled by the experience.  I told Kim I was NOT running Philadelphia, but I would go there to support him.  The weeks leading up to the race our new Fleet Feet Kool Kids from the fall of 2022 marathon training were posting on social media that they signed up for Philly.  Some of them had struggled through the Hartford training with some personal stuff going on, but they stuck together week after week, and ended up making lifelong friendships.  I was one proud mom/coach.  I still was on the fence about running Philly, until Jeannie Rumsey started a group chat named “Philly Kool Kids”.  It just warmed my heart.  I gave them a training plan with some reasonable miles considering they just ran Hartford the previous month.  Their training for Philly began. Each weekend they met and supported each other to prepare them for the race. Kudos to Jeannie, who was the leader in this group, persuading so many of them sign up.  This is when I decided to run the race. 

The days before the race I started to send logistics, marathon checklist and some words of advice.  We were as prepared as we could be.

Saturday:  We met some of the Philly Kool Kids in Hartford at the train station.  As we waited for the train, they asked questions about the course.  Kim, of course said “It’s not hilly”.  I shook my head behind him because I clearly remembered some pretty good size hills going into mile 9, and again when you are the turnaround in Manayunk.  I even showed them the elevation from 2021 on my Garmin.  I said, “I would compare this to the Hartford course”. 

The train ride was seamless with one transfer in New Haven.  The confusion started once we arrived in Philadelphia trying to figure out the local train to the hotels.  Our plan was to drop our bags, grab food at the Reading Terminal Market and then head to the Expo.  After a few hiccups we all found our hotels, ate lunch and headed to the expo.

The Expo:  I love the Philadelphia merchandise and was temped to buy another jacket.  But, since I purchased one the previous year, I walked away with just a pair of this gloves to wear on race day.  There wasn’t a lot of vendors like the majors so it was easy to not spend too much money and leave!

Pre-race dinner:  I made reservations in advance at Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant.  The food was very good!  Well, except for Hur-shiu whose reservation was earlier than us.  She ordered the same spaghetti and meatballs, as I did but hers looked quite different!  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone running this marathon for a nice pre-marathon meal.

Race morning:  We met at the bus pick up wearing our Goodwill clothing.  Everyone laughed at Kim as he resembled a flasher with his trench coat.  After we arrived, we were directed to go through security.  The line that early was pretty reasonable, but we heard after that it was quite long the later you arrived.   The wind had already started to pick up.  I looked around and there were a few runners wearing shorts!   They looked at me the same as I looked at them “what the hell is wrong with this person”.

We found the warming tent and claimed our corner. The wind progressively started to get worse as the walls of the tent started to swell.  Around 6:30 Hur-shiu and I headed to bag check leaving Kim, Jola, and Omayra.  I figured that it would be easy to just drop the bags and leave.  This year, they provided wrist bands.  One for your bag and wrist with matching numbers.  Each volunteer explained the instructions in detail.  The lines to drop off the bags were worse than the port-o-lets!  The volunteer put my wrist band on and told me that it wasn’t a problem that I was dropping off Kim’s without him.  “His bag will be with yours”.  I asked for a wrist band for his and she gave it to me but told me that he really didn’t need it. As I walked away, I spotted Karthikeyan and we both took off running because now it was only minutes before the start.  I reached into my green parka to give Kim his wrist band, only to find that it must have flown away.  I wasn’t concerned since the volunteer mentioned it wasn’t necessary for his bag.

The Start: Kim and I had a different assigned corral than the rest of our Philly crew and wanted to stay with them, so we moved to their corral which started a good ½ hour later.  We took photos with our Goodwill clothing. As it was getting closer for our corral to start, I took off my sweatpants and wrapped my heat shield around my waist to keep my legs warm.  We started to move up to the start line.  Kim and I decided to look for something to wear for the first few miles to keep warm after we ditched our heavy jackets.  We both found jackets and we thanked each other for our new Christmas presents.    Bart Yasso was speaking to runners giving advice on running in the cold.  He said “the temperature is like the Antarctica Marathon but about 30 degrees warmer.  Hur-shiu said “but I didn’t sign up for Antarctica marathon, I signed up for Philly!”

The race:  Finally, it was our turn to start running.  The wind was so cold in my face that I pulled up my face buff up to cover up to my mouth.  My hands and feet were freezing!  I couldn’t feel my little piggy that went to market!  Even my new running gloves weren’t working with the hand warmers in them.  As we ran through the city streets, there were moments where the wind died.  I was going to ditch my Christmas jacket only to turn the corner and get blasted in the face with another wave of artic air.  Each time there was a wind gust I could hear runners behind me gasping.  That chill went right though my bones and took my breath away.  I would put my head down and power through.  In some areas over the bridges the wind would actually push you.  I said to Kim “Thank God Colleen’s not running”! 

