Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Philadelphia Marathon 2008 (Pictures)

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November 22nd, 2008 for some unknown reason I am going to attempt to run 26.2 miles, the Philadelphia Marathon. I plan to document the run with words and pictures. So why am I doing this run? When I arrived in Botswana I made the decision I was going to immerse myself in African and Botswana culture. Sports are big in Botswana, with football (soccer) being a huge national sport, unfortunately for me I have NO hand eye coordination in this case foot eye coordination. So football was out for me. Then it hit me, marathon running, almost always Kenyans win all the big marathons, though I am not living in Kenya, Kenya is in Africa. (Story continued below pictures, map of marathon course at bottom of post)

I had been training all summer for this race, and then the race sold out so I was going to pass on running, Margarite had signed up for the marathon and then got a stress facture so I am in, running with her number.

A few weeks before the race I got contacted by this guy named Shrek, he had been reading LifeOfDUG and saw I was planning on running the Philadelphia Marathon. Shrek has a running club and most of the members were going to be running the Philadelphia Marathon, the name of his running club is Full Moon Running Club (FMRC). The name for the club was developed because this group of runners runs at 5:00 am the only time they can see where they are running is when there is a full moon. Shrek contacted me to see if I wanted to run with his members. Anybody that knows anything about running a marathon knows it is always more fun to run as a group then alone. So of course I said yes. I also offered to host a pre-race pasta dinner for carbohydrate loading. Fortunately I still have some friends in the U.S. and was able to borrow a house to host the party, which was a great success.

Race day, the plan was to meet at 5:30 am, the list of runners was, Shrek, Mike, Naomi, David, Heather, Michael, Lou, Ted, and James. Lou, Ted, and James were not part of the FMRC, just folks that somehow tagged along. The temputure when we awoke was 24 degrees. Perfect running weather, especially if you are from Botswana which has an average year round temputure of about 70 degrees. Once down in Philadelphia we all grouped up at the Sheraton Hotel, for a couple of reasons. It was warm and it was close to the start. Thanks to Mike, great idea. We had several spectators with us, Kelli, Mike’s wife, Margarite, Gary a childhood friend of mine, Bill and Liz, James’s parents, Dan, Naomi’s husband. The spectators were going to be placed strategically around the course so that they could hand us water and fuel if we needed it, and could take any extra clothes we had if it got warm, or we got warm from running. We had Greg showing up a little later with Nathan, Greg is Heather’s husband and Nathan is their son. The race started at 7:00 am, at 6:45 we headed to the start it was now warming up and around 28 degrees. Once at the start the temputure was fine, 18,000 people all squeezed together generates a lot of heat. We lined up with the 3 hour and 50 minute folks. Naomi was the only runner in our group with a real goal and that was to break 3 hours and 50 minutes. For both Ted and Michael it was their first Marathon and they just wanted to finish. Mike had been sick for about 6 weeks prior to the race, so I was worried about him finishing, Shrek had developed a bone spur of some sort on his foot 3 weeks before the race so he would be running with a good deal or pain. I had never done a marathon before without walking part of it, so my goal was to run all 26.2 miles, no stopping and no walking.

I had borrowed a small camera from Mobe as mine is a little big to run with. I really wanted to document the race for folks that do not do marathons so they can see the excitement and thrill of running 26.2 miles, as well as the type of people that run, all types.

The start was very interesting, I had never seen a start like this, first the wheelchair racers went off, this is normal, as the wheelchairs are much faster then the runners, yes people push a wheel chair 26.2 miles, and do it faster then the fastest runner can. Next the elite runners went, these are the runners that are ranked, this is also normal, and allows for them not to get hurt by the crowds that will follow. After the elites it is normal to then let the rest of the runners go. At some marathons they have multiple starts, for example in the New York Marathon they have 3 separate courses for the start, and then at mile 8 all three courses merge together, this allows the runners to spread out. Some marathons have a wave start, for example the Marine Corp Marathon has 2 starts, 15 minutes apart. They both follow the same course they try to put the slower runners in the second start. Both the New York Marathon and the Marine Corp Marathon have over 40,000 people running. What happened this year at the Philadelphia Marathon was they did a wave start but on the fly. They would let a few thousand people go and then hold everybody up and then let more people go, and then stop again, until all 18,000 people were out on the course. This seemed to work very well as the race starts on the Ben Franklin Parkway but quickly hits the narrow streets of center city and old town, by slowly letting people start the race the city streets do not become a dangerous bottle neck for the runners.

