I ran The Great Bay Half Marathon in my own back yard this year. Like so many other races, Great Bay went virtual for 2020.
I’ve run The Great Bay Half Marathon four times.
It’s usually held about a week before the Boston Marathon and when I have a bib for Boston I don’t run Great Bay.
Tapering is supposed to be about cutting back and recuperating, it’s not good a time to run a challenging half marathon.
This year I didn’t have a bib for Boston so I signed up for Great Bay. I love the course, seeing all of my friends and the great party afterwards.
Great Bay Half Marathon 2020
Like almost every race since February, The Great Bay Half Marathon went virtual for 2020.
I had to make up my own course and run the race by my self, totally un-supported.
I went through my Garmin Connect dashboard and found a loop that I could make a 13.1 mile course.
This is a short run across Medford to The Mystic Valley Parkway.
The Parkway is a nice run along the Mystic Lakes with several parks and lots of activity.
It’s particularly popular with cyclist.
When I woke up around 6:30 AM it was already 66° and I knew we were headed for the 80s.
As such I didn’t waste much time getting ready to go. All of my gear was laid out and I was out the door just after 7:00 AM.
The sun was up and the temperature was now 68°.
As I ran down my street I could feel all kinds of aches and pains. I’ve been running less and my legs seem to be feeling worse. Go figure.
I knew that much of this would go away after the first mile and tried to relax and go slow.
The first two miles were 9:16 and 9:03. In West Medford I had to stop for the Commuter Rail train. I forgot to stop my watch and mile three came in at 10:32.
Mystic Valley Parkway
About a half mile after the rail road crossing I came to the rotary where the Mystic Valley Parkway begins.
Strait through the rotary is Arlington and to the right was my designated course up the Parkway.
When I stopped to take this photo just before 8:00 the temperature was already 73° . I was glad to know that most of this parkway is well shaded.
In Massachusetts masks are still required if you cannot maintain social distancing.
It’s impossible to avoid people and I know that I’m going to be close to people at some point during my runs.
It’s amazing how many people won’t give any room to pass on the side walk even with traffic. Am I supposed to run into cars and trucks?
For me, the possibility of death is better than near certainty!
Around mile four I took my Honey Stinger gel. I brought two just in case since it has been a while since I’ve run this distance.
These two miles up The Parkway were fairly comfortable. My aches and pains were gone for the most part. My left knee still bothered me but not enough to cause concern.
Mile 4: 9:03, Mile 5: 9:20
Winchester and Stoneham
Miles six and seven through Winchester were also fairly comfortable. I had been sweating basically since I left my house.
This section of my course had very little shade and it must have been close to 80°. One water bottle was empty and I had taken a drink from my second one.
My mind drifted back to Death Valley. There I learned to drink less than half of your water on the outbound leg of your hike.
I was more than halfway through my run, but I knew there were hills and more fully exposed road coming up.
I took a salt pill and a small drink.
With the Corona Virus pandemic, Dunkin Donut’s has closed all of their bathrooms. So no pit stops to take on or get rid of water.
I don’t take salt very often and I hoped that it wouldn’t make me sick.
But I was sweating heavily and knew I needed the sodium and potassium in that pill.
I passed our usual water stop on Eugene Drive and crossed Rt. 93 into Stoneham.
It was nice knowing that I was well over half way and still felt okay.
When I got to Main Street, my instinct told me to cross and go strait. But for this run I needed to turn right and head south on Main Street/Rt 28.
If I went strait, I’d end up in Melrose and have way too many more miles to run.
After about a half mile I arrived at the intersection of Main Street and South St/North Board Road just up the road from The Stone Zoo.
I stopped my watch and waited for a break in the traffic. I hate pressing the crossing light button. I can get across the road in 5 seconds, but those lights last much longer. Often I get across before the light even changes.
I continued strait on Main Street/Rt. 28 along the back side of Spot Pond. This was another two miles of almost no shade at all.
At mile 10 I had to walk a bit. I was hot and running low on water. With no water stops ahead of me I had to be careful.
Miles seven through eleven were between 9:34 and 10:12.
On the Home Stretch
Just before Mile Eleven I passed my normal turn onto Elm Street. This would have taken me over to Highland Avenue and added a mile or so to my run.
I kept running strait down Rt. 28 towards Roosevelt Circle. This is a busy entrance to Rt. 93 and for local traffic. Fortunately there is a sidewalk and traffic wasn’t heavy yet.
My kids went to the St. Francis Parish School and I was now in an area I knew quite well.
As I passed St. Francis Street I thought about all of the mornings I went up that road to drop the girls off for school in the morning. Good memories.
The sidewalk along this stretch of road has been heaved by frost and tree roots. I had to watch my step and considered running in the road.
But this section of road is like a speed way on the way to Rt. 93. So I kept my head down and my feet high.
At the intersection of the Fellsway West and Fulton Street the walk light was on! I ran the diagonal across six lanes of traffic for a beautifully executed crossing. That intersection must be 200′ across diagonally.
About half way down the Fells to Rt. 60 I hit mile 12 at 9:35. Not bad.
American Runs on Dunkin!
