Philadelphia Marathon Photos and Potential 2011 Race

First, a huge congratulations to all of the finishers of the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon this past Sunday. I watched more than half of the marathoners finish and it’s truly an inspiring sight. I get goosebumps when I think about the final stretch of a marathon because of the emotion, tears, and triumphs that every runner has gone through to get to that destination.

Philadelphia Marathon Photos Drexel
Frat Boys at Drexel Cheer the Philadelphia Marathon Runners

I was able to watch portions of the race at the 8th, 12th, and 26th mile markers. Being a smaller marathon compared to New York and Boston (the other two marathons I’ve been to), I was able to see much of the race near the finish and get a feel for the atmosphere.

Racing a fall marathon in 2011 is my current goal and along with Chicago, the Philadelphia Marathon is a potential candidate. While Chicago is probably faster, the weather at Philadelphia will likely be better, I have an extra month to train, and it’s more conveniently located for me. After my 2:44:38 at the 2008 NY Marathon, I’m looking for a big PR.

To do that, I know I’ll have to build a huge endurance engine with a lot of high volume running. I’ll likely also incorporate triathlon training over the summer to gain extra fitness without the injury risk.

Reactions to the Race and Plans for 2011

Initially I was skeptical of racing Philly after viewing the elevation map. It shows several hills in the first half of the race that could prevent a very fast time. I spoke with my fiancee’s uncle after the race (he ran 4:04), and he didn’t think the hills were too challenging. He’s a former cross country and track runner so he knows his stuff.

Philadelphia Marathon Photos_Overpass
Great View of the Runners by the River

A friend of mine ran 3:34 and was a teammate at Connecticut College. She had this to say about the hills:

“In general, the first half flies by and feels really fast because the spectators are amazing in the city and there are so many runners because the half and full run together. There are some hills, but only one significant one. What’s great is that, if you haven’t gone out too fast, the gradual downhill back into the city is really helpful in the last miles of the race.”

The crowd support at Philly was also very impressive. While it’s nothing like the cheering masses at the New York or Boston Marathons, there were plenty of fans to support the runners as they raced. The 8th mile marker was in the Drexel University neighborhood and a lot of students showed up with kegs, blasting music, and loud yelling (shirts optional). That’s my kind of crowd support.

Philly Marathon_Bridge
Marathoners Race to the Half-Way Point in the Philadelphia Marathon

Speakers are set up over the last 200 – 300 meters of the course so the runners can hear the announcer and music. As we waited for the winner to come close, multiple songs from the Jurassic Park movie played. If that doesn’t make you want to run Philly, I’m not sure what will. As a huge JP fan and dinosaur nerd, this has me almost won over.

The Philadelphia Marathon also has a half-marathon that starts at the same time. One thing that I didn’t like is that both races have the same finish. There are half-marathoners still finishing the race while marathoners are coming in to finish. Luckily, the marathoners don’t have to weave through the other runners (the half-marathoners stay on the right side) but it’s an awkward scene.

The marathon also starts at 7:00 in the morning, a bit early for my tastes. I’m not much for predawn running. When I ran New York, the race didn’t start until after 9:00am! That’s my kind of start time. If I run Philly next year, I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to the early start time. Will I have to set my alarm for 2:00am?

Chicago starts at 7:30 but it’s an hour behind my Eastern time zone.  It’s only a half hour difference so I consider this a draw. Traveling to Chicago will be more difficult than getting to Philly (and more expensive), but at the end of the day Chicago is faster. The one variable at Chicago is the weather. Several of the last few years has been unseasonably hot and that would be a disaster for me. Running a marathon in the heat is not conducive to racing fast.

Philadelphia Marathon Photo_Finish
View From Behind the Finish Line

Because of the weather and travel, I’m leaning toward Philly. With two testaments to the course not being too slow (and the gradual downhill in the final miles), I still think a big PR on this course is possible.

A bonus for the Philadelphia Marathon is that everyone’s first name is printed on their bib number. You can’t go wrong with personalized cheering!

Now I’m hoping for your feedback. Have you run the Philadelphia or Chicago Marathons? Help me decide! What’s your advice?

Are you training for the next Philadelphia Marathon? Let me know if personalized coaching can help you reach your goals.

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