I ran the Philadelphia Marathon this morning. I woke up just after 5am at my friend’s apartment at 21st and Walnut, and it was dark and raining heavily. I showered, put on my gear, and walked the twenty minutes from the apartment to Eakins Oval, where the race was set to begin at 7am. Thankfully, by the time I left the building the rain had stopped, and by 7am, the skies were beginning to clear at the first light of day.
It had been three years since I had last run a marathon, which was the Mount Nittany Marathon in State College. I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in early September, didn’t actively train, and hadn’t run this far in weather as cold as this morning’s weather, which ranged from about 45-55 degrees.
Thanks to simple good fortune, along with the well managed marathon, I was able to finish setting a personal best time of 4:23:48. I suspect the cold weather helped to some degree, because I was able to run steadily until I slowed down to sporadic jogging/walking at Mile 21 and didn’t return to a steady running pace until Mile 24. It wasn’t until Mile 15 that I began to feel fatigued enough to begin thinking about how many miles there were still to go.
The cheering spectators were super helpful compared to my experiences in State College where there would be long stretches where I found myself running alone along the course. The uniformly and overwhelmingly encouraging spectators were an incredible psychological boost throughout the course. And the number of runners helped too: I was never anywhere near to being alone at any point along the course. The pace runners were helpful too; at the starting line I began near the 5 hour group, and was able to steadily improve to near the 4 hour group, before slipping toward the finish. At one point after Mile 24 when the 4:30 pace group nearly overtook me, I found whatever energy was left to run steadily again in the final stretch:
It was very windy at times. The most scenic stretches along Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River at times had gusts so strong that the giant trees, especially near Laurel Hill Cemetery, seemed buffeted like the creaking wooden hulls of old sea ships bearing strong waves.
The course map and official description give a good sense of the scope of the experience:
In Philadelphia, we redefine the experience of what a marathon should be. A beautiful course, an engaging atmosphere—it’s no wonder we’re consistently listed among the top ten courses in the country, recognized for our flat terrain, mellow weather and spirited fans.
Expect beautiful views through Fairmount Park and along the Schuylkill River and neighborhood crowds gathering on sidewalks in University City and Manayunk. Weave through the well-traveled streets of our historic district, passing sights familiar to Franklin, Washington and the rest of the gang, and end your race speeding towards the steps of the majestic Art Museum. …
This route takes runners down the iconic Ben Franklin Parkway passing Logan Circle, the Franklin Institute, Cathedral Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul, and the Barnes Museum all in the first ¼ mile. With City Hall in their sight lines as they continue on the parkway, they will pass Love Park and head east on Arch Street.
On Arch Street, the runners will pass more landmarks such as the Pennsylvania Convention Center, mouthwatering Reading Terminal Market, Chinatown’s Friendship gate and the African American History Museum. Reaching the National Historic district, runners will pass Independence Mall and the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s Grave, the National Constitution Center and the United States Mint in the first few miles.
After turning north on 4th Street for one block, the route continues east on Race Street, with the Ben Franklin Bridge looming overhead as they approach Columbus Boulevard and head through the Penn’s Landing area paying homage as they pass the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials. Passing Old Swedes Church on Columbus Blvd going to Washington Avenue for one block and heading north on Front Street before heading west along eclectic South Street and north on 6th Street passing Mother Bethel AME Church and passing the side of Independence Hall as they turn onto Chestnut Street to run through the heart of Center City.
The runners will proceed over the Schuylkill River via the Chestnut Street Bridge the runners will go through University City and up 34th Streets through parts of the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The route then goes past the Patti LaBelle Mural, uphill north passing America’s First Zoo and crosses over Girard Avenue into to the Centennial District of West Fairmount Park.
Once in the park the Runners will pass the Please Touch Museum (Memorial Hall) twice, see the Mann Music Center, and run past the Japanese House before turning down Black Road on to the Martin Luther King Drive heading back to the 14 mile mark in Art Museum area.
From this point they will pass in front of the famous Rocky Steps of the Art Museum, head out along the Kelly drive and into the trendy and upscale Manayunk neighborhood loading with Restaurants, bars and numerous shops along Main Street. Near the end of Main Street the runners will hit the turnaround and will head back on Main Street and along Kelly Drive before finishing on the north Side of Eakins Oval at the Art Museum.
This marathon route is sure to give the runners a potential Personal Record and Boston Qualifying times on this fast and relatively flat course throughout Philadelphia. It is truly the most Historic Marathon Course in the country and continues to excite the runners year after year.
These photos from the Philadelphia Marathon’s Twitter account capture the scenes before/after: the first was taken around 5:30am, when it was still actively raining and wet, the second just as daybreak came before the start of the race, and the last as runners crossed the finish line:
And here’s a short video that was available after the race. I haven’t seen this sort of thing made available before, and it was neat to see this finishing moment from another perspective: