Recap of the Philadelphia Marathon 2014

I had a great race! I crushed the first half, put it back together, and then I crushed it again. They put me in the first corral and I figured I’m probably one of the slower guys here so I lined up all the way of the back of it. I kind of wanted to be in the black corral (second) because people tend to go out too fast and you can feel like you’re getting a little run over in the beginning.

  1. Heart-rate measurements are a little less reliable in the beginning of any workout because there isn’t enough moisture between you and the heart-rate straps so I targeted an 8:10 pace.
  2. For the second mile, I kept to the HR zone of 151 to 156, which should have put me in a predominantly fat-burning zone. I love the first hill down Race Street. There never seems to be any shortage of people stopping to take a leak under the bridge at this part of the race. It’s that early part of the race that gives people the jitters I guess and that vibrancy portends an unknown future and we’ll just have to see what happens as you come flying down that turn.
  3. The 3rd mile along Columbus Blvd. is boring as there are no spectators and there’s nothing to see, but this is where warm-up mode ends.
  4. I enter the main zone of my race which is 10 miles at 158-162 bpm heart-rate. This is still an aerobic effort with some strength and is still quite conversational for me.
  5. Mile 5 is always fun because you enter South Street where pub restaurants blast deafening music at 7:30 in the morning. When I passed by they were playing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. When I hear a song I like it gets me going. However, my right foot was feeling a bit cramped so I decided to stop and loosen the heel strap a little and that made it immediately more comfortable. Might have lost about 10 seconds doing this.
  6. Mile 6 is awesome and is packed with spectators. It is great to suck in their energy and and they sure left me smiling and feeling good.
  7. This mile is still full of spectators.
  8. Mile 8 would be boring, except it is probably the most challenging. You’ve got to make a 100 foot climb, which isn’t the worst, but it puts a little meat into the race. Drexel Frat studends are usually getting drunk drinking beer, singing along to “American Woman”. One guy was out in his bath-robe and this is also where I saw my first person who seemed to be injured.
  9. Mile 9 has a huge uplifting down-hill so you can just take in the view of all the people in front of you and enjoy the cruise.
  10. Mile 10 has another ugly hill that is featured in several races in Philly, but once you get over it the rest of the race is kinda flat, so you just have to take it easy and repeat that to yourself. I started doing some mental calculations that my Garmin was about 2-3 secs ahead in its average pace, showing 7:34 instead of something like 7:36 (this is because my watch was switching over to the next lap about 0.1 miles earlier than official mile-markers). So I calculated that this would put me in at about a 3:21 target, which sounded pretty unbelievable to me if I would be able to pull that off. It wasn’t really something that I was expecting so I just decided to play it cool and to keep up the effort.
  11. The turn-around at mile 11 is awesome because you know it is going to be flat for miles and miles. I saw spectators blasting music in rad, Halloween type costumes that made me laugh and smile. Quirky people at races are so awesome.
  12. Now signs start sepearating 1/2 and full marathoners. The 3:15 pacer runs past me and I wonder where he came from. He must have started in the Black corral behind me. Anyway, he wasn’t somebody I wanted to keep up with so I just let those balloons trickle on ahead with its pack.
  13. Half-marathoners are getting excited and the crowd is celebrating, but not me. I’m just getting started and I keep the engine running steady.
  14. I pass the half-way mark and my watch says 1:40:20, which if doubled would be a 3:21 marathon so I’m feeling very encouraged at this point. Even if I slow down I’m hoping to finally beat my 3:27 PR. At this stage, my target heart-rate zone switches over to a 163 to 166 range.
  15. Mile 15 is a good place to take in and enjoy the nice view of the river.
  16. My legs start feeling a bit stale and I try not to push too much. Since I haven’t done any speedwork for months, I know I’m not used to this intensity so I get a little nervous. I figure out that I should keep my stride short and within range of motion. Keep that cadence up. My heart-rate is averaging 162, which is lower than I want it to be and my Garmin keeps telling me to pick up the effort a bit. But I’m finding it hard without also triggering hamstring cramps.
  17. I’m excited to look out for my family now. I’ve been running with a running belt carrying my own sports drink and so I drop that off, which makes me a little lighter for the finish. At mile 3 I decided to take 3 sips at every mile to let a steady trickle of carbs into  my system.
  18. There’s a little loop you have to do over Falls Bridge and I’m thinking that at least I don’t have to do this stupid loop on the way back after Manayunk. But the hill on the way back up wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be on the way down. Coming out of it I see my wife and family again. Wife shouts “Go Tario” which makes me laugh – people often misread my Bib and mistake the Q for an O, and shout Tario. Hahaha. It’s good to have a laugh when you’re running.
  19. It is awesome to start entering Manayunk. I could see all the people ahead of me and I recognized one short-framed girl who wears her Boston jacket a lot, running around Kelly Drive. Today she was running near the 3:05 pacer. I always knew she was much faster than me. My watch keeps telling me to run faster and over the next few miles I’m finally able to bring my HR into my target lactate-threshold zone (167-171).
  20. I’m exhilarated to be turning around at Manayunk.
  21. The crowd is wild, and I’m still feeling strong. I’m smiling all the way through the thick crowds of Manayunk. This part of the course is also downhill so that is an awesome place to turnaround. I’m starting to think that I’ve go this, but I’m not super-charging any engines yet. Miles 22-24 is where things typically go sour so I’m holding out for glory.
  22. I got to see my family again. My mom is looking excited and my wife seems proud and I’m feeling a lot of love for my 4-year old Kiosi. Man that kid is special, and now I just have to bring this PR home.
  23. Boring and quiet mile, but this is where I ditch heart-rate zones. Time to just race to the finish and I set my watch to warn me if my pace drops below 7:40.
  24. Another boring and quiet mile and I’m thinking where the heck is the water station? I keep glancing at my pace and it is nearing an 8 minute mile and so I start shaking my head. If only I could get some juice.
  25. Many times my watch is telling me to run faster to run in the 7:40 to 7:20 range. I finally get some water and Gatorade and I think it helps.
  26. I see an official timer that says 3:10 and I can’t believe it. Only one mile to go and that would put me in at something like 3:18. I can’t believe my luck and I’m getting super excited. The crowd is nuts. Very few people shout  my name although “Ashley” next to me is sucking it in though, and her excitement is trickling over. I’m putting it in high, but controlled gears now. The finish line is just up the hill by the museum.
  27. The last 0.2 miles is downhill. I’m looking anxiously for the finish line banner as I don’t know exactly where it is but I’m starting to sprint. When I see it and I realize the time I’m going to make, I feel my eyes mist up emotionally. My official time was 3:18:42 and I feel like I just won the world-record. 30 seconds after the finish line I feel like I can hardly walk – wow what a race!

Here are my mile splits:

Seeing a 7:26 mile split so early in the race would have been alarming to me had I followed a strategy based on pace


About Esotariq

Quantitative Finance Professional with a passion for happy living, self-improvement, nutrition, and minimalist running over maximalist distances.