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Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

Posted Sep 21 2010 9:32am

Awesome.  That is the only word I can use to describe the race that Rock n Roll put on in Philadelphia this past weekend.  I have completed many half marathons over the past few years and this race was the most organized and the largest production of any I have been part of.  If you are looking for a half marathon that gives the atmosphere of a big race with loads of runner amenities make sure you check out a Rock n Roll race.

I took the train from NYC on Saturday afternoon down to Philadelphia; I had booked a hotel at the host location and arrived in just over 90 minutes.  The host hotel was less than a block from the convention center where the expo was being held.  The only other time I had been to an expo this large was for the marathons I had run.  For a half marathon this was an insane expo and very well organized.  Getting your bib, changing corrals, entering a pace group and getting your race t-shirt was a breeze.  Brooks was one of the marquee sponsors of this event and had the largest presence at the expo.  I got hooked into buying some gear and picked up a new shirt and pair of socks.  You gotta hand it to Brooks, they always come up with unique ideas for their space at expos; here they had porta-johns as fitting rooms.

That night I enjoyed a pasta dinner at Maggiano’s which was right across the street from my hotel.

The race started at 8:00 am so I was up and out of my hotel walking to the start line around 6:45.  The only complaint I had about the organization was that there was not much information provided by Rock n Roll about logistics getting to the start line from the hotel, they should have provided some sort of shuttle service from the host hotel.  Nevertheless, it was just over a mile to the starting area and it was a nice morning so I enjoyed the walk.  At the starting area it was very well organized and gave you a big race feel with the brown UPS trucks organizing your gear check.  The corrals were very clearly marked and the announcements over the PA made you aware of exactly what was happening.

I started my warm up and as I was jogging along I happened to be right next to Ryan Hall.  He is much taller than I thought.  Anyway, I finished my prep and made my way to the corrals; once in we had a great rendition of the national anthem and the wave start began.  Again, genius!  This was the first time I was in a wave start like this.  They let each corral go out and brought the next one up to the start as the corral in front took off for about 1-2 min.  It was the first time I started a race in the front row with nothing but the road and crowd surrounding the course in front of me.  I now know what the elites feel like as they begin a race.

The course wound through downtown Philly then and out an back along the Schuylkill River.  I felt very good over the first part of the race keeping to my pace of 7:30.  For the first 6 miles I felt strong.  The course eventually took you out of the city and along the river, you went from crowds 2 to 3 deep to nobody; it is quiet and it is just you and other runners.  It was a complete mind “F” as you knew the further you ran out you would have to circle around the other side of the river on the way back.  At mile 8 I started to feel some cramps and I began falling off my pace.

I tried to keep to my 7:30-7:35 pace but I just couldn’t maintain the speed.  By mile 10 and on the way back towards the city I had completely lost it. I was mentally done, I was cramping and I was getting road killed every few minutes.  I had no clue how much I had fallen off pace and all I wanted to do was finish the damn race.  There was not much elevation change on the course but the last 3 miles was a constant uphill and for me it was brutal.  Mile 11, then mile 12, then mile 13- I was almost there.  The final .2 miles took a left hand turn and up the most significant hill of the course.  I pushed as hard as I could and finish ed.

I was done.  I was beat.  The race kicked my ass.  I don’t think I trained well enough.  I was not prepared.  However, with all of this going through my head I looked at my watch and realized I finished in 1:40, just a minute off of a PR.  Seeing that time made me very happy because on a day that I did not have “it” I still managed to push along and finish a strong overall race.  The last miles may have been bad but the overall race was a success.

The finisher medals they gave were sweet; big and of very high quality.  After cooling down and changing I made my way over to the MGD beer garden and enjoyed a few free beers while I sat in the sun talking to other runners and listening to the greatest (self proclaimed) Bon Jovi cover band.

Overall it was an awesome race experience.  I totally enjoyed the Rock n Roll experience and I absolutely and without a doubt will enter another race next year.  They make each runner feel like a superstar and do an amazing job organizing and creating a big race atmosphere.  They even found a way to make me, a Philly hater, enjoy the city for the day- now that is truly amazing.

Did you run a race this weekend or have your last long training run- how did it go? What do you do when you feel like you don’t have “it”?

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