The 8:00am start time for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly race was ideal for a number of reasons. First, this is the same start time as the Richmond marathon, so this race served as a good dress rehearsal to set my morning pre-race routine. The only difference is that we are staying very close to the Richmond start line, so I’ll probably be able to sleep for an extra 30 minutes (Samantha’s parents drove us from Samantha’s house in Conshohocken to the start line). I set the alarm for 5:30, which provided more than enough time to get dressed, eat and digest some food, and use the bathroom before heading out the door. Second, when we walked out the door at 6:45, it was a balmy 43 degrees. However, once we arrived at the start line in downtown Philly, the sun was up and the running conditions were ideal. An 8am start time in mid-November in Richmond will hopefully not be too far off from the 43 degrees that we experienced this weekend.
The starting line setup was pretty good. There are really only two things that I typically need to do before a race. Go to the bathroom and find my corral. We got in line for the bathroom at 7:15 and got through the line by a couple minutes after 8. For anyone who got in line after we did (which a lot of people did), you definitely did not make it into your corral on time. There needed to be more bathrooms. Emails leading up to the race advertised VIP access for a fee, which included use of private bathrooms. As long as you build in the right amount of time to find and go to the bathroom before a race, that extra expense probably isn’t worth it. If you like cutting it close, then maybe you should pay the extra fee in order to start the race on time. Though I will say that I didn’t see any VIP signage (I also wasn’t really looking hard for it).
As it turns out, I went with all new running clothes for this event. Since this was a dress rehearsal for the marathon, I wanted to try out some clothes that I thought might work well for 26.2 miles. A few days before the half, I was thinking about what I’d do for gel storage during the race. I wanted to use the same Accel vanilla gels that I’ve been training with. After doing some research, I discovered the Brooks Sherpa III shorts. These shorts have a 4.5 inch inseam (close to my typical length) and have two Velcro closure pockets that are designed for gel storage. Before I cut the tags, I tested out the gel pockets, and while I was initially doubtful that gels would fit, all I had to do was fold down the top of the gel (the tear-tab) and it fit just fine and velcro’d shut. There is also a small pocket on the inside of the shorts that fit my ID. As for my race shirt, I brought several contenders but ultimately purchased a new Brooks short-sleeve tech-tee from the expo. It’s a grey shirt with a vintage-looking Brooks logo. Since it was chilly, I used my Nike armwarmers during the race. I also used my Garmin Forerunner 10 watch (I can’t run without it), and wore my RoadID bracelet, Asics Gel-Forte sneakers with orange superfeet, and Oakley flak jacket sunglasses (very important since it was very sunny).
I’ll speak to the race route first. It was 4 miles through downtown Philly, followed by about 9 miles of running along the river that runs to the north and west of Philly. Very flat, fast route, with good shade. The roads we ran on were very wide and the only time that I wasn’t free to run the pace I wanted was in the first mile or so (to be expected for a race with 20,000+ participants). There was good crowd support along the downtown stretch of running and at the turnaround point along the river. Since this was a Rock and Roll event, there were bands every mile or so. I’d prefer more DJ’s playing music that I’m familiar with over the random jazz bands, or the Philadelphia Eagles pep band, but any music is better than no music.
My specific race went according to plan. I decided to set the pacing function on my GPS watch to 8:30/mile. If I stray too far from that pace, the watch beeps and alerts me to speed up or slow down. I told myself before the race that I’d stick to this pace for the majority of the race and decide whether to pick up the pace toward the end. I executed this strategy and finished the race strong, clocking back-to-back 7:35 miles at the end of the race. Here are my specific mile splits:
It felt good to finish a half-marathon strong and pass people instead of having them pass me. As I wrote about previously, I typically hit a wall at mile 10. Not during this race. The training I’ve put in has prepared me well to handle races of this length. The next test will be continuing to up the mileage on the weekend runs, culminating with a 20 mile run on October 26th.
Directly upon finishing the race, I received a race medal, had a picture taken, and then entered the food and drink area. I’m not big into eating food right after a run, but I took a bag of pretzels (probably for the salt), and then took a chocolate milk, a Gatorade, and a water. This area led to the exit of the finish line area and opened into a park where the post-race concert was being held.
All in all, it was a great race. The weather conditions were ideal, the course was nice, and the starting and finish line experiences were better than a typical large race. And most importantly, I set a new half-marathon PR.