Race Recap: 2015 Philadelphia Half Marathon

Hello and happy post Thanksgiving it's Christmas time how did that happen? time! I know that I have really neglected the blog and it's a goal of mine to get back to it on a more regular basis.  I have so many thoughts and blog posts in my head, but making the time to write isn't happening right now.  It will.  

But I have a race recap!  On Sunday November 22, I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon.  It's the first race I've done since the disastrous New Jersey State Marathon in April ... April!!!  Just about 7 months to the day even.  After that race -- actually during that race -- I realized I had lost my racing mojo and needed to take a break.  A break from racing, not running.  I allowed myself the Summer and Fall to just enjoy running (and a tiny bit of biking and an even tinier bit of swimming) and run for the love of it without a training plan.  I had signed up for the Philly half a long time ago because, at the time, I thought it would be a good first race to start my Boston Marathon training.  When Boston didn't happen, I knew I'd still run Philly because it's such a great race at such a perfect time of year.  And frankly, after training for full marathons for so long, training for a half felt a lot more fun and more manageable.  It is.  I won't and would never say training for a half is "easy", because it is not, but it is definitely less onerous than training for a full.  I truly enjoyed training and only did what I wanted to do: long runs and a mix of shorter runs.  No speedwork.  No hill repeats.  No intervals.  This was to be about fun and what I love, and while those things truly work to make me a stronger, faster runner, they do not make me very happy.  

My "training plan" for the half, such as it was, enabled me to focus on the pure joy of running and why I was doing it in the first place.  It was just what I needed.  And I found that the more I ran and focused on the race, the more I really wanted to race.   It was a feeling I hadn't felt in quite a long time.  Races had become part of the drill ... something that I did, versus something that I really wanted to do.  So this shift alone was exciting for me.  Oddly enough, I did not feel the competitive urge to hit a certain time or to get a PR.  Of course, I wanted to have a strong, fast race, and I wanted to get a new PR, but I also knew I wasn't in tip top fighting running shape, so a great race of which I could be proud was the number one goal.  

Something very sweet happened in the start corral that showed me that just that would happen.  Backing up first, ever since my friend Maggie died eight years ago this December, when I run in the Autumn, I try to catch a falling leaf in my hand as I run.  When I do, I like to think it's a little nod from Mags.  I don't know why, but it's what I do and it makes me feel her presence, and oddly enough, it happens quite a bit.  As I stood in the corral on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philly, I was thinking about my race and how I would run, when a leaf fell right on my head.  It was so random and so weird because I was on a street in Philly, not in a wooded trail.  I liked to think it was Maggie bopping me on the head saying "just have fun."  And have fun I did!

I raced this one in 1:53:38 [8:40/mile pace].  Certainly not a personal best, but it was a really solid, strong effort and I truly did love every moment and every mile of this race.  Initially I thought I would try to follow the race plan I used for the Philly Love Run in March 2014, but after a few miles, I decided to just run by feel.  Even though my race was not my fastest, the miles ticked off faster in this race than in any I have ever done.  So much so, that unlike in past races, I cannot really remember vivid detail of each mile.  I was so happy to be running and surrounded by other runners that I focused on the experience versus details.

The last time I ran the Philly Half was in 2011 and my life was completely different then.  So was my running.  I raced that one in 2:06:15 [9:37/mile pace].  This year I was 114th of 824 women in my age group, 936th of 6,595 women and 2398th of 10,903 overall.

Here's a list of my splits (these may be a little fast because my watch had me at running 13.15 miles ... but I am too lazy to figure out the differences and they're not that far off):  

Miles 1-6 -- I just remember feeling so happy and so fast!  Initially I wanted to run these miles between 8:25 and 8:30.   There is no feeling like running down the Ben Franklin Parkway at the start of the race with tons of people cheering you on.  It was a very warm day for the race ... I was happy to be in just a tee shirt.  With each mile I looked at my watch and thought, ok, good mile, keep it up.  I was surprised at South Street - this was the first year where it was pretty empty.  It's usually filled more with spectators.

Mile 1: 8:33
Mile 2: 8:38
Mile 3: 8:16
Mile 4: 8:23
Mile 5: 8:22
Mile 6: 8:32

Mile 7 is my favorite.  It's the absolute best.  You run up Chestnut Street essentially the entire length to Drexel.  And it is packed - three people deep - with people cheering.  This mile is almost always my fastest mile on this race for that reason.  You can't help but feel like a running rockstar on this mile.

