Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.

1 Corinthians 9:24

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Philadelphia Rock 'N' Roll

Race Morning
 Last Saturday, in between Civil War 150th events, I headed to Philadelphia to run the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This, coming two weeks after I ran the half at Disneyland, was the first time I had run two races of those distances so close together. I was not concerned, as I had done training runs of greater distances in back to back weeks while training for my previous marathons. I elected, for a $30 fee, to pick up my packet on race day because I was not going to be able to make the expo. It was steep, but worth it; as there was no other way I would have been able to race.
Because the race was so close to my previous Half, finishing would qualify for membership in the group Half Fanatics. Some who will read this will know exactly of what I speak.  However, for those who don’t, here is a bit of background on Half Fanatics. Fanatics is a group of people who run Half Marathons, a lot, and frequently.  The beginning level is running 2 halfs within 16 days or 3 halfs within 90 days. This was the level at which I was initially trying to qualify. The frequency/difficulty goes up from there. Once qualified, a member receives a seniority number and membership information that allows them to login to the Fanatics site.  The site provides a place to see when and where other members both have raced and are racing in the future. The group will often meet up before these races to reconnect and take pictures before going out to run the race.  For further information, check out: 
Aaron and Monica and Independence Hall
Anyway, after picking up my packet, I headed over to the area near my corral searching for a few other ROTErs who I knew would be running the race. I found them in a corral two back from mine. Monica and Aaron were old hats at the whole running thing.  However, their twelve-year-old son Drake (who they call, and will henceforth be referred to in this and every other blog post as, Mancub) was running only his second half marathon.  Mancub, along with Monica and Aaron, had run the VA Beach Rock ‘N’ Roll Half the same weekend I ran in Anaheim. As a result, he was also running to qualify for Fanatics.  
Back toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art
VA Beach RnR, which I had run previous year, is the flattest course I have run, with a total elevation variance from the high to the low points of about 20 feet.  Though VA Beach does have one bridge that is makes things tough right near the end. Philadelphia, from the highest to the lowest point, 31 feet; and, unlike VA Beach, there was no high bridge, to make life difficult.  The elevation change was just a slow steady climb heading north of town, before turning around at a low bridge over the Schuylkill River. 
Along the River

I loved the course. That it was flat is a huge plus. But, the course uses the city to great advantage. The course is sort of a figure eight. The race starts and finishes at the Eakins Oval. The race starts by looping southeast through the downtown area, passing City Hall and Independence National Historical Park. It did not occur to me at the time, but we passed Independence Hall less than a day before the 225th birthday of the U.S. Constitution.  Looking back, it made the day even more special, even if I did not realize it at the time. The first loop was about 4 ½ miles. The course turns back uptown for the second, and longer, loop, past the Oval, and along the river. The course crosses the river about mile nine and turns back south where it finishes in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Anyone who has seen the movie Rocky knows the significance of this Museum, and the steps leading up to the entrance.
On Course Entertainment 
 Aaron, Monica, Mancub and I began the race in the final corral. I moved back a few corrals so I would be able to run with them. We got off about a half hour after the first runners crossed the start line. It did not take long for Mancub to begin to open up a lead on the rest of us old folks, though never so far that Aaron could not see him while on a long straightaway. We ran 1:1 intervals for the first six miles. Around this time, Mancub’s early lead and over enthusiasm began to catch up with him. Little by little, he began to slow down before we caught up with him. By the time he fell all the way back to us, he had hit the wall hard. We walked along for a couple of miles.  Monica and I went on, though Aaron and Mancub began falling further and further back.
By the time we reached the bridge, I decided to push on ahead to see what I could do after the first nine miles.  It turned out it could do more than I expected.  I went back to my 1:1 intervals and adopted a strategy of picking out a person or group in front of me that I would try to catch on each running interval. Over the course of the last 4 miles on the course, I ended up shaving about 40-45 seconds off my minute per mile pace.  Realizing that I could do that after being on course for the previous nine miles gave me hope that I would be able to beat the bridge at Marine Corps, and after all, that is what these races/training runs are all about. Once I was able to look at my pace breakdown, after the race times were posted online, I found out that the last 5K of the race was done at a pace that would enable me to beat the bridge.

View from the top of the Rocky Steps
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I received my medal and sent Half Fanatics my membership application email, which was ready and waiting for me to finish the race. By the end of the day, I received official acceptance into the ranks of the Half Fanatics (#2910). I grabbed my post race water and snacks and went back to try to see Monica, Aaron, and Mancub finish. In the time it took to dash off my email and grab my goodies, Monica had already finished.  However, I was able to see Aaron and Mancub finish. They were the last ones to cross the finish line, but Mancub’s effort is to be highly commended. He got off to too strong of a pace and could have quit when the going got hard. However, he stuck with it and finished. I certainly could not have done it at his age, or double his age, for that matter. After I watched them cross the finish line, I turned and did what others had done, or were in the process of doing. I ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, otherwise known as the Rocky Steps.  Shortly thereafter, I walked back to my car and headed home.  I continue to be amazed at how good I feel after these races now that I have switched to an interval running method.  I think I will continue to use this method for some time to come.
Next up is the OCNJ half next weekend.  This will be the only race before MCM where I will not know anyone with whom I am running in the race.  This should allow me to push my pace and really see what I can do at this point.  My goal for this race is to finally break 3 hours or at least to PR.  More as it develops.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your half fanatics qualifying race and earning your "Rock Encore" heavy medal!

    Peter (#2619)