Obsessive Runner The Philadelphia Marathon: Great race, tough course, awesome fans

The Philadelphia Marathon: Great race, tough course, awesome fans


Marathon number three is in the bag and I did it Philly style. I took a risk by trying some compression gear for the first time this race and I was able to run cramp-free and enjoy the hospitable ambience provided by many Philadelphians. I didn’t run fast today, but I did run fun and was able to finish without a hobble. Here’s a recap of the day and I’ll also share some of my favourite spectator signs I saw along the way.

It was a chilly morning as my brother and I trekked over to the start area near the Museum of Art. We arrived an hour ahead of race start and were able to check-in our bags, make a pit stop and get to our respective start corrals in time. The race started on time and we were treated to an epic panoramic view of more than 100 international flags which flank the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

“Welcome NYC”

One of the more memorable sites I’ll take away from this race is the presence of the New York Marathoners. Many were out in their orange race shirts and they had two special corrals dedicated for them. I just loved the way that Philly has gone out of its way to accommodate these displaced runners.

“Where are you all going?”

The first half of the race is a beautiful tour of Philadelphia’s neighbourhoods and landmarks. We weaved through Chinatown, South Street, Independence Hall, University City and the Philadelphia Zoo. What I was most impressed with was the fan support of the Philadelphians. They were out 3-4 people deep on the sidelines and I was cheered on by name many, many times.

“Your tights make your butt look faster”

I ran the first half pretty much according to my desired pace and hit it just over 1:45 on target for a 3:30ish finish. But the first half is the easy part – now I had to stay focused if I wanted to hit my goal. The second half of the course is mostly a winding tour of Fairmount Park along the Schuylkill River. The fall colours were still out and the river provides a serene view for us runners to enjoy. Although it’s scenic, this part of the run felt like, well, a run. Crowd support was sparse during this portion and my wheels were starting to come off as I saw how we kept on going downhill knowing that I would have to climb back up towards the finish.

“That’s a long way to go for a free shirt”

When I run, I find that I primarily have two speeds: fast and meandering. The first half of the race I was right on pace and enjoying the euphoria of crowd support. The second half I had lost focused and came to grips with my undertraining and inevitably relented to be content with just enjoying the race.

“Don’t poop out of the race”

There were, however, some memorable moments in the second half. The crowds at Main Street were plentiful, loud, and enthusiastic to help runners power through “the wall.” At one point of the race, people were shouting “Jesus! Jesus!” and I saw a bearded man with long hair, a white robe and a coloured sash pass by me. I knew the Lord was with me on this race!

“Why 26.2? Because 26.3 would be CRAZY!”

As I would normally expect with any race, the crowds started to build up more and more towards the finish line. Again, the Philadelphians did not disappoint as they shouted out cheers to encourage a strong finish. At the finish line, Philadelphia’s Mayor, Michael Nutter was giving high-fives to all the runners. His goal is to high-five at least 20,000 runners today – how cool is that? Definitely a great way to finish a race.

The post-race setup was well organized and efficient. I received a heat foil to keep me warm, got my medal and quickly headed over to get refueled with some food. There was Gatorade, juice, water, bananas, energy bars, and my favourite, chicken broth!

So although I didn’t finish as fast I would have like to have (I ended up with a 3:55), I really did enjoy Philadelphia living up to its namesake as the “city of brotherly love.” As I was limping back to the apartment I was staying at, an older lady stopped me and with eyes wide open looked at my medal and asked “Did you win something?” I responded, “Well, I just finished the marathon and everyone gets a medal.” to which she replied with pride, “Well good for you! Congratulations!” Thank you ma’am, I’ll take it.

Appreciating Philly,