Monday, November 24, 2014

Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I completed my second half marathon - the Philly half! I ran with #TeamCherryBlossom - Jane and Mary - who I met while running my first half marathon (Nike's Women's Half Marathon in DC). This was Jane's 23rd half marathon and Mary's 9th! And all of Mary's half marathons were run with Jane. Running races with friends is great fun.


I left my hotel at zero-dark-thirty and walked the few blocks to Jane & Mary's hotel. We met in the lobby which was filled with other runners. There was a nice spread of bananas, coffee, and bottled water. There was no spread at my hotel - ironic because my hotel was one of the official race hotels and Jane & Mary's was not. Go figure!

We passed through race security quickly despite my choosing the one lane of ten that actually had a line. Lesson: look around you before you get in a line. We followed the crowd until we found our corrals, and then we looked for the UPS trucks so we could check our bags. We ran into Jane's friends Ryan and Husein by our gear check truck. Mary & I checked our bags with no problem. This was the first time I've checked a bag at a race and I was impressed with the organization and efficiency.

Keeping warm in our trash-bags
(photo courtesy of Jane)

clockwise from left: Husein, Mary, Jane, Ryan & me.
Did I mention it was early? And dark?
(photo courtesy of Ryan)

Mary checks her gear. Trucks were
organized alphabetically by last name.

We headed back towards our corral and got in line for the porta potties. We were in line for a long time and didn't seem to be moving. We finally figured out we were in line for the handicapped designated porta-potty and we moved down the row where the lines were shorter and moving. Lesson: look around you before you get in a line. 

THIS is the line we want to be standing in - much faster!
(photo courtesy of Jane)

After our porta-potty pit stop we made our way into the corral and slowly started shedding our throw-away clothes (note: if you have used sparkly duck tape to put your name on your shirt, remove your throw-away shirt carefully so your tape does not come off and leave your name as K-I-I-I instead of K-I-M). Jane & I ditched our trash bags before crossing the start line; Mary kept hers on through the first couple of miles until she warmed up sufficiently.

In the corral we discussed goals and pace. My A-goal was to beat 2:45; my B-goal was to beat 2:50:27 (my first half marathon finish time). Mary & Jane had no specific time goals, they wanted to finish and enjoy running through Philly. We decided we would stay together to start and that I should speed up and take off on my own whenever I felt the time was right. Jane mentioned doing 5:1 run:walk intervals and I was thrilled because that is my usual interval for long runs. Everything was coming together!

Almost go-time! Steve looks less excited than we do...


Miles 1-4

The early miles were filled with spectators and through some scenic parts of the city. We focused on not going out too fast and enjoying the views. We warmed up, got in the running groove, and chatted a bit. Jane & Mary filled me in on some of the highlights from their previous 8 half marathons together. 

Approaching the Delaware River
(photo courtesy of Jane)

Miles 5-7

During these miles Mary & I talked about being in our "happy running place" - we were warmed up and feeling strong. The crowd support in this section was especially great. People cheered for us by name, or by tiara ("looking good, princesses!"). In one area there were tons of people with boxes of Kleenex which was awesome for all of us runny-nosed runners.

Mary & me in our "happy running place"
(photo courtesy of Jane)

We checked my pace band at each mile and could see that I was increasingly behind for my 2:45 goal. When we crossed the 10k timing mat I was behind by 2 minutes and 34 seconds. I didn't think I could make the time up, and knew that I would have to break away and speed up at some point to ensure my B-goal of 2:50:27. I mentally planned to do that at mile 10 after we were done with the challenging hilly section.

Soon after the 10k mark, I was surprised to see my Kappa Delta big sis Nita! Nita's husband Stan was running his first half marathon and I knew she would be out cheering for him. Stan is way faster than I am, however, so I didn't expect to see her on the course. Hugging her and getting a quick picture was a race highlight for me.

Me & my big sis Nita.
She makes fantastic signs!

Stan & Nita from last week's Rocky Balboa Run.
(photo courtesy of Nita)
Stan's goal for the half marathon was 2 hours.
He crushed it with a time of  1:55:28!
Congrats on your first half marathon Stan!
Read Stan's "race recap" below...

Miles 8-10

These miles were as challenging as advertised, with steady hills through miles 8 and 10. We persevered through mile 8 - Mary is an awesome hill cheerleader! If you are running hills, you want to run them with Mary. We made a quick shoelace tying/stretching stop and took a selfie. I'm glad we did because little did I know I was about to lose them.

mid-race selfie
(photo courtesy of Jane)

Just before mile 9 we reached a water stop. Although according to the course guide it was really a cheer zone. But there was definitely water there because I went to the side to get some water, pausing to reflect on this gigantic "Hope" creature at the side of the street. I was really grooving on the feeling of "Hope." After drinking my water I turned to find Jane & Mary and couldn't see their tiaras anywhere. I ran up to the top of the hill and stopped and scanned the crowd. Nope, couldn't find them. I took it as a sign that it was time for me to take off on my own.