I was on my way to Haynes Square in Medford. There is a Dunkin Donut’s there and I decided to run to the Dunkin’s for a large iced coffee.
I was dehydrated and I knew that ice cold beverage would taste so good. And since there weren’t any water stops for the half marathon, I owed it to myself to have one good water stop!
I pulled up my mask and walked into Dunkin’s. There were only two people in front of me and I stopped my watch.
It only took about two minutes to place my order and be on my way.
I drank about a quarter of the coffee before I even crossed Rt. 60! I’ve run with an iced coffee several times and it’s much easier to do if it’s not full.
I slow jogged down Spring Street towards my home which was lass than a mile away.
I’m sure I was a sight to see, but hey, America Runs on Dunkin! Call me Captain America, I’ve got an iced coffee!
Just after I turned onto my street I hit mile thirteen at 11:21. Not bad for a guy drinking an iced coffee!
I jogged the next 0.12 miles at a pace of 10:09.
It felt good to be home.
Running in the heat is really draining. While I prefer heat over cold the heat does seem to take more out of me now. Some of that is probably age and some is probably my fitness level.
This definitely was my slowest Great Bay Half Marathon by well over ten minutes.
The real course has a total elevation gain of 424 Ft. while the course I ran only had a gain of 323 Ft. But it’s also about 20° cooler in New Hampshire in April!
It was good to get a solid long run in and the virtual race got me out there.
Have you run many virtual races this year? Have you run a virtual half or a full marathon?
What a great day for the Super Sunday 2020 5 miler and 5K.
It was usually warm for February 2nd and we even had some sun! I tell people this race is always cold and some times it’s god damned cold! This year was as good as it get’s in February in Cambridge.
I’ve been running this race since 2015 and they have always had teams. It’s a great way to drive registrations and it’s a lot of fun to run with a group of friends.
Last year the Melrose Running Club had 31 runners. In 2020 we had 40 run the 5 miler and 9 more run the 5K. We had 11 more non-club members join our team, so we had a total of 60 people!
We got a VIP tent for the second year in a row. Special thank go to our Team Captain, Judy Dolan. Judy worked hard last year to get us a tent and this year took it to another level in getting 60 people to sign up!
Judy also brought hot coffee, pastries and chocolates. Last year she wrote a note for each runner, but with 60 runners, she just couldn’t do it this year. Can you blame her?
I think everyone had a great time and even with the “nice” weather, we enjoyed the shelter of the VIP tent.
Running the Super Sunday 2020 5 Miler
Along with 39 of my fellow MRC runners, I chose to run the 5 miler. I ran the 5K in 2015 but have enjoyed the longer race each year since.
Athenaeum Street is always a wind tunnel. This part of Kendall Square is only a few hundred yards from The Charles river. So there is always a cold breeze blowing down these side streets.
This year was as good as it had ever been. They start the 5K ten minutes after the 5 miler and my first year I had to wait in a freezing howl off of the river. Maybe that’s why I switched to the 5 miler!
There was a huge crowd and I could hear understand a word that the race director, Alain, said. Apparently he asked the crowd to step back because the crowd started pushing us back.
In 2019 we ran towards Third Street, but this year we ran towards First Street which is towards Boston. No big deal, but a bunch of runners had lined up on the front side of the starting line.
We didn’t really hear the start either, but we strained our eyes and saw the front of the pack start to move and in just a minute or two all of us were crossing the line and starting our watches.
It was pretty crowded but even the first turn went well. I didn’t have a full head of steam yet so there wasn’t much slowing needed to negotiate the corner.
Then we turned onto Binney Street which must be six lanes across. A wider road than much of the Boston Marathon route.
It was great to look around and see purple MRC shirts of all varieties. Last year the club bought 100 winter hats and I could see them all over the place.
I always love running through the intersection of Binney and Third Street. Each night I drive through this intersection and during the race I get through the intersection faster than driving!
Third Street in Cambridge is a total mess. This part of Cambridge has been under construction for at least the past ten years. If the city is waiting to fix the roads, it could be ten more years.
This road beats the shit out of my car and as a runner you need to watch where your feet land. I’ve replaced my shocks, I can’t replace an ankle.
From Third we took a right onto Broadway for our long slog out to The Harvard Art Museum where we took a sharp right onto Cambridge Street for the long slog back.
I’ve been on Cambridge Street many times, but I always feel disoriented when I’m running down this street.
About the Super Sunday 5 Mile Course
East Cambridge is a very flat area. The two “hills” had an elevation gain of 27 and 20 feet! The 20 footer came in the last mile of the race and I actually got to pass a few people.
Binney Street is nice and wide and Broadway and Cambridge street are pretty wide also. By the time we got to Broadway the crowd had thinned enough that the narrower road did not feel crowded.
As we ran west on Broadway the crowd continued to thin. At the first water stop, I was actually able to get a cup of water and they only had about five people manning the table. I’m not too proud to grab some water on a short course. I know I need it to run the way I do.
It was fun to run out Broadway and actually be able to look at the shops and restaurants. In a car you have to focus on cars, bikes, pedestrians and lights. It can be exhausting.
The Harvard Art Museum is quite the impressive modern building. They have an exhibit of Japanese art and I thought my youngest daughter might be interested in seeing that.
