I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run for the first time in 2006. It was the first I'd ever heard of the race, and I was running with my friend Chima. I really wasn't a fan of the city, but my view started to change a little after the race. It was a perfect race morning and a very well run event. Chima, who probably hadn't run more than 8 miles in the last 7 years, was in the zone, and we ticked off 6:48s like it was our job until mile 9, when the course goes over a bridge and makes its way ever-so-slightly back uphill to the finish.
The following year, 2007, I decided this would be the perfect fall half marathon. The timing is great, and I doubt you can find any faster half marathon outside of VA Beach. Our squad rallied a sizeable group for last year's event and we were again treated to great weather. Unfortunately for me, I was dealing with a pretty serious piriformis/sciatic issue, and after 6 miles at 6min pace, I was reduced to a crawl. I finished, in severe pain, at 1:35. At the time I thought there was no way I could ever run any slower, but thanks to a few half Ironman events this summer, I was proven wrong.
This year I was determined to make this race great. I figured I would be in awesome shape, and could use my time to help me get an idea of what my pace might be like at NYC. Of course the last few weeks have been less than perfect, and between my meniscus thing and the bike crash from last week, I was hurting going into the event. I wasn't going to let it stop me, though, as we had a huge group going up for the race this year. I did have to scale back my original goal of 1:16:xx, but I was looking for better than 6min pace still if I could handle it.
The whole weekend was actually a blur. Starting with Friday, my 27th birthday, Arjun, Brennan, Melissa and I made our way up to New York on a gorgeous day to see one of the last games to be played at Yankees Stadium. The Orioles lost, but we had a good time, and made it back to my parents' in New Jersey a little after 1am. After a few hours of sleep we headed down to the University of Delaware for my sister's xc meet. Another unbelievably nice day out, we were feeling good about Sunday morning. We made it into Philly in the afternoon and got our pre-race stuff taken care of, before making our way to dinner.
I didn't sleep well Saturday night, could have been the 8000 calorie Eskimo Pie I ate just prior to trying to fall asleep, or that our hotel room felt like "sub-Saharan Egypt," but either way we woke up at 6:15 and got ready for the race. I felt pretty good and the temperature was amazing. It was probably 60 degrees when we went outside and it felt awesome. Our hotel was about a mile from the start, so it was an ideal warmup. We found the rest of our posse and a few of us tried to start as close to each other as we could.
This is a big race; all told there were 13,181 finishers. Corral 1 is where most of us were situated, but we were decently far back (about 9 seconds to cross the start). Ahead of us were many people who knew they should not have been there. I am fine with being pushed/pushing, but if you're slower, get out of the faster runners' way. I pushed an old man, unintentionally, and he mouthed off to me. I suggested to him that he not start so far up. Then I almost knocked over a girl with headphones. Why the fuck do you need to wear headphones in a race with 15,000 people? Or any race for that matter? Just go run 13.1 miles on a treadmill you lazy bitch.
After a half mile the road opened up a little, enough that we were spaced better. Ryan O, Arjun and I were all together when Ben flew past us. Don't know how he ended up behind us, but whatever. Arjun tried to go with him, and we passed the first mile in 5:46. Faster than last year by a few seconds, and felt comfortable. Ryan and I stuck together and hit mile 2 in 5:42, then the curvy mile 3 in 5:52. Through 5k we were at 17:55. I noticed Arjun again just ahead (5k: 17:45) so I wanted to bridge to him. I worked well through mile 4, which is back onto Ben Franklin Parkway (5:49) and down onto Schuylkill River Drive. Me and another dude were running together when we hit passed mile 5 in 5:00. Obviously incorrect. I noticed the hash mark for actual mile 5 (5:47) on the ground, and just after that I caught up to Arjun. He said something to me, took off and I could not keep up. Hit mile 6 in 5:53.
I come through 10k in 36:09, which is the fastest 10k I've run all year. One thing I'm never afraid to do is go out hard, which doesn't always pay the best dividends, but I feel like it puts me in the best position to have the race I'd like to have. If I were to have gone out a little slower, sure, I may finish faster than I ultimately finished yesterday, but how are you going to hit your goals if you don't put yourself out there?
With that nice lead-in, you can imagine where the story's headed. Miles 6-9 are basically flat and straight on the River Drive. Very nice scenery, but it's a boring part of the course. There aren't many people around you, and there's not much going on. You can also see the whole race ahead of you. And for me, it's where I typically fall apart. Miles 7 and 8 weren't terrible, but I certainly wasn't pleased clocking 6+ min miles (6:01, 6:04). At that point, you're getting slower and there's very little you can do to speed up. It wasn't so much an issue with aerobics, as I am fit enough for the pace, but my body just felt so broken. My left hip still hurts really bad from my fall, and it was causing my stride to be herky-jerky. I had been feeling my knee most of the run, but it was staying consistent so I wasn't too worried. I finally made it over the bridge (6:07) where I hoped the energy from having 4 to go would help me out, but it didn't. Mile 10 was a dismal 6:11 (10mi = 59:18).
You look at the race now as a 5k. A 5k in which you are running very, very slow. My 10 mile times from this year have been 59:59 (Austin 1/2, finished at 1:19:36), 59:25 (Club Challenge) and 58:12 (Broad Street). I had originally hoped to pass 10 today in my Broad Street time and keep going. Instead I was about :41 faster than my Austin split and finished with about the same last 5k. I was struggling, and fell to 6:18 for miles 11 and 12. I knew under 1:18 was out, but wanted to be sure I was under 1:19. I managed a 6:13 last mile and :36 last .1 to finish up at 1:18:42. A personal best on the day is never a bad thing, but it does sting when you expect your body is capable of just a little bit better.
As it were, everyone raced tremendously well. I really love the Philly courses, you can run phast in Philly. Arjun wound up at 1:16:50, putting nearly 2min into me over the 2nd half. We had great weather (71 avg according to my watch) with sunshine, cool air and little breeze. Our friends from Howard County and Georgetown also had some great races, so it's always nice to see our local guys do well. Next year the date of the race is September 20th, so the day after my birthday. I tell myself to do some other races, but I will probably keep coming back until I get it "right." This race has great potential and if I'm ever going to run fast, it will be here.
Overall I was pleased with the outing. With the little things I've had going on, I wasn't really sure how the day was going to go. I feel like it could have gone horribly wrong. I actually don't think it could have gone a whole lot better, so I'll take it. I was glad to be in one piece at the finish line. I do realize I have my work cut out for me though at NYC, and will likely need to adjust my goals here to be more realistic, as I would prefer to not have a finish like I did at PDR. I actually think somewhere between 6:10 and 6:15 is manageable for 18 miles, and as long as I don't go bankrupt I should be good to average 6:20 pace. 2hr45min is 6:18 I believe so that might still be a shot.
We left Philly after the race, all in all satisfied, and headed to our favorite post-Philly race spot (in Newark, DE): Deer Park Tavern. My little sister met us for a minute, a few people indulged in Bloody Marys, and we headed back. It was a busy little weekend, and there's another one coming up. I need to get back on track this week with the bike, I haven't been riding much in the last couple of weeks. I am pretty sure my tri season is over, but I don't want to lose too much. I was also mildly sad that I had to miss the 2nd Annual Endless Summer Tri in LBI, due to Philly.