Race Recap: 2013 Philadelphia Marathon!!

Yes!  Yay!  So remember that goal I had to run a marathon in under four hours?  Yeah, I did that yesterday.   My official time was 3:56:54.  It was a terrific race.  I ran the 26.2 miles in an average 9:02 mile pace, was 198th in my age group (out of 775 women aged 35-39), 1197 among women (out of 4879 women) and 3798 overall out of 10,872 marathon runners.  I am freaking stoked.  Here's the text with my time (which appears to be :02 seconds slower than my official time)

So sit back, relax and get ready to hear a ton of details.  

Ever since my 4:00:00 race time last year, I've been hungry to break the 4 hour mark.  Well, let's face it: I was hungry before.  But this made me want it even more.  It is such an arbitrary number too - it's not like breaking 4 hours would qualify me for Boston or had any real significance, apart from having huge significance to me.  

My race plan was to keep a consistent slower than normal pace and just hold it.  These days my pace is around 8:30.  As I became painfully aware last year, you need to run an average 9:09 pace to break the four hour mark.  My plan was to run most of the race around 9:00 miles, which would give me some time to play with at the end.  I also ditched any hope of starting slow for that first mile: I always, on every single race, go out of the gate like a bat out of hell.  I can't help myself and I have tried (ok, i haven't).  Because we do everything! together!, my friends Amy and Bill were running yesterday too and they were doing the half - both were shooting for PRs themselves (and both achieved PRs by a hefty margin - yay go team!).  I asked Amy if I could run the first mile with her and then at mile 1, I wanted her to keep the pace and I would go slower. I figured this might work: I would have to watch her run away from me (which gave me a sad to be alone but also happy for her because she was putting the hammer down) and it would force me to slow down.  It worked!  Mile 1 was speedy but the rest of the race was very, robotically consistent.

It was a warm day for a marathon: 52 degrees at the start and warmed to what I think was probably mid-60s by the end for me.  For most of the race, the sun was behind clouds, but at the end the sun came out and it got hot.  I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and around Mile 4, I regretted not wearing a tank.   

It always helps to have supporters and friends on the course, and I was lucky to have a bunch peppered throughout the course.  My friend was going to be at mile 7, Jamie (!!) would be in Manayunk around mile 19/20, and then Bill and Amy would be at the finish.  I even ended up running into a friend from high school around mile 19 who was cheering!  

Here is the course so you get an idea of where I'm talking about - you can also see it here

My Garmin was a good 1/4 mile fast (argh!) which made my pace on the watch faster than the pace in real life, which meant ... I had to do math on the run.  Literally.  I could not rely on my paces because they just weren't accurate.  So I decided to just assume I should be at an average 9 minute mile pace and at each mile mark I'd multiply the mile by 9 and look at my watch and figure out if my overall time equalled that pace.  My watch had me at an average 8:56 pace, and the official time had me at 9:02, so all the split times you see below are my Garmin time with 6 seconds added.  I think that is accurate.  If not, it's math so it's good enough for me. 

Mile 1:  8:24

Not surprisingly, this was my fastest mile.  I got the split, got freaked out that I could not sustain that pace and slowed the heck down after waving goodbye to Amy.

Mile 2: 8:50
Mile 3: 8:49
Mile 4: 8:54

Miles 2-4 are pretty quiet and very flat.  I tried hard to slow to a 9:00 pace but it obviously didn't happen.  I started to worry at this point that I was running too fast.  It's unlike me to want to see a 9:00 mile, but I really did, and when I did not see it, I would groan and yell at my splits.  My legs did not want to listen.  I consoled myself with the fact that last year, I was running a good 20-30 seconds per mile faster at this point in the race, so I was moving slower than I was last year.  

Mile 5:  9:04

Mile 5 last year was a slower one for me, too.  Funny that this was my first 9 minute mile. I wonder what it is about that spot.  I wish I could remember, but alas. I cannot.  This mile boasted my favorite sign of the day, though:  "you think running is hard? try holding this sign. Also: I'm drunk" and I believe she was.  It was LOL funny.  As was the guy in the british flag speedo (and that's all). 

Other good signs:

If marathons were easy, they'd be called your mom <----- never gets old
You're running better than the government is!
Don't trust that fart
You fools!
My last marathon was breaking bad
I don't know you, but GO!
Is that an energy gel in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
This was such a good idea 4 months ago <----- this was at mile 24

The signs are the best.  If you ever have a chance to go to a race and cheer people on, bring a sign.  And if possible, bring a cowbell. 

Mile 6:  8:50
Mile 7:  8:45

Look at those consistent splits! Miles 6-7 are on Chestnut Street and it is one of my favorite parts of the race.  People line the street and you feel like a rock star.  It is seriously Tour de France style.  If the Tour were a running race.  I got a high five from my friend and kept on going.  