As I was admiring that building and reading the sign for the exhibit all of a sudden our turn was there!
I had been running with Marty Hergert and Pam Walcott. We kept trading places but at the turn we were close by.
We were now half way and headed toward mile three. This is where the folks who stick to 5Ks start to run our of gas. I knew that over the next two miles I’d be passing some of these people. All I had to do was maintain my pace.
Just keep pushing.
My first three miles were 8:02, 8:13 and 8:07.
I was working but everything was working. Nothing hurt and my breathing was pretty good.
I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but I was doing pretty good for a guy running less than 25 miles a week.
As we ran along I tried to take in the scenery. Cambridge Street is in pretty good condition, so I didn’t have to pay strict attention to my feet.
I don’t recall much of this part of the race but I do recall enjoying the ability to actually see things.
As we headed down the hill at the end of Cambridge Street I was ready. I had pushed the last half mile and was ready for the final kick.
As we turned onto Athenaeum Street I could see the finish line! And there was a small crowd cheering us on.
I was with a good sized group of runners. So when we got to the finish line it was impossible to line up for the photographer.
Garmin had me at 41 minutes even. How unusual is that? My total distance was 5.08 for a pace of 8:04.
My official time was 40:47 at five miles exactly for an 8:11 pace. My 5 mile PR is 36:46 back in 2015 at the Harpoon Brewery Five Miler.
A Rockin Party
Our tent was packed. We had a huge crew and friends from other clubs kept dropping by. Like bees there was a constant flow of runners in and out of the group in search of beer. We’d go get some and head back to the tent.
Twice the race brought us three Za pizzas. They were nice and hot and really hit the spot. I missed the first delivery, but managed to get two delicious, hot slices on the second round.
I was riding with someone else, so I was on a mission to enjoy my self. And that is what I did.
The band was so good, I thought they were playing an Aerosmith tape over the PA. Even when I stopped to listen closely, they still were spot on.
With such a large crew there were people I hadn’t seen in a while and many new club members. It was really a great time.
When we went to leave the parking garage, we found out that it was free! We had no idea and it felt like such a bonus on top of a great race and great time.
If you’ve never run this race, I encourage you to try it next year. It’s well organized, the swag, food, band and beer are all great.
Several times over the years the race has changed a bit. Their web site doesn’t gave a lot of details, but in 2002 they started using the current Lynn/Peabody course and in 2010 they started using the current turn around spot.
Twice the race was postponed due to weather. It is a January race in Massachusetts, so you have to expect that once in a while.
When the race was postponed, participation dropped off substantially.
In the late 90’s into the 2000s the race drew between 200 and 300 runners with a high of 376 runners in 1998.
Since 2010 the Great Stew Chase has had more than 300 runners only once, in 2014. In 2018 and 2019 the race drew less than 200 runners.
I don’t have official numbers for 2020 yet, but I believe that the count was around 150 runners.
I can make a few educated guesses as to why participation is declining.
First, it is a 15K. This is an unusual distance, half-way between a 10K and Half Marathon. It’s too long for people who enjoy running 5Ks and are reluctant to make the leap to 15K.
It’s also too short for people who are training for Boston. At this stage in most training plans, runners need around 15 miles on a Sunday.
Second, the race takes place in January in Massachusetts. It’s not unusual to have ice and snow on the ground and cold winter air blowing in your face.
Third, this race is known for it’s hills. They are not really that bad, but it seems that’s what people hear and remember about the race. The total elevation gain for this race is about 250 feet with the greatest gain of 86 feet in mile 5.
This is the mile we make the turn around and people are starting to feel the race.
Who runs The Great Stew Chase 15K?
2020 marks my 4th running of this north shore race. From my experience, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of who runs this race.
When I first showed up in 2017 I was surprised to see tables full of local running clubs. Each club had a table or two. There were a few unaffiliated runners, but 75% wore club colors.
I’ve come to understand that this is a club oriented event which is fairly unusual. Many races now encourage building teams to get perks like a pop-up tent, but I don’t think Stew’s does this officially.
There are no awards for the largest team or any recognition at all for team size.
Maybe because this is an unusual distance it takes a club to encourage runners to come out? Maybe it’s been a club race for years?
All I can tell you is that there are about six or seven clubs who bring most of the runners to this race.
There are a lot of young hot shots who run this race and do well. There are also lots of older runners who do very well and would be competitive in lower age brackets.
Besides belonging to a club, I think many runners who show up are real runners.
By that I mean people who train in any weather and may have run in high school or college. This is what they do. Some people golf, these people run in any conditions and love it.
This hard core group of runners looks for the challenging races and runs races all twelve months of the year.
When I look around the table at the Melrose Running Club crew, that is what I see. Some of us ran while in school, but most of us came to running later in life and this is what we do.
Less than 10% of our club runs this race, so it is pretty much the hard core runners who show up.
Enthusiasm for running has ebbed over the past five years. There was a surge after the Boston Marathon bombing, but that surge has crested.
Participation in many races has declined and some races have faded away.
While many casual runners now stay home, the hard core runners still turn out in all conditions for races like The Great Stew Chase 15K.
