Philadelphia Marathon




For anyone interested in long distance running who has their sights on a marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon may be just the ticket.  I can’t think of a better way to see a city than to go for a nice, long run.  Long, long ago, I was born in Philadelphia. I spent most of my life on the west coast where the sun shines and the warm air is sweetened with Japanese Wisteria and Honeysuckle.  On the east coast, fall happens; colors change, the air cools, the tint of the sky darkens and the crispness swallows up the summer humidity.


Fall means marathon season.  Philadelphia marked my fifth marathon, or about five more marathons than I thought I’d ever run.  Seriously, when my older sister began running marathons I thought she was fruity loops.  When I moved from Seattle to California in 2006, I didn’t have many friends in the area so I decided to spend my free time training for my first sprint distance triathlon.  I wanted to lose that unwelcome ten to fifteen pounds that had taken up residence in my belly.  Back fat – it’s not just for breakfast anymore!  After about nine months of swimming, biking and running, I focused on my strength and embraced my life long passion for running.  I credit my older sister and high school coach for sending me out to run when I was growing up.  In my early twenties, I lived on a small Aleutian Island with little to do besides work and get into trouble. I wanted to learn more about running, explore the island and give myself something to do.  When I headed down to the lower 48 for vacation, I picked up a book that changed my life.

Jeff Galloway is a former Olympic Marathon and elite runner who has written several books, spoken around the world and coached thousands of age group athletes.  Galloway wrote a book in the late 1980′s called, Galloway’s Book on Running ; it was one of a handful of books available at the time.  I bought it way back when and have followed him ever since.  I used Galloway’s run/walk method during the Napa Valley Marathon, the first marathon I entered and I crossed the finish line feeling fresh and ready for more.  The only down side to marathon running?  It can be a solitary activity, a lonesome task at times.  Getting out the door at 5:00 a.m. when it’s rainy and cold can be hard…What makes it easier? People.  Training groups.  A running partner.

I joined a training program with Fleetfeet Sacramento store and it was an amazing experience.  The Fleetfeet group offered great coaching and great running partners in a beautiful running community.  My buddy down the block was the most reliable running partner ever and boy, do I miss her!  Three mornings a week we hit the road together and shared a love of coffee at the end of our runs.

Fast forward to training for the Philadelphia Marathon 2011.  Believe it or not, running in New York City on hot and humid summer days appealed to me more than slogging through the dark and dreary cold winter. It paid off!  My body recovered well after workouts and I appreciated the extended daylight during my evening runs.

I ran several New York Road Runner events during the training program; this allowed me to gauge my fitness and run alongside lots of fast runners.  I really appreciate getting beaten by  both  super fast, elite runners AND everyone else.  Note, we do not run side-by-side.  I see the elites at the finish line.  After they’ve cooled down, showered and had lunch.  Yet another thing about New York I love.


On Friday and Saturday, registered runners picked up bib numbers and goody bags at the race expo held at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  The race expo was crowded with vendors, Clif Bar Pace Teams coaches, and the Runner’s World Coaching booth.  I saw two of my coach heroes signing books,  Bart Yasso and Hal Higdon.  I introduced myself to the Clif Bar pacing team leader, Bill, grabbed my goody bag and headed out the door.  I wanted to conserve my energy and stay off my feet the day before race day.



We stayed in a hotel in the old city neighborhood, a short subway ride and walk from the race start.






On the way,  we passed the Occupy Philadelphia encampment.  It was a cool 40-something race morning, I imagine it was a cool night for the protestors.


The race start had plenty of porta potties, the bag drop off trucks were clearly marked and the PA system worked properly.  If you look closely enough in the photo below, you’ll see the Rocky statue on top of those steps in the distance…

Race organizers assigned runners to color-coded corrals based on estimated race times.  I went into the black colored corral and did not see the pace leader.  This concerned me a bit and then I reminded myself that I had intentionally left my Garmin back at the hotel.  I told myself to relax and not to worry about tracking my pace every mile. If I kept pace with persons in the corral, chances were I would come close to my goal time and if not, I’d slow down and see what happened.  This was liberating!   The first six miles of the course flew by.  This sensation surprises me during long races.  How in the heck do I get so caught up in the moment that six miles seem to come and go without effort?  If only training runs went this quickly!

At mile seven, I saw two bouncing white and red balloons and a small group of runners, a sure sign that I was approaching a pace group.  Have I mentioned how much I appreciated the high number of spectators?  And porta potties?  At mile 9, I managed a quick in and out of the loo and in time caught back up  thanks to the bottlenecks that slowed the group down.   At about mile 10, I became part of the pack.  And so we ran; over the hills, along the river, over bridges, past the free beer (not my favorite smell when slowly ascending), and at mile 17 we headed out to the last turn around spot.  This gave the slower runners a glimpse at the leaders who were bringing it home at mile 22.  Let me just say, they are fast.  Mile 22 is worlds away from mile 17 on a marathon course.  It was inspiring to see them zoom past us and our pacer had us keep a look out for the first female runner.  She passed by in a flash!