Jane actually took a picture of the "Hope" creature!!
This is the point where I lost #TeamCherryBlossom
and kicked my race into a higher gear.
(photo courtesy of Jane)

I knew I was more than two and half minutes off my A-goal and had just over four miles left. I didn't think I could make up the time. But I knew I was almost three minutes under B-goal so I kicked it up a notch to make sure I made that goal. Mile 9 was largely downhill so I felt great and even skipped one of my walking breaks because I didn't want to lose the downhill momentum.

Spectators were sparse in this area, but the ones that were there were real motivators who had planned to be there and lift runners' spirits. I was grateful to have my name on my shirt and my bib - people called to me by name and wished me a happy birthday. I guess a group of tiaras looks like a posse of princesses, while a lone tiara looks like a birthday crown. Well, my birthday was a week away, so I happily accepted all those good wishes.

Mile 10 was a steep uphill. It was challenging. I focused on maintaining effort and positive self-talk. I told myself this was my moment. My race. I could do it. Believe. Kick Keister (thanks Jen). Kick Asphalt (thanks Gina). I've found that being your own best cheerleader during a race is a really good thing.

Miles 11-13.1

I kept running strong and cheering myself on. I checked my pace band and it seemed like I was making up more time than I thought, but my brain was feeling clouded and I couldn't quite process how much time I had made up. It wasn't until I got to mile 12, and saw that I wasn't yet at 2:30 that I realized I was going to make my A-goal, and with some serious minutes to spare. 

I kept running hard, but not so hard that I would bonk before the finish line. I knew from race reports that I would hear the crowds and finish line when they were still relatively far and that I shouldn't sprint too soon. The spectators were amazing here - I heard my name constantly and it felt so motivating. I tried to give a smile or thumbs up to everyone acknowledging my effort. 

I heard the podium presentations for the marathon winners over the loudspeaker as I made my approach. I kept looking for the finish line and not seeing it. I finally saw it and started to sprint hard. I crossed the finish line at 2:39:34. I had made up 8 minutes in the last four miles of the race. Hello negative splits!

I think this is a first for me - both feet in the air!

I'm on the right side of the screen around the 13-second mark.


After getting a heat sheet and a medal, I pulled out my phone and had a text from my husband Rick. He had decided to run the half instead of the full and was by the bag-check truck. I got in line for some food and looked up and there he was! Lesson: look around you before you get in a line. 

The food was awesome! I learned that back-of-pack food shortages are not an issue when you are running a half marathon that is combined with a marathon! There were still thousands of people out on the course and lots of food. I got a bag with orange juice, salted rice chips, and peanut butter. I picked up a banana, soft pretzel, and some warm chicken broth that really hit the spot.

soft pretzels - better than a bagel!
(photo courtesy of Jane)

warm chicken broth - so great after a race!
(photo courtesy of Jane)

Rick & I waited for Jane & Mary to finish and we reunited at gear check. They had a fantastic run and stopped to take fun pictures in a couple of places after losing me. We took our celebratory finish photos before parting ways. Jane & Mary were off to cheer Ryan in for his marathon finish while Rick & I were off to warm showers and reuniting with our son after a day apart.

#TeamCherryBlossom with our hard-earned medals
(photo courtesy of Jane)

Rick & me, basking in the moment
(photo courtesy of Jane)

When we got back to the hotel I savored the perfect post-race treat from Jane - "Mo's Uncured Bacon Caramel Toffee" from Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Jane & Mary - thank you for being two of the best racing friends a girl could ask for. I'm already looking forward to the next one, wherever it may be!

Thank you Jane!


  1. Great recap and an amazing run! Recovering 2 minutes per mile on those last 4 miles is quite astonishing. Enjoy the glow of the finish.

  2. I've been looking forward to your race recap since we finished. Thanks for recording our memories which I won't soon forget. I'm so proud of you and SO glad Mary & I met you on course in D.C. It was all meant to be.
    BTW, the 5-person selfie is technically courtesy of Ryan, king of selfies, just taken w my phone. Looking forward to a Team Cherry Blossom reunion run. :)

    1. Thank YOU for recording our memories photographically. This blog post would be lost without your photos! I fixed the selfie credit, which makes me realize I should be crediting the photographer and not the owner of the phone. I am also looking forward to our next reunion run :)

  3. Wow great job on meeting your goal and making up so much time at the end. That;s hard to do!

    1. Thank you Deborah! I'm still kind of in shock over those last four miles :)

  4. Congrats on your race, and hitting your A-Goal! Negative splits really do translate into great results (as do looking around before getting into lines!)! ;) Great work!

    1. Thanks Tai! I suspect I still haven't learned the lesson about looking around before getting in line :)

  5. Congrats on the PR - what an amazing race! Your second half was such a great display of fortitude and spirit. So happy for you!!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! "Fortitude" and "Spirit" are awesome words. I'm grooving on them as much as I was grooving on the "Hope" creature yesterday :)

  6. Congrats on the PR!! Those hills were killer, definitely slowed me down, great course overall though :)

    1. Thank you Jess! I just read your race recap - congrats on the great time. Next time we'll both aim for running less than 13.5 miles on a 13.1 course ;)