At about 7:15 am we crossed the start line, the Full Moon Running Club was off. We stuck together for the first mile and had a split of 8:48 which was right on pace for a 3 hour 50 minute marathon. There was just one issue, I carry a GPS watch and it showed we hit one mile about a quarter of a mile short of the posted one mile marker. If my watch was correct we were ahead of pace. At that point Michael fell back a little which was the right thing to do, this was his first marathon and he needed to treat it as such and not burn out. Shortly after he dropped back so did Ted. At mile 2 we had our first pit stop Margarite, Gary, Bill and Liz had water for us and was ready to take any extra clothes we had. It had almost warmed up to 30 degrees but we all opted to keep all our clothes on. Our split for mile 2 was 8:23, for this mile my watch hit right on at 1 mile, I am sure that first mile was long. At mile 3 Shrek, Lou and Mike stopped to pee. This always cracks me up in marathons many people will have to use the bathroom, most women get mad at the men, as the men will find any tree, wall or even open space whip out there manly-hood and pee. Any women around will simple say, “That is so unfair”.

We had not seen James since the start and assumed he was ahead of us. David was doing the Philadelphia Half Marathon and we were sure he was far ahead of us. The race mentally seemed to be going fast, about mile 4 we were all warming up, we had lost Mike and Shrek, so it was Lou, Naomi, Heather and I. Heather had a throw away sweatshirt on and got rid of that, unfortunately as she threw it another runner was passing and thought the shirt fell out of the sky as she caught it in her arms. A quick explanation and all was good. Mile 3 and 4 had splits of 8:17 and 8:24 receptively my heart rate was about 160 beats per minute, very comfortable. Each mile we were building a lead over our 3 hour and 50 minute goal. We lost Lou at mile 5 we thought he fell behind but he actually got a head of us. At 5.5 miles we found Margarite, Gary, Liz and Bill, picked up some water and I got rid of a shirt, still had 2 shirts on. At mile 6 we saw Dan, Naomi picked up more water and got rid of her gloves. This was a calculated risk, though at this point it was almost warm 32 degrees, the buildings of the city were blocking any wind, who knew how cold our hands might get if the wind starts blowing. As we headed west out of center city towards west Philadelphia and the zoo, we held our pace and the race seem to be somewhat easy for all of us. It was now just Heather, Naomi and I. There was no mile marker for mile 7 so psychologically that messed with a lot of runner’s heads. Having my watch I knew we had passed 7 miles. At mile 10 we hit our first hill and had to slow a little. Mile 5 though 10 had splits of 8:48 8:29 8:16 8:37 8:23 8:44 we did slow a little at mile 5 to pick up some water. After the hill at mile 10 we called Dan so he would be ready to re-supply us, he would be waiting at mile 12.

The Marathon nightmare hit me at mile 10, I had to pooh in the worst possible way. Why is this a nightmare? Normally when you get this type of attack there is not a porta-john in site, also every time my foot hit the ground my sphincter muscle had to work harder then it ever had before. I thought about my hiking trip in the Grand Teton Mountains where I went 3 days without poohing and I was able to get the urge to pass.

At mile 11 we started strategizing on when to start our kick, now you might think this strange, almost half way through the race and we are feeling great. One issue with a marathon is you want to make sure you do not run out of gas, but at the same time you want nothing left in your tank when you cross the finish line. To accomplish this you need to accurately decided on when to pick the pace up, and how much to pick it up by. We decided we would see how we felt at 15 miles and then decide. We had one more hill, Lemon Hill and that was at about 15 miles. I had been taking picture all along the route and trying to get all the mile markers at mile 14 the batteries went dead. Mobe had given me two batteries, but I had no idea I would need them both, so no more pictures after 14 miles.