Mile 8:  8:55
Mile 9:  8:54
Mile 10:  9:00

Miles 8 and 10 have hills.  The hill at Mile 8 is through Drexel University and is a very long two-part hill.  It's not particularly steep, but it's loooooong.  The hill in mile 10 is the doozie.  It is steep.  It is not short.  It is hard.  The only "good" thing about it is there is a great water stop at the top run by my running club and they hand out energy gels.  But that's all the Pollyanna I can muster for that hill.  Moving on. 

Mile 11: 8:47
Mile 12: 8:52
Mile 13: 8:54

Miles 11 through 13 are down a steep hill to West River Drive and then it's flat flat flat to the Art Museum.  About half way through mile 12, the half and full marathons split.  The half marathon athletes run toward the finish and the full marathon athletes head left onto Kelly Drive.  I didn't look right.  I didn't look at the people going right.  I pointed left and got as far left as I could get.  Once you get past the split and on Kelly, it's just marathon athletes and the course opens up a bit.  And pretty soon into my run up Kelly, I knew I'd see the elite athletes finishing. 

I laugh at the consistency of the following miles:

Mile 14: 8:49
Mile 15: 8:58
Mile 16: 8:54  

I never, ever remember much about these miles.  You have to sort of "reset" your run at this point and keep in mind you have a good 10-12 miles to go.  I am always happily distracted by searching for the leaders - the first dude, the first woman, the first wheelchair athlete.  Then I start looking for Mile 17 and the Falls Bridge and its weird little loop out and back that you have to do.  I hate it, so I am happy to get it done. 

Mile 17:  8:55

This is the worst part of the race.  Worse than the hills in the first half.  Worse than the last few miles.  You run across the Falls Bridge and then have to run a good 1/4 mile on West River Drive and then turn around and come back over the Bridge.  It stinks.  

Mile 18: 9:15
Mile 19: 9:01
Mile 20: 9:21
Mile 21: 9:01

Welcome to the land of 9 minute miles.  Right about at Mile 17, I ran out of my diluted Gatorade that I keep in my fuel belt.  I could carry two more bottles, but I purposefully do not.  Once I run out of my own Gatorade, I force myself to stop and walk through each water stop and drink Gatorade.  Yes, it cost me a few seconds per mile, but I think those few seconds were well worth it.  I decided to do my very best to walk only at the water stops and not in between.  I mostly stuck to this plan. I was motivated to keep running by my experience last year: literally every second counts.  

Back to the splits:  these miles are Manayunk! There are inclines around Manayunk, but the crowds are so amazing, that it totally makes up for it. I knew Jamie would be in Manayunk cheering for me, so that helped a ton. Actually, I started getting excited about seeing her around Mile 14. Knowing someone is waiting for you and happy to cheer for you keeps you going.  And even if I didn't have Jamie there, I would have been excited to get to Manayunk.  There are a ton of spectators there.  I love this part of the race.  

Here are the pictures that she took of me.  

In the last picture, I happened to see my friend from high school who was there cheering on her triathlon club!  Crazy small world.  Also: I like the way my legs look in these pictures.  

Mile 22: 9:32
Mile 23: 9:44
Mile 24: 9:30
Mile 25: 9:52

My pace fell off here a bit.  In the Manayunk miles, my pace was about on track with what I'd run the earlier part of the race, plus a few seconds per mile when I walked through the water stops.  Here, I was 3 hours and 22 miles in ... my legs were getting tired and I was getting tired.  But, I stuck to my plan: keep moving and don't stop, don't walk unless you see a water stop.  On Mile 23, one of my favorite ABBA songs (and there were seven) on my playlist came on.  It is "Take a Chance on Me" and it had the *perfect* cadence for me at that time.  So I hit repeat when it was done.  And I hit repeat again. And then repeat a fourth time.  I would like to dedicate Mile 23 as the ABBA mile.  An entire mile of one ABBA song.  These miles are tough.  I remember thinking "ah yes, marathons are very hard" around this part of the course.  Thankfully, I get race amnesia pretty quickly.  

Around Mile 23, I knew I "only" had a 5K to go and based on my overall time, I also figured that even if I ran 12 minute miles from here on out, I could finish in under 4 hours.  This made me happy, but I also know to never, ever, count those chickens before they are hatched.  I had to keep pushing. Keep running.  Don't stop.  That's what she said. 

Mile 24 I got passed by a blind runner.  He had a support crew around him and the lead guy tapped me and told me there was a blind runner coming, so I moved over.  He and his pacer were sort of tethered together with a strap that they both held onto.  It was incredibly inspiring.  I never passed them, so I know he finished in the 3s.  Amazing. 

Mile 26 & 26.2:  9:12

Mile 26 was, and was last year, a huge boost.  Aside from knowing the race is almost and finally over, the area has a similar feel to the crowds at Chestnut Street around Mile 7 - tons of people are out, cheering, yelling your name, screaming their heads off, ringing cowbells ... all for you.  It is wonderful and amazing and, in some weird way, very humbling.  It gave me energy to push hard and finish strong.  As I neared the chute, I realized I was doing it.  I was achieving my goal and reaching my dream.  Over my music I heard, "SHANNA" and looked to my left and saw Amy and Bill.  I can't remember what I did, but I'm pretty sure I either gave a dorky thumbs up or did a more cool fist pump.  I saw the finish, I saw the time and thought, hey, let's finish this mo fo in under 3:57.  And ... I did.  3:56:54.  

I crossed the mat and cried.  Not a huge emotional cry, but these lovely little tears of joy.  I showed my watch to the woman who gave me my medal. I gave countless high fives in the chute to people around me.  It was awesome. What was even more awesome? Seeing Amy and Bill, getting and giving lots of hugs (PRs for everyone! yay!) and then Amy gave me a cold Sprite.  Again: tears.  For a girl who doesn't drink soda, my love of Sprite at the end of a long race or run is a pretty strange and yet beautiful thing.  It is the best, most amazingly delicious drink ever once you cross that finish line.  I start thinking about Sprite toward the end of every race I do.   

And as though crossing the finish in my goal time wasn't enough, I came back to a phone on fire with texts and Facebook messages and emails from friends and family who followed my race.  It was wonderful, and it made me feel great.  

So there you go! A long recap of a pretty long race.  So ends my 2013 race season.  But so begins official training for Ironman Lake Placid 2014.  A few times during the race, I reminded myself that the next time I do this distance, it will be there and I will have swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles preceding it.  That's in July.  And there's miles and miles to go before I do that race.

See you swoon,

I made another really rockin playlist for this race.  I run and respond very well to questionable music.  Feel free to borrow any of the songs, but do not judge.  I don't remember what miles it happened on, but Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers and the entire London cast of Les Miserables got me through some pretty tough spots.


Alone (Heart)
Apache (The Sugarhill Gang)
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
Black Water (The Doobie Brothers)
Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke)
Brandy (Looking Glass)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Build Me Up Buttercup (The Foundations)
Carry On  (Fun)
Chiquitita (ABBA)
Colour My World (Chicago)
Come Monday (Jimmy Buffett) 
Cruisin' (Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis)
Different Drum (The Stone Poneys)
Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Misérables Original London Cast)
Do You Know the Way to San Jose (Dionne Warwick)
Does Your Mother Know (ABBA)
Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer  (Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes)
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Fernando (ABBA)
The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (ABBA)
Girl You Know It's True  (Milli Vanilli)
Gloria (Laura Branigan)
Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)
Higher (Creed)
Hold On (Wilson Phillips)
I Am...I Said (Neil Diamond)
I Got a Name (Jim Croce)
I Say a Little Prayer  (Aretha Franklin)
I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song (Jim Croce)
I'll Never Love This Way Again (Dionne Warwick)
(I've Had) The Time of My Life (Bill Medley & Jennifer Warner)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago)
Islands In the Stream (Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)
It's Not Unusual (Tom Jones)
Just You And Me (Chicago)
Killing Me Softly With His Song (Fugees)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA)
Kodachrome (Paul Simon)
La Isla Bonita (Madonna)
Livin' On a Prayer (Bon Jovi)
Lonely People (America)
The Long And Winding Road (The Beatles)
Mamma Mia (ABBA)
Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
Never Knew Love Like This Before (Stephanie Mills)
Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels) (Jim Croce)
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Party In the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus)
Penny Lane (The Beatles)
Reach Out I'll Be There (The Four Tops )
Right Back Where We Started From (Maxine Nightingale)
Say Hey (I Love You) (Michael Franti & Spearhead)
Shoop (Salt-n-Pepa)
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) (Beyoncé)
Sister Golden Hair (America)
Sloop John B ( The Beach Boys)
Someday We'll Be Together (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
Southern Cross (Jimmy Buffett)
Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley)
Take a Chance On Me (ABBA)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
Then Came You (The Spinners & Dionne Warwick)
The Tide Is High (Blondie)
Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
Too Much Heaven (Bee Gees)
Upside Down (Diana Ross)
Ventura Highway (America)
Walk Away Renee (The Left Banke)
The Warrior (Scandal)
We Belong (Pat Benatar)
We Just Disagree (Dave Mason)
What a Fool Believes (The Doobie Brothers)
Wild World (Cat Stevens )
Woudn't It Be Nice (The Beach Boys)
You Can't Hurry Love (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
You Decorated My Life (Kenny Rogers)


  1. Wow!! That is awesome Shanna!! Great job!

  2. How do you keep yourself from singing all of those songs out loud while you run. I have caught myself doing that.

  3. I feel like we had very similar race experiences!! That's so funny haha. I also loved the "Is that an energy gel in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" sign. My other favorite was one that said, "This is happening."

    I was also doing mental math along the way trying to figure out how fast I needed to go. It was annoying, but I'd still be totally lost on pace without the Garmin. And I totally agree about the part over Falls Bridge being the worst. It's so annoying because you know it's just there to add distance.

    And finally, we had some of the same songs on a playlist! Haha. I had Mamma Mia from ABBA, Carry On by Fun, and like 10 Les Mis songs. I'm definitely going to bookmark your recap just to reference songs for the next race I run :)

    Congrats on your awesome race and sub-4 finishing time!!!

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