13:22. That’s how many minutes FASTER I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sunday over my previous ½ marathon, which was back in the Spring. And just between you and me, the 13:22 shaved off my time means I set a personal record for speed on Sunday. So congratulations to me!
They call Philadelphia The City of Brotherly Love. I don’t know about the brotherly part except to say my brother is here visiting on his vacation from where he lives kind of far away and he ran the Philadelphia Distance Run yesterday too. So I was in Philadelphia with my brother if that counts. And I think it counts because he volunteered to drive us there in the first place.
Now the love part, I get that. Because having set my personal best ½ marathon time ever in that city, I love Philadelphia now too!!!
But let’s back up a bit, shall we?
It took us a little longer to get to Philly than we had anticipated because somewhere along the way we hit some serious traffic that appeared, like traffic often does, out of nowhere and for no good reason. The closest hint we got for the traffic being so heavy was when we finally, after about an hour, inched our way 15 miles up the road and saw one lone police car at the side of the highway and everyone slowing down to look at it. I guess maybe it was a novelty, like some strange and beautiful bird you might want to watch, or like some sort of dangerous animal you’d creep slowly and silently by, hoping not to attract it’s attention so that it won’t
jump out and attack you write you a ticket.
After we arrived in Philly we debated which to undertake first: should we check into our hotel or go to the race expo to pick up our race packets? We attempted the first and got a little lost, so we settled on the second. The lost part wasn’t our fault though. I attribute it to the map that came in the mail as part of our final set of race instructions. The map showed our hotel on 8th street, only it wasn’t on 8th, it was on 4th street. I suspect that in the interest of space and saving paper, the map maker simply ended the map at 8th street and stuck little hotel dots along the edges to indicate that they were “near” the borders of the page and if only you drove around and around in ever increasing circles you’d eventually find your way and be so relived to have finally done so that you wouldn’t dare complain or blog about it to the world.
And yet, I also suspect the map maker didn’t attend all of his requisite cartography courses during college because a little thing called scale would have helped immensely and also, the map maker didn’t count on a geographer (ahem, that’s me) trying to follow the
map worthless piece of paper.
Now, in case you aren’t a runner or a person who likes to hang out at race expos, I’ll tell you that the expos are place where you go the day or two before the actual race to pick up your race packet which includes your race bib (no it’s not a bib for eating, it’s simply a sheet with a number on it that you pin to your shirt so they can identify you as runner number some-thetty-something), your timing chip, your free race t-shirt, and other goodies. Then there are vendors who set up booths to try and sell you stuff: running shoes and shorts, socks, energy bars, hats, sunglasses, key chains, spinal adjustments, muscle creams, etc… You get lots of free handouts from the vendors too, like band aids and safety pins, notepads and tote bags, packs of oatmeal, and energy drinks.
I enjoy wandering around the expos and collecting all the free goodies and then parting with some of my money when I see something I really need. Like the pink running shirt I bought that says, on the front: This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago, and on the back: Race Official, Do Not Pass. It’s a lovely shirt but none of the other racers seemed to heed the warning on the back because plenty of them were passing me right on by during the actual event on Sunday. Personally, I think they just didn’t know how to read.
After we collected our race packets and parted with some hard earned cash at the expo, my brother and I waited in line to check into our hotel. While there we witnessed a hotel employee standing guard over an adolescent boy in a wet t-shirt and wet shorts and the hotel employee was saying something to the boy’s mother about two chairs and a life preserver. I was enthralled by the scene but before I could learn any more I was called to the front desk to get my room key.
My hotel room had 3 pillows on the bed and a small card with “pillow menu” printed on it, describing the varieties of pillow firmness that were available depending on how you liked to sleep: on your side, on your back, or even both ways, like a flopping fish. I played Goldilocks and tried all three pillows before picking my favorite and falling into a deep slumber.
And then it happened. I had a nightmare! I woke with a start at 4:00 a.m., having dreamt that we had already run the ½ marathon but that I hadn’t gotten my finisher’s medal because they weren’t giving them to you for crossing the finish line. Rather, I dreamt they were passing them out down a dark alley near the entrance to a different hotel. Only I hadn’t known that and so I didn’t venture down that alley and didn’t get my hard earned medal. I tried to go back to sleep because technically, I had one hour until my alarm was set to go off, but I was rattled, my heart was pounding, and sleep didn’t come easy.
In the darkness that is 5:00 a.m. in mid-September, my brother and I debated driving to the race start or taking a cab. Driving would mean getting the car out of the hotel’s parking garage and finding a garage closer to the race start where we would probably have to fork over an additional $20 in parking fees, so we decided on a cab.
When we stepped outside the hotel door we were accosted by a woman demanding to know how we were getting to the race. And in case you are wondering how she knew that’s where we were headed, well, it’s a pretty easy guess when you have a large race number pinned to your shirt. We told her we were going to take a cab and she asked if we’d like to share a cab with her. Of course we said yes because the more people in a cab, the less any one person’s fare will be if you split the cost, right? That’s what sharing a cab means, right? Share a cab = split the cost. Well, that’s what I thought it meant, but apparently I was wrong.
The cab fare came to $9.60. I had two five dollar bills at the ready. The man in the front seat who at the last minute decided to share the cab along with us, actually turned to us in the back and said, after the cab driver announced his dues, “Can you guys spot me a couple of dollars?” as if we would ever find him again in the crowd of 12,000 runners. As if he ever really inteded to pay us back. The woman who had the bright idea to share the cab in the first place had a whopping $2 at the ready. Sensing this wasn’t going to be an even split, I handed the cab drive all of my $10 and the woman handed me her $2 and said, “No that’s for YOU, not the cab driver!” and she stepped out of the cab. I thought about this for a split second. My $10 left the cab driver with a tip of $0.40. I felt that was inadequate even for the short ride. So when big spender lady wasn’t looking I handed her $2 over to the cab driver and told him “Here, here’s $2 more for your tip. Thanks for the ride!” And he said thank you and waited for me to exit the cab before driving off.
As we got in line for the race, I spotted two of the women I’d spent much of my summer training with. I inched my way over to them and asked if they were running together for part of the race. Usually people train together and then on race day it’s “everyone runs their own race” meaning if, during the race, you have to stop and tie your shoe, your friends run on. They don’t stop with you. Likewise, if your running mate falls and breaks an ankle during the race, you wish them well and continue on. It sounds harsh, but honestly, an ambulance will come along and pick your friend up so they’ll be okay. You know, eventually. Like once the cast comes off and they’re finished with physical therapy and all that.
My training partners, however, said they were running together the whole way and I was free to join them. Since my brother had predicted a faster finishing time than I had, he was positioned closer to the starting line of the race and I was alone back in the crowd. I thought it would be nice to have some company along the way so I eagerly agreed to run with my old training pals. We ran together until mile 8 or so where my friends pulled over to grab some Gu (an energy gel that many runners like but which I can’t stomach) and I kept going. I figured they’d meet up with me again so I kept
trucking trudging along. With only 1/10th of a mile to go, my friends caught up with me and we ran it in.
I collected my race medal, dug out my cell phone, called my brother to find out where he was in the sea of race finishers, and then called my husband to tell him I’d finished the race with a pretty good time. Then my brother and I, not ones to be lazy after all that running, walked the 2 miles back to our hotel so we could shower and change before heading home.
And there you have it, my race report.