Here we are, folks. Nik and I have been training for Philadelphia race weekend for a while now, and it finally came: on Nov. 20 was the Rothman 8K (for me, Dan) and on Nov. 21 was the Philadelphia Marathon (for Nik).
This was my first 8K race. I've run longer distances, obviously, but since my New Jersey Half-Marathon 3-hour plod in May I've been focusing on doing short runs faster. I've been running since -- what, 2006? I can't remember, so someone tell me. And since then I feel like I hadn't made any really great gains. So I got myself a copy of Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas' "Road Racing for Serious Runners" and did some of Uncle Pfitzy's speedwork-intensive plans. My goal when I registered for the 8K was an 11-minute mile, or 54:40. At the time, I was still running 12-minute miles with rare dips in the 11s and even rarer dips in the low 10s. By the time the race came around a few months later, 11-minute miles were typical, 10s were common, and even 9s were not unheard-of. Uncle Pfitzy can be a harsh master, but he gets results.
The race started in front of the art museum, same place as the marathon the next day. There were about 1,600 people, so it was a decent-sized race, slightly chilly weather -- which I prefer. I fueled up properly the night before and that morning. I settled somewhere in the mid-pack (that's a big step for me, since I usually hang out in the back with the elderly and infirm) and, when the race started, I trotted past the mayor and gave him a high-five. I even met longtime podcast listener Bill Dowis, who was surprised I recognized him. He's a fantastic, friendly guy with a luxurious beard.
Nik recorded some video of me crossing the finish. Check it out above.
The race was great: I took it easy the first mile to get through the crowds of other runners, and, once they got tired (a lot of people seem to flame out after the first mile where I am), I settled into a pace of just around 10:00 and hovered around there the rest of the way. It felt very strange, being at a pace where I pass people who are clearly in better shape (and better-looking) than I am. I'm not used to being in an area of the running crowd where I'm not in danger of the water stops closing and being followed by the police escort. It's weird.
I got an automatic PR, of course, since I've never raced this distance before -- but more importantly I beat my goal time by more than 4 minutes: 50:36. That's even much faster than my 5-mile PR, and 8K is just under that, at 4.97 miles. Read more about it on my Daily Mile post.
The next day, we got up early again to head back toward the art museum for Nik's Philly Marathon. This is her 3rd time running it, and her 7th marathon overall (although I don't think that counts that bad-ass time she ran a marathon all by herself at home, so that would be 8).
Nik has not been too confident in her training lately. She's just felt a little tired of running long distances all the time, so she's been doing Crossfit a few times a week to break it up. And when you're busy with other things in your life, like work and family, it's hard to feel OK carving out 3 hours to go run. Nik's a very schedule-oriented person, so when she misses a few runs she worries that the whole thing has gone down the tubes.
I was confident she'd do great, though. She's fit like you wouldn't believe. Strong like bull! Don't get into an arm-wrestling match with her unless you want to get humbled. Anyway, I was predicting she'd get a little PR, and she was just hoping to get through the race so she wouldn't have the pressure of it hanging over her. She didn't get to high-five the mayor at the start line. But I did, and then later I high-fived Nik, so in a sense she high-fived him second-hand (no pun intended).
After she took off, I got a coffee and tried to spectate on the corner of 16th and Chestnut streets, maybe about 6 miles from the start. If you've run Philly before lately (either the full or the half), you know Chestnut Street is a great stretch of downtown Philly with tons of shops and spectators about 3 or 4 deep on either side. There's hooting and cheering the whole way, and most people hand out high-fives and snacks. I tried looking for Nik here but didn't get to see her. I later checked out the online tracking on the Philly Marathon website and saw that the clock had her running a 1:22 at the 10K mark, over a 13-minute mile. I got worried for a second, like I do at every marathon, hoping she wasn't in trouble. But I quickly realized that the tracking was counting the 20-some minutes it took her to cross the start line, and if you subtracted that then she'd be in the 9:30 minute-mile range, which is just where she should be.
I got some footage of her crossing the finish too -- or, actually, getting near the finish. I couldn't get the whole thing because some guy's head was in the way. That's to be expected when there are 23,000 people just running, never mind spectators.
Her underconfidence be damned -- she got another PR of 4:10:37, about 10 minutes under her previous time. She ran well, with a series of little hills and inclines from 17-22 that bugged her more than stifled her progress. She got a little bit tired at 24, but got her second (or third or fourth) wind at 25 and kicked it in from there to the end. This puts her well within loogie-hawking-distance of a sub-4 marathon. Read more on her Daily Mile post.
Some other little notes and observations:
- The expo? Fun stuff was pretty thin on the ground. Some decent T-shirts and the usual mix of good stuff (bargains on sneakers) and bad stuff (bullshit "Power Balance" bracelets, which be warned, every time you spend good money on one of those things a kitten dies)
- Somebody dressed up the Rocky Balboa statue outside the art museum
- Lots of Philadelphia-themed music played at race time, but again, no "Jungle Love"
- I cooked our meals in the hotel's kitchenette and didn't almost burn the joint down, unlike last year
- The swag bag was pretty lousy, except for a free $500 gift card on Red Star sunglasses. We were flabbergasted about this deal and obsessed with finding some kind of catch, and then we found the fine print and realized you have to pay a "service charge" on the list price of the merch. It might still actually be somewhat of a good deal, not sure yet. We'll keep you updated.
- They must've given out 50 million free packets of Vaseline lotion in and around the marathon and expo. Lots of smooth elbows in Philadelphia that weekend (and other things).
- While Nik was waiting in the corral to start running, I was just outside the barrier and chatting away to her. Some klutz came walking by, bumped the 15-foot metal pole that held a large purple-corral flag on it, and sent the pole toppling down on my head. Nik partially broke the fall by grabbing the pole just as it brained me but it still hurt like a mother.