There were tables setup at fraternity houses in the college section handing out beer.  Some runners were actually drinking!  I must have forgotten some of these hills from last year or maybe it wasn’t so bad without the wind.  It seemed like every incline the wind would pick up and I would have to put my head down and power up the hill.  There is a section that is up a steep incline and then and out and back on a smaller bike path before you run back down.  On the way down I felt a tail wind like someone was pushing me.  It was quite marvelous.  I could hear from behind, Kim saying “Sorry” to a runner that he accidentally bumped into.  When the wind gust ended it, he drifted into that runner.  The guy must have given him some nasty words.  I could hear his running partner yell “Apparently some runners think they are going to win the race”.  I heard Kim apologize again and say “hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to bump you”.  I felt bad for him.  I said, “they are just angry Elf’s Kim”. 

We got to see Emily and Jeannie on the way back too which was such a treat!  We looked for Karthikeyan but never saw him.  He had been running so strong in the training runs that we both knew he would be having a great race. 

When we crossed the bridge over the Schuylkill river I looked down and I could see the runners and thought, it’s going to be cold near the water.  I also noticed that these were the hills that I must have forgotten about.  They weren’t steep hills but just a gradual inclined with a few bumps in between.  I looked at the earlier waves of runners coming back on the other side.  Then I saw their mile marker “Mile 23”.   The mile marker on my side was only “Mile 17”.  I did the math in my head and thought “holy crap, I have 6 miles before I get to the other side”. 

I just kept chugging along with the beat of a Destiny’s Child song playing over and over that I heard at the water stop.  Then again, more wind that gusted by the water making little tornados of leaves.  I felt the cold go right through me.  Thank God I had my new Christmas jacket!  I was finally approaching Manayunk when I remembered how much I loved this part of the course.  It has a small town feel with so much crowd support on both sides of the street. This area has a long uphill until the turnaround at mile 20.  Then a nice downhill on the way back.  I was in the zone spacing out when I hit an unexpected speed bump that buckled my knees that I felt through my body setting me up for a fall.  I felt myself going down with flailing my arms and somehow was able to recover.  The muscles in my legs were so tight that it felt like I ripped them during the recovering period. I could hear people gasp behind me!  I pulled myself together and started to run slowly hoping I was okay.  Thank God I didn’t fall because I don’t think I would have been able to keep going. 

Finally, I approached mile marker 23 and I knew that I was going to finish!  People were screaming “You got this”, “You’re so close”.  But those last miles of any marathon never seem to be so close to the finish! 

I never looked at my watch during this race.  I did however feel it buzz for each mile.  Unfortunately, the mile markers were about a half mile off which made me realize that all the weaving I did added extra miles.  I set out with a plan to run this marathon where I felt comfortable with hopes to just to get the “love for running” back.  I didn’t want to push myself or “race it”.  I never experienced the horrible pain in my back like I did during NYC and thank God, no chest pains.  There weren’t ever any feelings like I would never finish.  I only had feelings of numbness because I was freezing!

The finish:  As soon as I finished, I grabbed a heat shield which seemed to do nothing.  I never took off any of my throw away items.  I knew there would be no finish line photos because my bib was never exposed.  I really didn’t care because I was so bundled up, I would not be recognized!

Remember how I mentioned the volunteer said we’d have no problem getting Kim’s gear bag?  Well, it took about 15 minutes for them to find it.  NIGHTMARE.  I hope people complain that this new method was not ideal, and they go back to the old way of just checking the bag number that matches the bib.

I finished just shy of 4 hours which to me was fantastic.  My only goal was to finish and not hate the marathon.  I never had any dark moments on the course.

 “The marathon will humble you. But the truth is, sometimes it will do more than humble you. Sometimes it will break your heart.”  -- Bill Rogers.

I have thought of this quote so many times after I ran NYC. The feeling of defeat I had will never go away but will be a constant reminder to respect the distance and the difficulty it has on our bodies. I learned to never take for granted a finish time. That it doesn’t always come easy even after a solid training cycle.  I am so grateful that I finished Philadelphia with a decent time and that I have that BQ next to my name. 

Would I run this race again? I don’t think so, even with the enticing suggestions like “I’ll bring snacks if you sign up”.  I sat next a man on the shuttle bus on the way back to the hotel and was complaining how cold my hand felt and he said, “Haven’t you run this race before”? and I replied “yes, last year”.  He said, that was the only year he ran where the temperatures were perfect. He continued “I’ve run this race in the snow and rain.  I've even run it with snow drifts on the side of the road".  He keeps coming back year after year to continue to run it. I asked him if he was local, and he said "no, I'm from  Anchorage".  Go figure.

To my new “Philly Kool Kids”, I am so proud of all of you.  This race was one of the toughest I've run with brutal weather conditions, but you all finished!  These are the races that will get you stronger, both mentally and physically and also give you the bragging rights “hell yeah, I ran that marathon”.  You are "Tough as Nails".  I can’t wait to see where you run next because I’m sure this experience has made you unstoppable.

Congratulations to Emily, Jeannie on your second, and Omayra on your third toughest marathon.  Your dedication, drive and perseverance is indescribable.  Also, a big congratulations to Jola for pushing though.  She experienced the same heat as we did in NYC when she ran Berlin 2021.  She’s one tough woman and my hero. Congratulations to Hur-shiu who had been dreading running in the wind and cold and still powered though. I also want to congratulate Karthikeyan who PR’d in Philly which is just amazing considering the weather.