So I believe it is the core of the running community that continues to come out and support races in January that might have an unusual distance.
Melrose Running Club at Great Stew Chase 15K
We had twenty runners this year. This is our lowest turn out over the past four years, but it was mostly our hard core runners. People with grit and goals.
The people who ran this year had a good time even if the course kicked their asses. We’re funny that way.
Lynda Field and Mike Sikkema both won their age group and Marianne Chmielewski placed second in her age group.
Many others placed in the top five of their age group.
Paul Locke, Marty Hergert, Regina Curran and Linda Giesecke all set new PRs for the 15K.
I was just over a minute away from setting a new PR and really thought I had it. My early miles were good and I kept pushing on each hill.
When ever I felt like letting up I kept telling my self that this is the hill that will make the difference. If you let up here you will miss your PR by seconds.
My watch showed my average pace at 8:29 which would beat my PR of 8:33. But I ran 9.53 miles on a 9.3 mile course, and that made all the difference. Oh well.
Overall it was a great day. We had great weather, a challenging course and great people to hang out with.
Nothing like a 10K to get the year off to a great start!
I’ve run the Hangover Classic seven times now?
It’s been much colder and much warmer, but this year was pretty good. Temps were in the 30’s and there wasn’t too much wind. The sky was clear so when we had sun and no wind it was quite nice.
This race is so flat that my Garmin didn’t register any elevation gain at all! I know there were a few rises in the road. One time I could hear the guy behind me groan as the road rose to meet our feet. It was almost funny.
2020 Hangover Classic 10K Exactly
Have you ever run an exact distance for a race?
I’ve run a few that were short, including a 5K that was 2.8 miles. I won’t mention any names but the management company has been in the game for years.
I’ve also run a few races that were long. The Bill Rodgers Jingle Bell Run was 3.4 miles and they posted it as such. They had to re-route the race due to construction in Somerville.
It’s easy to over run a marathon and I usually come in around 26.5 or so. Over 26.2 miles, that’s not too bad.
It’s never exact, but sometimes…
My distance for the Hangover Classic was exactly 6.2 miles! I’ve never run the distance exactly.
I started my watch right on the line and stopped it just a few feet after crossing.
So they measured exactly and placed the start/finish exactly where it needed to be. A perfect execution.
I can’t take too much credit for running the correct distance. There aren’t too many opportunities to get lost and few turns to take long.
Except for the first mile and the turn around at mile three, all you had to do was run strait down the road. Piece cake. Cake by the Ocean!
While the race was uneventful I did run a first, the exact race distance.
Running the Hangover Classic
I got to the race nice and early and had a chance to talk to the timing folks. We had a few laughs and then I had to let them get back to work.
The sun kept my car warm and I read a newspaper. I enjoy reading words on paper, but never seem to have the time anymore.
Since I was 100 yards from the start I waited until 11:20 to head for the start.
The Atlantic wind blew down Broadway and made me anxious to start running.
As I looked around, the crowd looked a little thin. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be more runners in previous years.
We started on time and I was in the first third of the crowd. I found it easy to navigate the few turns and quickly got up to speed.
By the time we wound through the neighborhood and hit mile one I had an 8:06 mile under my belt.
I hadn’t run in a week and was only shooting for 9 minute miles. I told myself that the first mile is the easy one and the last one can be a bitch.
As we headed out onto Route 1A I consciously tried to slow. I’d get behind someone and try to stay a few feet behind them.
But, inevitably I would end up passing. My legs were just surging and at times it felt like the wind was pushing me along.
We’re not talking blazing speed here, but my goal was nine-minute miles. Mile two came in at 8:17.
By this point in the race my legs were stretched out and I just had to decide what I wanted to do.
Around 2.4 miles the leaders started passing us on their way back to the finish. The first five were close but there was a gap between them and the next runners.
I started counting runners and the first woman was 20th at this point.
Just before mile three we took a right to loop through a neighborhood for the turn. We hit mile 3 on the loop and my mile was 8:24. Getting closer!
As we made the turn I thanked the volunteers at both corners. They must have been a little chilly.
Now we had the long slog back to the finish. Most of it was right down Route 1A and I settled in.
There were a few walkers in both directions.
I had been counting runners since the leaders passed us. I had estimated that there were at least 100 in front of me and probably 150 behind me.
As people passed me I had to do a little math.
Mile 4: 8:13, Mile 5: 8:24, Mile 6: 8:31
I didn’t really plan to kick and kind of felt I had left it all out there. This is the end of lazy season after all.
When I saw the six-mile sign on the ground I knew I had 0.2 to go and kicked it in. When I saw the three-mile sign I knew I had 0.1 to go.
As we made the turn and approached the finish I could not believe that the clock said 51:30, tick tock. I kicked in what I had left and managed an official finish of 51:28.1.
Not a blazing time, but not bad for a guy who’s spent most of the past ten days with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other!
I came in 108 out of 288 10K runners, so my estimates were pretty close. They had 10-year age brackets and I came in 24 out of 52.
I started the year off with The Hangover Classic 10K in Salisbury, MA. Over the past 10 years, I’ve run this race seven times. One year I ran the 5K with my daughter, another year I ran another race.
Getting 6.2 miles under your belt on January 1st is a great way to start the year.
There are a few races I run almost every year like The Hangover Classic, but I like to mix things up.
A few times in 2019 I gave away my registration due to unforeseen conflicts. Over the years I’ve been the recipient of such generosity.
A few years ago I had to pass on to a colleague a Boston Marathon charity bib with the fundraising obligation covered! That’s like a Willie Wonka golden ticket! Who hasn’t seen an Umpa-Loopa somewhere out there on Comm. Ave?
BAA 10K Running Streak
The BAA 10K is my only streak race. I’ve run each one since they added this race in 2011. My goal is to keep running this race until I can’t run anymore.
It’s a great 10K that starts on The Boston Common, runs out Comm Ave to the BU Agganis Arena and turns around.
Held the 3rd Sunday in June, it’s usually hot. Sometimes blazing hot. A few years ago in poured cats and dogs right up until the race started and then turned into a sauna. Steam was rising off of the pavement!
It’s a massive race with well over 5,000 runners. There are so many runners that they start the race in waves. I’m not sure if they did this early on but the race has become very popular.
Two Marathons for 2019
I was fortunate enough to get a 2019 Boston Marathon charity bib again. This was my ninth time running Boston over the past 17 years.
Between work and laziness I didn’t do all of the training that I should have. My training went pretty well and I had a decent 20 mile long-run. Better than some of my previous year’s 20 milers.
I ran Boston on April 15th and finished in 4:14:56. Excepting for 2018, this was my slowest Boston in five years. 2018 was 4:46:20 but we had horizontal rain the entire way and no one set any world records that year.
In November I traveled to Philadelphia with two friends to run The Philadelphia Marathon. While not my first destination marathon it felt like it.
Leading up to Philly I ran five half marathons for training. All of them felt pretty good and were well under two hours. The relative success of these comfortable halfs had lulled me into complacency.
But experience kept reminding me to respect the distance and that you get back what you put in.
Philly is a great marathon and I’d encourage anyone to run it. It is a big city marathon but doesn’t feel as big or produced as Boston.
The weather was cold, it rained the last hour of my run and I did not execute well.
My finish time was 4:21:09. I had hoped for 4 but deserved nothing better than 4:30. So no complaints on my finish time.
2019 was the third year in a row that I’ve run two marathons. I hope to keep that streak alive in 2020.
Goals set and Goals missed
The closest I’ve come to running 1,000 miles was in 2014. I ran 977.82 miles over 123 runs including three marathons.
When you have three marathons on your calendar you do a lot of training. By the time my third marathon came around, The Baystate Marathon, a certain amount of joy of the run was missing. I ran my 2nd fastest marathon at Baystate – 3:49, two minutes off my previous year’s finish.
That same year I ran one of my most magical races, The Bay Of Fundy International Marathon. I went with my oldest sister and we ran into friends of hers, went to the runner’s dinner and met a physics student from Heidelberg. He had hitch-hiked from Boston and was Air BnBing on someone’s couch. Everyone in town knew him!
He didn’t have a ride back to Boston, so I drove him. We spent the night at my sister’s and I think he had a great experience with us Americans. I dropped him off at North Station so he could get to Syracuse University for some physics experiments.
2019 was my 2nd highest miles run. So having a goal, even without three marathons, helped me.
Over the past seventeen years, I’ve had a variety of injuries. These effected the number of miles I ran and my speed.
Runners are always learning and avoiding injury and recovery is probably the most important lesson to learn.
My knees bothered me so much in 2018 that I consulted with an orthopedist and had PT. By the end of the year I was well enough to run Honolulu and improve my finish there by almost eleven minutes.
In the past, if I had inflammation I’d take the maximum dose of ibuprofen. And I’d do this for months at a time.
In 2018 I stopped that and began to use spices with anti-inflammatory properties. It may sound crazy but I ran Honolulu in December 2018 and didn’t have any significant running issues in 2019.
Looking back on 2019 that seems pretty remarkable to me. I probably took 5 ibuprofen all year and those were for headaches.
Food as medicine is real.
In 2018 my sister also turned me onto Arenica gel. It’s a topical anti-inflammatory and it seems to work. When ever my knees or IT bands are sore I rub that gel on and the pain and tightness goes away.
You can get in at any pharmacy and it’s relatively inexpensive. Best of all, it doesn’t mess with your liver or kidneys.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the past 17 years is consistency.
It’s better to run shorter distances five times a week instead of two long runs. You’re more likely to get injured running two long runs. And the ease of shorter runs helps keep the motivation level up.
When setting a goal such as 1,000 miles or 3 miles per day, consistency is also important.
I was within 50 miles of my goal early in December. I could have pushed hard and hit my goal but I would have risked injury. I had too many other obligations and I just had to let it go.
This is similar to running a race. There is always a point in a race where I question how much I want it. I tell my self I didn’t train for this race, didn’t train enough period. I’m just running for fun.
Those moments of doubt and hesitation can be the difference between a PR or achieving an incremental goal and just another finish.
Large goals like 1,000 or 1,095 miles need to be chunked and each chunk needs to be met. Otherwise, you end up in December with the goal within sight but out of reach.
I didn’t reach my goal for 2019 but I learned a few things, and I’ll take that.
The 2019 Philadelphia Marathon was a destination race for me. State number six of 50! It was cold and wet, but not as bad as Boston in 2018!
The Philadelphia Marathon was a destination marathon for me.
At age 55 I still hold onto the dream of running a marathon in all 50 states. Pennsylvania was my sixth state.
Friends have run Philly and had good things to say about it, so why not? I’m not getting any younger!
The 25th Philadelphia Marathon for 12,985 registered runners. The official results show that 10,061 runners completed the course.
At the Expo Bart Yasso mentioned that he had run the marathon in the 80’s. It had either been discontinued for a few years or held in a different location for a few years. We didn’t get the details on that.
Philadelphia Marathon Weekend
Like all big city marathons, Philadelphia makes it a weekend event.
The Expo opened on Friday with meet and greats with Meb Keflezighi and Desiree Linden. Meb and Desi also participated in discussions moderated by Bart Yasso on Friday and Saturday.
Bart and Bill Rodgers also spoke on Friday and Saturday on “Marathon Running Over the Years.”
Three Olympians with six Boston Marathon wins between them!
I registered for the Philly Marathon on June 10th and planned to go with Durm Cahill and Mike Sikkema.
We made hotel reservations and bought train tickets. Then about four months ago Durm got broke.
On one of his long runs he torqued his hip and barely ran all summer. Everything was paid for, including the marathon and he had to take a pass. It just wasn’t going to happen.
About two weeks before the race another friend Jose Viveiros heard us talking about the marathon and Durm offered him his number. It was totally last minute.
Jose has had his own health issues over the summer and wasn’t really in marathon shape. He’s more of an Utra guy and I guess those are quite different than a marathon.
We met at South Station in Boston for the six-hour Amtrak ride to Philly.
Mike put in some good training over the summer but didn’t feel fully prepared. I ran most of the Sunday Long Runs and then used half marathons on most weekends for my long run training. Jose hadn’t really done much distance training in a few months.
Mike was shooting for a 3:05 finish but didn’t feel like that was going to happen. Jose just wanted to finish before the six-hour cut-off. I was hoping for four-hours but knew that 4:30 was more likely.
We had fun talking and watching the cities and towns go by. It was a very comfortable ride.
We stayed at The Notary which was only about five minutes from Union Station. The building was the former City Hall Annex which was built in 1926 and turned into a hotel in 1986(?) by Marriott. In the deal with the city Marriott kept many of the historic details.
It was a great location and not just another hotel.
Hanging and Chillin in Philly
Mike lived in Philadelphia for a few years and Jose had hoped to do some sight seeing.
We arrived in Philly late in the afternoon and took a short cab ride to our hotel.
I made the reservation for three adults and requested a roll-away bed. When we arrived the roll-away was not on the reservation and it took several hours and two requests to get it delivered.
While the guys waited in the room, I got in a much needed 3.2 mile treadmill run. My taper had been quite severe!
After I showered and changed and the bed arrived we headed out for dinner. We were up for an adventure, but needed to save our legs. We ended up eating at a sports bar down the street from the hotel. The food was really good. I had one beer and helped Jose finish his.
On the way back we stopped at a 7-11 for some food for the room.
We got to bed around 10PM but Mike and I woke early. Mike went out for a five mile run and I took a shower. Jose got up after Mike showered and we headed for the Expo after Jose showered.
Philly Marathon Expo
Saturday morning we headed for the Expo. Durm and I had paid the $20 fee to have our packet mailed to us. When we registered travel arrangements were unknown. Mike needed to get his packet.
It was a short walk to the Convention Center in the crisp fall air. Mike got his packet quickly and we started walking around.
The Boston Marathon Expo is packed. Those vendors pay a small fortune to be there and they get about 40,000 runners and friends looking for cool stuff.
The Philadelphia Marathon Expo was more like the Honolulu Marathon Expo. Honolulu had about a third of the vendors of Boston. Philly had about the same space as Honolulu, but there were empty booths!
We got there around 10AM so all vendors should have been in place. The vendors that were there didn’t have many hand-outs. We all love free samples.
We did stumble upon Meb Keflezighi and Desiree Linden’s presentation at 10:35. I really wanted to see them speak and it turned out to be worth it.
Both of them are so humble and normal and they have both reached the highest heights of our sport.
Meb talked about growing up literally dirt poor in Eritrea. No running water or electricity and they ate dirt sometimes. Just to survive.
In six months he learned Italian when they finally made it to Italy. Eventually they made it to The United States and pursued The American Dream.
One day in gym class the gym teacher had them run a mile. The winner got a t-shirt and a medal. Meb ran something like a 5:20 mile and the gym teacher told him that he was going to The Olympics!
Meb didn’t know what The Olympics were, but he wanted that t-shirt and the medal!
Desi talked about loosing The Boston Marathon by two seconds! Instead of being defeated, she used that memory to win the 2018 Boston Marathon.
She told us how she almost dropped out of the 2018 Boston Marathon because she didn’t feel it that day. We all felt the pride when she won the race less than two hours after that moment of doubt!
I have to tell you that when Meb was telling his story, my eyes were not dry! He has such gratitude for what this country has given him. And he gave us Boston in 2014.
The three of us loved their talk.
After the Expo we headed to Reading Market for lunch. We tried to get in Friday night, but they closed at 6PM.
Mike got a Philly Cheese Steak and I got some of the best ribs eva! Jose got a smoothy. We headed back to the hotel to eat and hang out.
When room service showed up we were laying on the beds watching TV with our feet up. We had to explain that we only needed more coffee.
Later we went to Mariano’s for dinner and then went to 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts for race day supplies.
Running The Philadelphia Marathon
We got to bed around 10PM but we all woke up several times during the night. Around 3AM I gave up and started checking my email and the weather.
It looked like the rain would hold off until after or late into the race.
By 5AM we were all dressed and ready to run. Since we were so close to the start, Mike and I didn’t leave until 6AM. Jose headed over after us.
The security seemed tighter than Boston. We had to take off our stuff and walk through a metal detector. I used magnets to hold my bib on and they didn’t set off the machine.
The entire start area was dark and chaotic. We made our way through a lawn of mud to UPS trucks for the bag drop. Good idea for the trucks, poor idea for their location.
Then we looked for porta-potties inside the perimeter, but most of them were outside of the start area! WTF! What genius decided to separate runners from the porta-potties?
We managed to find about 10 tucked off to a side. Fortunately the line moved along. As we got our shot, Mike had five minutes to his start. I was a few corrals back and had an extra 10 minutes.
I didn’t see Mike until I got back to the hotel!
I headed for my corral through the sea of chaos. I found an opening in the barricades and made my way to my group. About five minutes before the start I started my watch.
As the group before us left, we moved up and then they started us. It was freakin cold!
I was on the wrong side of the road, but Meb was on the announcers platform giving high-fives as runners went by! How awesome is that!
The first two miles were packed and wound through the historic district. We passed the US Mint and close by the National Constitution Center. At about 2.5 mile we turned right to run along the river at “Race Street Pier.”
We ran along the water front for about a mile and turned right near the US Coast Guard Station. We looped back and ran about half a mile to “Head House Square” where we turned left onto South Street.
South turned right onto 6th Street. As we ran passed the Mother Bethel AME Church I heard this pumping, gospel, R&B, funk music pulsing through the air.
I was waiting for “Cool and The Gang” to break into “Celebrate Good Times” but it was the church choir with a drum kit and a popping bass line that made me want to dance! They kept repeating “God is in you”.
I don’t know about god, but that popping beat got the groove into me! It was awesome.
Just past the church we hit mile five and my average pace was 8:50. Just where I wanted to be.
At about 5.25 miles we turned left onto Chestnut Street and began an almost two mile run to cross the Schuylkill river. We hit mile seven just before the bridge and my average pace was 8:41. A little too fast.
After we crossed the river we started to hit the hills. Mile eight gained 67 feet and mile ten gained 100.
Mile eight ran through The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. We hit mile nine in The Philadelphia Zoo.
In Honolulu we ran past the zoo but the Philly Zoo had a much stronger odor. And we spent more time in proximity.
After The Zoo we ran through The Central District and hit those 100 feet of elevation gain. It was beginning to feel like a run!
Miles 11 and 12 wound through Fairmount Park. I had finished one of my bottles and was dipping into the second one. I began to take water at the stops and was happy to get a gel out here.
After mile twelve we ran along the river again until we reached the MLK Bridge to cross the river at mile 14.
At mile 13.1 they had a timing mat, but no special signs or anything.
My goal was to hold onto a 9:00 minute pace until the half-way mark and my watch said I still had that pace as I crossed the mat.
I knew that this was an overly ambitious pace and I knew it was going to slip away from this mile on. It was beginning to feel like survival time!
A marathon doesn’t really begin until twenty miles have been run. But on this day 13.1 was where my race began. The care-free tourist miles were behind me. It was time to get down to work.
I had done what training I could and was now paying for too much time at my desk and not enough long runs.
After we crossed the MLK Jr Bridge we headed up the north shore of the Schuylkill River towards the hair-pin turn around. For some reason I thought it was a mile or so up to the turn.
It turned out to be about seven miles! When you think something is a mile away and it turns out to be seven miles away and can really mess you up!
Over those seven miles we had about 200 feet of elevation gain and 140 feet decline. Lots of rolling hills.
I was enjoying the scenery as much as possible. Pennsylvania is different than Massachusetts. The houses, businesses and names on those businesses often are different than what I see daily.
When you run somewhere new you should take in as much as you can. Running is a great way to see a lot of an area, even if your feet hurt!
All the way out to Manayunk, PA I took water and often Gatorade at the stops. I even did some walking!
I tried to keep running until the turn but I wasn’t sure where the hell it was.
At some point the lead runners started passing us and then the lead of the heard started passing us on their way back.
I knew that if I saw Mike he was having a rough day and if I saw Jose, I was having a rough day. I didn’t see anyone!
About a mile before the turn I saw a house under construction with a porta-potty out front. The official ones were blue. This one was brown and white.
The official ones always had a line and for some reason I felt waiting in line would kill my time!
I ran to the left side of the road, saw that the handle was green and went in. It was reasonably clean but I was a stinking mess anyway.
As I sat there I heard people yelling and it seemed like someone pulled on the door. But it was the gusting wind trying to pry the door open.
I pulled myself together and managed to avoid dropping anything. Unlatching the door, I ran back into the race like nothing had happened. I never even noticed if anyone said anything or even looked my way. I was on a mission.
The Second Half of Philly
We hit the turn around in Manayunk at about 20.5 miles. There was a small crowd at this turn. Not as many as I expected. But what was I expecting?
Mike said a guy in front of him had slipped on a man hole cover at the turn and he grabbed a-hold of a sign post to swing himself around!
I just did a sloppy turn and felt grateful to be heading east. Philly was somewhere down that freakin road.
As I ran along I realized that we were now past mile twenty and there was less than a 10K to run. But could I?
I was out of juice. Nothing hurt beyond what one would expect from running over three and a half hours.
I had fueled properly, but it wasn’t enough. My cardio conditioning just wasn’t up to par.
Even though I did not need them, earlier in the race I had been taking deep breathes. When I am out of shape sometimes I experience shortness of breathe.
To avoid this, I do deep breathing.
Now it was an essential part of my finishing this race. The last thing I wanted was to visit a medic station or to get hauled off of the course. A fate worse than death!
I jogged, walked and ran the best I could the rest of the race.
My four-hour race was out of the question. Now it was just a question of getting in under 4:30.
I felt that it was possible, but I had to be careful and manage every step.
After the turn around the thought popped into my head, “I took a dump in Many-yunk” I laughed out loud with the little breathe I had to spare. That pit stop was a necessity and it kept me laughing!
At several places people had Dixie cups of beer. Even just a little beer seems to give me lead legs.
At mile twenty-five my legs were beyond lead. A group of Canadians were giving out beer, so I took one. It only had two swallows in it, but it was some of the best beer I’ve ever had.
The beer didn’t effect me at all.
I was aware of my muscles contracting and swelling with each step. Each step forced more blood into my muscles and my legs felt like they were bulging.
Getting to mile twenty-three was a relief. We only had 5K to go. Anyone can run 5K even a guy whose legs felt like plump sausages could do it.
I just had to do it. I walked some, I ran some and I jogged some.
The world closed in around me and I didn’t pay much attention to anyone or anything. All I wanted to do was put one foot in front of the other and hope that the back foot would continue to come off of the ground and land in front of the other. That’s all I wanted. Simple stuff.
It seemed like all of a sudden the crowd grew and I could hear the finish line announcer. Even though I now knew that the turn around was seven miles out, it still hadn’t clicked that this meant there were only five miles to run to the finish line.
And I had run almost all of them. I was coming to the finish line!
Somewhere near the finish my friend Courtney Koschei took this photo.
When you are this close to a finish, you have to run.
I ran 26.55 miles somehow and my last 0.55 mile was at a 10:25 pace.
Nothing special, but better than the previous six miles!
I just really flamed-out the last five or six miles.
Running so many half marathons lulled me into complacency. There is a reason that half marathons are the most popular distance.
I can probably run a half marathon every weekend for a year and feel pretty good during the week.
As I crossed the finish line, I didn’t feel pretty good. It had been raining the last hour or so, it was getting colder and the wind had picked up. Conditions deteriorated considerably.
A guy rolled out a Mylar sheet for me and helped me get it over my shoulders. A few steps further on a lady put the medal around my neck. Even before this someone gave me a 500ml of water which I sucked down in three guzzles.
I made a B-line for the UPS trucks and got my drop bag. All it had was my fleece which I promptly put on. Then I headed for the Deitz & Watson tent for a hot sausage. They were all out! WTF!
They were a major sponsor of the race and they ran out of food? I was far from the last person to cross the line. I felt bad for the 5,6 and 7 hour runners.
The weather was getting bad and the hot food was gone. Brilliant.
I asked about the beer tent and immediately decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
At this point I looked for a way out of the finish area and headed for my hotel.
Not exactly a festive finish area. I’d say it was more than a bit of a let down. Boston is stingy with their post race food, but this was beyond the pale. A bottle of water? Come on!
As I hobbled back to the hotel the rain turned into wet snow! This went on for about ten minutes, all the way back to the hotel.
Apre Philadelphia Marathon
When I got to the hotel, Mike had already showered and packed. Before I headed for the shower Jose showed up. He ran much better than the six hours he had expected.
We didn’t have a lot of time to be tourists or even get something to eat.
We were checked out by 2:30 and in a cab to the train station.
Normally I can eat and drink all kinds of beer after a race. This time I just wasn’t hungry and had to force my self to drink water.
The train wasn’t full so we had room to get our own double seats and stretch out a bit. Being able to walk around on the train was nice also.
When we got to South Station I called an Uber and the guys headed for The Red line. As I was headed for my Uber they came out of the Red Line. They needed to take a shuttle bus to the ext station. Gotta love The T!
Philly had a few issues in the start/finish area, but I would recommend this race if you are looking for a Pennsylvania marathon.