Mile 7: 8:10

Miles 8-10 are rough.  Mile 8 is a hill at Drexel, and while it's not particularly steep, it is super long and seems interminable.  What helps in this mile is it's very populated with college kids, most of whom are drinking (and offering) beer.  So fun.  Mile 9 is near the zoo and has a couple of little hills.  Mile 10 is the doozy - a huge, steep, long, punishing hill to the Please Touch Museum.  It's the hardest, and the last, hill on the course, and the reward is my running club (including Amy and Bill!) are at the top handing out water, Gatorade and gels.  Knowing that my good friends were at the top made me inspired to get up that hill ... and it was awesome to see them.  They told me where they would be, so I stayed to that side and got huge high fives from them when I saw them.

Mile 8: 8:59
Mile 9: 8:38
Mile 10: 9:07

Miles 11-13 are back on the flat ground and are straight to the finish. I was happy to rally and hit my usual 8:30ish pace.  The photo is about a half mile from the finish.  I was pushing hard here!

Mile 11: 8:26
Mile 12: 8:25
Mile 13: 8:38
Mile 13.1: 7:54

As I got closer to the finish, I looked at my watch and knew that a PR was out of reach.  I was totally OK with this.  My inclination at the finish is always to push it as hard as I can, but this time, I decided to just hold the pace.  An extra thirty seconds-minute wouldn't make a difference, and I wanted to just soak in the sights and sounds of the finish line.  I always try to turn off my music and listen to everything, and this race was no exception.  I love that feeling of seeing the finish and hearing all the cheers and cowbells.  And because I finished before the first full marathon finisher, Mayor Nutter was still on the half marathon side to give high fives to finishers!  I got a nice high five from the outgoing mayor.  Woo hoo.  

What a great race!  And look at this medal! A little Liberty Bell that actually rings! It rings!  It was hilarious walking back to my car because of the pure cacophony of hundreds and hundreds of ringing medals!  The full marathon finishers got the bigger red one and the half finishers got the yellow one.

This was my last big race of my 30s, and what a way to go out.  I'm allowing myself a full on sleighride of no pressure fun through the holidays, but come January, I'll resume swim-bike-run training.  Nothing Ironman crazy, but I am looking forward to the variety again.
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PS: playlist time! I created a new, fantastic playlist for this race.  This one is a little heavy on Chicago and Lionel Richie, and very light on ABBA.  Enjoy! I sure did!  My notes in italics!

1812 Overture (Finale) (London Philharmonic Orchestra) don't laugh - it will make you feel like a winner!
A Horse With No Name (America)
All Out of Love (Air Supply)
Annie's Song (John Denver)
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown ( Jim Croce)
Break My Stride (Matthew Wilder)
Can't Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Misérables Original London Cast) 
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Chicago)
Double Dutch Bus (Frankie Smith)
Down (feat. Lil Wayne) (Jay Sean)
Dynamite (Taio Cruz)
Emotion (Samantha Sang)
Feels So Good (Chuck Mangione)
The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Hard to Say I'm Sorry / Get Away (Chicago)
I Can't Hold Back (Survivor)
I Got a Name (Jim Croce)
If I Had $1,000,000 (Barenaked Ladies)
If You Could Read My Mind (Ela Wardi)
If You Leave Me Now (Chicago)
It Takes Two (Rob Base)
It's Not Unusual (Tom Jones)
It's the Same Old Song (Four Tops)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA) this was the last song that played at the race, which I loved, as it's my swim song and the first song I sang at the Ironman (and every other tri) swim start.
Let It Be (John Denver)
Let It Go (Demi Lovato)
Let's Hang On (The Four Seasons)
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship)
Oh No (The Commodores)
One Moment In Time (Whitney Houston)
Party In the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus)
Philadelphia Freedom (Elton John) gotta have this song at a Philly race
Push It (Salt-n-Pepa)
Reflections (Diana Ross & The Supremes)
Sailing (Christopher Cross)
Saturday In the Park (Chicago)
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
Sloop John B (The Beach Boys)
Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
Theme from "Greatest American Hero" (Believe It or Not) (Joey Scarbury)
This Is It (Kenny Loggins)
Truly (Lionel Richie)
Weekend In New England (Barry Manilow) I love to run so much to this song I played it twice.  sure did. may have even run with emphatic arm and hand motions.  
While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood)
Working My Way Back to You (Spinners)
You Are (Lionel Richie) sigh ... love this song.  love lionel.  
You Give Love a Bad Name ( Bon Jovi)
You May Be Right (Billy Joel)
You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
You're the Inspiration (Chicago)
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher (Jackie Wilson)