I arrived in Philadelphia after a very busy week (seven marathons in seven days), a night flight and with three hours of time difference.
I took a short nap to recover a bit before going to the Health and Fitness expo to get my runner’s bag and bib. The weather was very good, and, if it stayed that way, I thought that everything would be fine and dandy for the next day’s run. I went downtown for a bite to eat but, when I left the restaurant, I was horrified: the temperature had dropped from 70° to 28° F in less than two hours and a strong wind was blowing! I felt cursed when it comes to the East Coast! As if I was not welcome there this year! I rushed to the hotel and checked the forecast to prepare the run. My fear was confirmed: 28° F, wind gusts at 34 mph and chance of snow for tomorrow. The full Monty. I accordingly got my stuff ready for the race and fell asleep trying to not think of the weather outside.
The alarm clock went off at 6 a.m. I took my three packets of Immun’Âge®, ate a light breakfast and got myself ready. I dressed to keep warm: thick runner’s leggings and four layers for the top including a turtleneck, a windbreaker, gloves and glasses on top of a hood. And I walked twenty five minutes from my hotel to the start area. It was freezing cold with strong wind gusts. Once at the start, I found out that I was assigned the black corral, i.e. the corral for runners whose expected finish time stood between 3:35 and 3:59. The race’s organizers had obviously made a mistake as I had not given them such an anticipated finish time. I took a spot at the back of my corral as I did not want to impede any runner’s progress and started at a four-hour pace.
The gun went off at 7 a.m. As the time between each corral’s start was five minutes, I did not impede anybody’s progress, especially as the avenues where we started the race, i.e. downtown, were very wide. I had the advantage to know the course as I had run this marathon several years ago. We ran the first kilometers downtown with many spectators lining the course and cheering us despite the freezing cold and wind. I reached km 5 in 29 minutes. We ran along the Delaware River and went back downtown where there was an engaging atmosphere with spirited crowds.
People approached me to congratulate me on my 2016 Challenge. I explained that this marathon was actually not my 48th but my 72nd this year as I had run 24 extra marathons so far. They were both impressed and stimulated.
I reached km 10 in 59 minutes. We gradually left downtown and ran several uphills before entering a large park with the race’s only significant difficult stretch: a long steep incline that led us to km 15 (that I reached in 1:31). I had ran dead-even pacing so far and felt great, so I kept going. We managed to pull through despite the wind as only few facing gusts nailed us into the ground. We actually were running with the wind most of the time. The course, however, was engaging with rapid changes.
We then ran through West Fairmount Park and headed back towards the finish line. I reached km 20 in 2:03 and the half-marathon in 2:10. My time was good and my legs felt fine, so I went on. I greeted the famous Rocky statue before going to the other side of the park for an out-and-back stretch along the Schuylkill River.
There were more swirling wind gusts that were impossible to duck but it was too freezing cold to stop: we had to go on. I reached km 25 in 2:36 – a decent time for a 72nd marathon this year! The course was still flat and fast. There were cheering crowds and an engaging atmosphere at km 29, where I drank a fresh beer that really boosted me.
I reached km 30 in 3:10 in a lively neighborhood with many people. It was pleasant and also motivating. We turned around at km 32 heading back toward the finish area. As on our way out, the wind was swirling and we got to run sometimes facing the wind, but, luckily, we only had to deal with a few of those fierce gusts.
I kept the same pace and knew then that my finish time was going to be good. I reached km 35 in 3:44. I kept running on the inner side of the course to protect myself from the wind as much as possible. I was catching tens of runners. I psyched up on a ‘never-give-up’ attitude and I never gave up. I sped up and reached km 40 in 4:16.
A long straight stretch slightly up and there was the finish line. I ran the actual marathon distance in 4:29:58 and, 650 yards later, I crossed the finish line in 4:33. An unexpected time after the difficult week I just had: seven marathons in seven days, a 600-mile car trip to my sponsor after a marathon and a sandstorm in Arizona.
I got my medal and some food for later but did not hang around as it was really too cold. The wind was blowing with such strength that the organizers could not set up the finish line. I took, however, a picture with the Rocky statue, but did not run up the steps of the majestic Art Museum – the famous “Rocky Steps” as it’s right and proper! I left quickly as I did not want to catch a cold.
I was very happy with my finish time as the Philadelphia marathon is a big race. The course was engaging, and the atmosphere really excellent despite the Siberian cold. But the snow missed us! (It snowed farther north.)
I am going to rest for three days before the next eleven marathons (which I will run in a row) and a few well-deserved vacation days in Hawaii.
‘Til next week in Seattle for Quadzilla – four marathons in four days – with a focus on the official Seattle Marathon on Sunday, November 27! Have a good week!