Forget the wall, what about cramping?

For a while the pace felt manageable.  In fact, I still had energy in reserve and was tempted to go off the front and leave my pack members behind.  Then I remembered. Nearly all long runs involve rough spots and if I encountered one, the power of the group would help me stick it out.  I fueled properly, drank water from nearly every aid station, took on electrolytes.  Cramping happened.  A nasty bugger right beneath my right rib cage came on at about mile 20.  So not fun.  ”Control your breathing,” I said to myself, and “relax your shoulders…you’ll get through this patch.”

When it didn’t go away at mile 21, I nearly pulled myself from the group, pulled off to the side where I could bend over in relative peace.  I’m not sure if any of you watch Ironman triathlon?  Chris McCormack is a cocky, talented two-time Kona winner who suffered from cramping during the 2009 marathon.  In the post race interview, he discussed his analysis of his performance and cramping issues.  It boiled down to nutrition, electrolytes, fatigue.  He walked during a portion of the run and commented that before he realized it, he was feeling better and the cramping disappeared.  He began to run again.  This thought pushed me past mile 22 and prevented me from becoming unhinged from the pace group.  It was hard.  So hard. By mile 23, my body was ready for more and I realized how relaxed my shoulders were, how rhythmic my turnover was.  The moment had passed.  Yes, running is hard.  Getting past the mental barriers?  Immense.  Rewarding.


If only I had paid closer attention to the finish chute before the race began; I would’ve known what to expect, known how far it was to the end of the race.  It was long-ee! Metal barricades lined the road for the last mile of the run.  This is when the spectators began to root us on by name. If you’ve run with your name on  your race bib and heard people cheer you on by name, you know how special that is.  I don’t care who you are, thank you!  In fact, I hugged the barriers and remained as close as possible to the fans until I had to veer right and cross the last timing mat to get to the finish line.  The energy is contagious!

Unlike previous races, I didn’t stumble, cry, pass out or puke at the finish line. I didn’t go into early stages of hypothermia.  The sun was shining and it was warm – perfect day for a run.  I came in feeling really good, with my head held up and knew I had run my fastest marathon yet.

Then came the old man shuffle and the process of recovery…

A PR? Yes?  Boston worthy? Not this year…

I qualified for 2011 Boston Marathon and was unable to register before the registration closed in a mere eight hours.  A record sell out, said race organizers.  The previous year it took weeks to sell out, but this year was different.  The qualifying standards for the 2013 Boston Marathon changed.

The Boston Marathon is one of the best known marathons in the world.  If you ask a runner which marathon they’d like to run, Boston may top their list. I knew it was a dream for me so when I qualified, I was happy.  Here’s a look at the previous qualifying standards:

2012 Qualifying Times (effective September 25, 2010)

18-34 3hrs 10min 3hrs 40min
35-39 3hrs 15min 3hrs 45min
40-44 3hrs 20min 3hrs 50min
45-49 3hrs 30min 4hrs 00min
50-54 3hrs 35min 4hrs 05min
55-59 3hrs 45min 4hrs 15min
60-64 4hrs 00min 4hrs 30min
65-69 4hrs 15min 4hrs 45min
70-74 4hrs 30min 5hrs 00min
75-79 4hrs 45min 5hrs 15min
80 and over 5hrs 00min 5hrs 30min
* Additional .59 seconds will not be accepted for those submitting an entry from September 12 through September 17.


Changes made in 2013

For the 2013 Boston Marathon, qualifying times are more stringent, and must be run on or after September 24, 2011*. Like the 2012 registration process, the acceptance of official race entrants will be based on qualifying time, with the fastest qualifiers (in relation to their age and gender) being accepted first until the race is full. All qualifying times are subject to review and verification.

2013 Qualifying Times (effective September 24, 2011)

18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec
Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.


I missed the new qualifying standard by 3 minutes and 3 seconds.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of time over the span of 26.2 miles, does it?

Disappointed?  A bit.  Honestly, I wasn’t concerned enough to look at the new qualifying standards before running Philly and I’m happy I didn’t.  I enjoyed my Philadelphia Marathon.  Had I fretted on pace and meeting the new standard without a pace group, I most likely would’ve blown up; if not, the quality of my race would have suffered.

I couldn’t have run an ounce harder on that day and I am so pleased.  The best part?  My sweetie was at the finish line to help me with my hat and coat, who inched along with me off into the sunshine.


Eat at your own risk…  Pat’s cheese steak.



What else? Liberty Bell waffles


Look at New York City Marathon!  I have my sights on you in 2012!



About chacha

I'm a west coast transplant who lives in Brooklyn, NY. I love many outdoor and sporty activities including hiking, biking, running, cycling, walking and exploring New York. We have two dogs, a French Bulldog and a Pug. I enjoy cooking but baking is my passion. I'm no expert but I like to bake for friends and family, and love to try new recipes and bake new things. Thanks for reading!
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