I raced the Phildelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon (formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run) yesterday. I've always loved this race. It was my first and, still is my, favorite half marathon ever. I did it two or three times back in the early 2000s when it was still the Distance Run and then a few years ago, Rock and Roll took it over. The course is the same, but the feel is a little different. Rock and Rolls are great: lots of people, lots of energy, lots of fun.
I cannot believe it, but I had PR! I finished in 1:50:50, which is an average 8:28 pace. This time I beat my prior PR of 1:51:34 at the Rock and Roll USA (Washington DC) half marathon in March 2013. And, it was 7 minutes faster than I ran this very race last year!
I signed up for the Philly R&R as soon as registration opened. At the time, I was "only" doing the Olympic triathlon at Quakerman the week before. But, I eventually changed my distance to the half iron. I was a little unsure of how (or whether) I would do this race after the Quakerman Half Ironman triathlon just 7 days before. I decided to just roll with it, see how I felt and adjust my expectations accordingly.
After the half iron, I felt really good. I was surprised at how great I felt. As the week went on, I rested and ran only one 3-mile run at a moderate pace (somewhere in between a tempo and easy run). My body felt good, I had no aches and pains (even the weird knee pain from the week before was gone), and my head was in the game.
Race day arrived and it was perfect weather! Cool at the start, breezy and sunny later on. The sun eventually came out and was a bit brutal on the course, but it was really only for about 3 miles at the very end. Enough chatter, here's the race recap.
|thank you random stranger runner for snapping my photo!|
As I said, I really did not have a race strategy. I took it easy on myself ... I didn't go into this race planning to PR. I knew I wanted to beat my 1:57 time from last year's race and I was pretty confident I could do that. So, I thought, "OK - take it easy in the beginning, negative split and make the back end of the race strong. Try not to hit 9:00 miles - stay in the low to mid 8s."
Mile 1: 7:59
Um, yah. Clearly the negative split was not happening at the first mile. I realized when I saw that 7 that I needed to sloowwwwwww down. The first few miles, though, felt incredible. I have only raced in connection to a triathlon since May, so to just be running and not be tired from a swim and bike preceding it felt amazing.
Mile 2: 8:10
Mile 3: 8:27
I forced myself to slow down before hitting the 5K split. As good as it felt to be running in the very low 8s, I knew I would regret it later. So I took it easier. Miles 1-3 were through the city streets of Philly: down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway toward City Hall, then along 16th street to Market Street all the way down to 4th Street and back up Arch toward the Parkway. There were a decent amount of spectators along this initial stretch, which was nice.
Mile 4: 8:12
Mile 5: 8:31
I started to fall into a pattern: feel great and run fast for a mile; realize I needed to slow down a bit and took it easy on the next. Repeat. Repeat. Miles 4-5 were back on the Parkway heading out of the city and past the Art Museum. The race would go up Kelly Drive, then cross over the river to Martin Luther King Drive and back to the Art Museum.
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 8:19
Mile 8: 8:26
Mile 9: 8:28
Miles 6-9 were Kelly Drive. You can see my pattern - totally followed it: two miles of fast; two miles of a little slower. Kelly Drive was pretty quiet and very shady, which was great. I looked across the river and saw how sunny it was on MLK Drive. Yikes. At this point in the race, I was still feeling really great and was actually racing it. Around Mile 9 was my favorite sign of the day. It simply said:
Motivational Sign. (with the period at the end -- LOL!)
Other great signs that I saw or my friends saw:
- Run like there's a hot guy in front of you and a creepy guy behind you.
- One day you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.
- A Half Marathon is just a 5K with a 10 mile warm-up
- You're doing a half marathon because you're only half crazy!
Mile 10: 8:15
Mile 11: 8:17
Miles 10-11 felt fast. I knew I was closing in on the finish and started to realize that both a PR and a possible sub-1:50 finish were within reach. If I could just hang on ... just stick to this pace, I could do both.
Mile 12: 8:27
Mile 13: 8:24
Miles 12 and 13 were so freaking sunny and hot! I'm not blaming that on my slower times - it's the pattern that I fell into. But the heat and sun certainly did not help. I was getting tired but I would not let myself slow down. My Garmin was about .2 mile off of the race distance, which was frustrating, but I could figure out my time quickly based on the total time on my watch. As I came close to the finish, which is a punishing hill after a course of complete flat terrain, I was hitting 1:49. I knew that unless I sprinted with every fiber of my being, I couldn't do below 1:50. But I also knew that if I stuck to this pace, I could PR and beat my DC 1:51 time. So I stuck to my pace and happily crossed the finish at 1:50:50.
A bunch of my friends also had PRs and/or their first half marathons at this race. It was a good day.
I am really enjoying the momentum that I have right now. Two years ago (or even a year ago), I wouldn't believe that I could do a 1:50 half marathon. Each race I do makes me want to push harder and run faster. And the thing is: I know that with some time and hard work, I totally can. The next big running goal for me is that elusive sub-4:00:00 full marathon. I'm training for the Philly full in mid-November.
One more thing in September and then it's just training! I have the MS City to Shore bike ride in two weeks. A team from my office is biking, and I'm planning to do the 75 or 100 mile distances. Though, honestly, at this point, it's looking more like 75. But like today, it will be a game-day decision.