At mile 13 the course split the half marathon folks split off and finished, and the marathon folks headed west toward Manayunk. At mile 15 we picked up Jen another member of the FMRC she was not running the Marathon and she had done the Marine Corp Marathon a few weeks before she was just hanging with us to keep us company. We hit Manyunk at mile 19. We had slowed a little with mile 11 though 19 having splits of 8:20 8:26 8:51 8:28 8:55 8:44 8:51 8:37 8:45 my heart rate was still staying around 160 beats per minute which I was very happy with. The 3:50 pace group started gaining on us around mile 18, they had about a 2 minute lead on us, from the wave start, so I knew we were still ahead of pace, but it was getting to close for comfort. We picked up drinks from Dan and Greg at mile 18 and we also picked up the pace. I was feeling the miles at this point and had a little concern if I would make my goal of not walking. I starting to think back to my trip in France and my bike ride up Mont Ventoux I knew if was able to make that ride I could easily finish this run.

At mile 20 Naomi took off not sure what got into her, but the extra speed was just what I needed, stretching out my legs made me feel so much better, at mile 21 I knew I would finish without walking, now I had to make sure we all finished strong. Jen would get water from Margarite and Dan and bring it to us. This was a huge help and allowed us to skip all the water stops. At below 32 degrees waters stops are more like ice skating rinks as most of the water ends up on the ground and freezes we saw several people go down and go down hard. Mile 20 through 24 had splits of 8:36 8:20 8:33 8:24 8:35. At this point people were dropping, with the cold temperatures many that did not dress correctly were getting hyperthermia and other were not hydrating enough and were getting dehydrated. At mile 24 I realized Heather could qualify for The Boston Marathon, by running a 3 hour 45 minute Philadelphia Marathon. The only problem, we would have to run the last 2.2 miles at a pace faster then we had run any of our other miles, but not a pace faster then Heather could run. I started yelling at Naomi and Heather to pick it up. Not sure if it would make them go faster or just want to kill me, but I figure if it made them want to kill me they would have to catch me which would get them to run faster. We ran our last two miles at a pace of 8:42 and 8:20 our last mile was tied for our second fastest mile. At the end of the race we finished with a time of 3 hours 47 minutes, we beat Heather and Naomi’s goal of 3 hours and 50 minutes and we beat my goal of not walking. My watch said 26.55 miles rather then 26.2 miles, I trust my watch and feel we ran an extra .35 miles which is about 2.5 minutes at the pace we were running. We were all very happy with our times.

The plan was to meet at the family meeting place under the letter F for Full Moon Running Club. Lou had finished ahead of us with a time of 3 hours and 42 minutes. James had not felt good and bailed at the half marathon finish. David entered the half marathon and finished with a great time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

Official Results Full Moon Running Club
Naomi 3:47:24
Heather 3:47:30
Shrek 4:25:27
Mike 4:35:07
Michael 4:35:52

Half Marathon
David 1:38:35

Lastly we had one big hiccup after the race we all meet at the “F” family meeting area, Gary was no where to be found, we kept calling his cell phone with no luck. Finally we got a call from the Philadelphia police Gary had tried to get to the finish line to congratulate us, as he passed through a section only allowed for the press, Gary got nasty with the police and they arrested him. They asked if we wanted to bail him out and we politely refused.

We all agreed this was one of the best marathons we had run, mostly because of the company.

Off to South Beach, Miami, Florida, for some sun and fun and then back to Botswana.


DUG (map of course below)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Outstanding race report!

I only wish I had done the Shrek and the FMRC a bit prouder. I'll have to be satisfied with "finishing" this year. Thanks for a great pre-race meal/get-together but most of all for your (and Mararite's) support and assistance during the training... even if a lot of it was delivered remotely from Botswana.

There's always next year for me... Hoping you'll be in the States for Philly Marathon 2009.

Hey - what about Broad Street '09!?