Category Archives: Philadelphia

Race Report

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. 



Filed under 1/2 marathon, freeloaders, life, Philadelphia, running, taxicab, traffic

The Literal Side of Things

Webster’s defines the word “literal” as “in accordance with, conforming to, or upholding the primary or exact meaning of a word or words”.

There are some people who take everything literally.  Like Greg.  Remember Greg from the Brady Bunch?  Remember the episode where he wanted to use “exact words” and it back fired on him?  What?  You don’t remember that episode?  Tell me then, just what were you watching after school back in the 70s and 80s?  The Brady Bunch was in syndication and it ran on nearly every television channel there was, so I don’t know how you could have missed that.  But anyway…

There are those people who take things literally, and there are those who just…. don’t.

I’d say I tend to fall into the latter category but my son, at age 5, he falls into the former, like Greg.  Or, at least he does some of the time.  It might depend on the situation or on who’s doing the talking.  I’m still trying to figure out the pattern.

He doesn’t seem to take ME literally when I tell him that it’s time for bed or that he needs to clean up his toys.  At those times, he apparently thinks I’m joking.  Half the time he doesn’t even acknowledge that I’ve spoken.  Certainly moms aren’t serious about bedtime or toys, right?  However… 

Last November as we prepared to visit Disney World, I told my son all about the Haunted Mansion ride.  I told him how, when I was a kid I used to like to go through the haunted mansion and how, at one point on the ride, the car rolls past a mirror and a green ghost sits in your lap.  I told him you had to be sitting in the middle seat for this to happen.

So when we got to Disney my son was all HURRYUPHURRYUPLETSRIDETHEHAUNTEDMANSIONNOW!  and so we rode the Haunted Mansion and when we came upon the mirror, the one where the green ghost was to appear, my son would not look up, he would not raise his eyes.  I wondered if he was scared.  Up until that point I’d been busy looking all around and thinking about how this or that aspect of the ride had changed since I last rode it.  I hadn’t noticed my son as much.  Had he been staring downward the whole ride?  I didn’t think so.  He wasn’t crying.  But still, he wouldn’t look in the mirror.

That was the first time we rode it.  He did the same thing the second time, and the third time, and the forth time.  I couldn’t figure it out because he assured me he wasn’t frightened.   So if he wasn’t scared, then why wouldn’t he look in the mirror? 

Eventually, he complained.   “I sat in the middle seat like you said!” he grumped.  And I’ve looked in my lap EVERY. TIME. But I never saw the ghost!  Why won’t it sit on my lap?”

That’s when it hit me.  Snags had told the truth.  He wasn’t scared of the ghost, he was looking for it in his lap, when in reality, the image is projected onto the mirror and he needed to look there if he was going to see the green ghost sitting with him.

I explained again how the ride worked but made it clear that the only way he was going to see the ghost was to look in the mirror, not at his lap.  At the end of our trip, on our final ride through the Haunted Mansion, he looked in the mirror and smiled with awe and relief: the ghost was there!  On his lap!

Most recently we spent a day in Philadelphia.  We saw many things and did many things, including taking a tour with Ride the Ducks.  The ducks, if you aren’t familiar with them, are vehicles that look like a boat on wheels, which is, actually, what they are.  They tour the city on land, driving up and down streets and then they stop, the driver moves aside to let a Captain on, and they drive the duck down a boat ramp into the Delaware River for a short water tour.  It’s at that point the bus turns into a boat.

The tour includes Wacky Quackers; they are plastic duck bills that you can blow into and generate a quacking sound.  Each person is issued their own Wacky Quacker as they board the duck at the start of the tour.  Snags was happily quacking away as the driver boarded and he stopped to ask my son if he would like to be his helper on this tour.  I wondered if maybe there were going to be rules about quacking and perhaps Snags was going to be the example of what not to do.  Maybe Rule Number 1 was going to be:  No over-exuberant quacking! 

Instead, the driver called my son to the front of the bus and asked him, “When we go in the river, if you see water coming up through the floor of the boat here, what do you think that means?”

And my son, little smarty that he his, replied, “It means we have a leak.” 

“Right!”   The driver said.  Then he pointed to the floor again and pointed out all these little handles along the floor that seemed to open hatches every so often.  Trapdoors, if you will.  The driver told my son that his job would be that of “Cork Boy” and he was to watch for water seeping through the floor and if he saw any he’d have to open the hatches and go underneath, find the leak, and plug it with a cork.  He handed my son a large cork to do this with, then sent him back down the aisle to us.

The tour started.  We drove past Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  We saw the Betsy Ross House and a firehouse museum.  We rode down South Street and saw the famous (yuck) gum trees, and other tourists, and a tattoo shop, and Condom Kingdom!  We headed back to the historic district and rode along Society Hill and saw famous churches and other spectacular Philadelphia sites. 

Then we splashed down into the river.  After a few minutes I started to worry that my son might be sick.  He wasn’t looking around at the sites.  He didn’t see the Penn Arch landing which is famous only for the fact that it’s builder went bankrupt.  He didn’t see Camden, NJ across the river.  He didn’t see the Navy ships or the historic boat with three large masts.  He didn’t look at the building where Will Smith lives when he’s in town.  He wasn’t even sitting up.  Rather, he was very nearly strewn across the seat, his head near my husband’s lap.  Concerned, I asked my husband if Snags was okay.  He assured me he was.  Snags was only looking down, at the floor.  The entire time we were on the river he stared at that floor.  He was looking for leaks.

Thankfully, the boat was sound.  There were no leaks and we returned to dry land and the end of the tour without incident.  Before we disembarked, the driver called Snags to the front and thanked him for his steadfast watchfulness.  “You saved our lives,” he told Snags.  “Or, you would have if we’d had a leak.”  Snags turned over the cork and the driver gave him a parting gift.  A little rubber duck wearing a life vest.  And Snags, he beamed!  And by that I mean he smiled broadly.  You know, just in case you are one of those people who take everything literally and thought I meant he was emitting light. Although… I have to say his smile was pretty bright!


Filed under boat, Delaware River, Disney World, family, ghosts, Haunted Mansion, Liberty Bell, life, literal, Philadelphia, Ride the Ducks, The Brady Bunch, Wacky Quacker