Philadelphia Marathon #5

This was an experiment for me, to try to run two marathons in a six week period.  To give away the ending, it worked out okay, and I would do it again.  But, to get back to the details about Philly,  it is a small marathon by big city standards.  There were about 14,500 signed up to run the marathon, which is a sellout number, and also included about 1500 runners signed up for New York City, which was cancelled due to hurricane Sandy.  This compares with NYC, registering 47,000, and Chicago, 51,000.  Even Boston, which has qualifying times, runs 21,500.  Philadelphia runs a half marathon alongside the marathon, starting at the same time, with 12,500 entrants.  So, the start is fairly crowded, totaling 27,000 runners.

I headed over to Philadelphia Saturday, to the expo to pick up my number, and to browse the various booths.  Along the way, I stopped a few times to admire the city, its architecture, public works of art, and general scene.

Dropped off on Broad Street

I was dropped off by my son on Broad Street, and made my way over to the convention center.

I’m always pleased to see what a vibrant city Philadelphia is.  People live all throughout the city, and its businesses and public spaces are always busy.  It’s also a destination city for tourists, with the historical nature of the city, its museums, parks, and local flavor.

Cunstruction in center city.

Philly is building, and there are many construction sites such as this.

I like the way the old and the new blend together in Philly.  The Quaker Meetinghouse has been around since the city was founded, and is still active today.  The dramatic Chrysler Building-like tower is One Liberty Place, the first building to tower taller than William Penn’s hat atop city hall.  The building to its left is Two Liberty Place, a conglomerate of hotel, condo and commercial space.

Sculpture in front of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts public sculpture.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest art museum and art school in the US, founded in 1805.  It is still teaching budding artists today, allied with the University of Pennsylvania.  This particular public spectacle, a real Grumman SE-2 Tracker, originally on an aircraft carrier, later used to fight fires in California, was installed by artist Jordon Griska, as if the plane hit the ground nose-first.  It is symbolic of swords being turned into plowshares, according to the director of PAFA, and will have a greenhouse built in to the fuselage (from Newsworks.org, a website of WHYY public broadcasting).

City Hall, Philadelphia

A glimpse of City Hall, with the statue of William (Billy) Penn on high.

The ornate City Hall building in Philadelphia is a much photographed building  Here, it is seen from the darkened byway at Broad  and Cherry.

Not much farther, I reached the convention center where the marathon expo was being held.  The clue that you are in the right place is all the thin bodied individuals leaving the building carrying the same minimalist backpack, the kind made of nylon, with shoestrings for straps.  Entering the convention center, one is greeted by this banner.

Entrance to the Philadelphia Marathon Expo

A mock-up of the finish line at the entrance to the expo.

Inside, the first stop is the packet pickup, for your number and your bag with the t-shirt and other little goodies they throw in.  Mine had a refrigerator magnet with clip, a Philadelphia Marathon ball point pen, and a bunch of flyers advertising other marathons as well as a coupon for a complimentary ticket to a Philadelphia 76ers game.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup, where it all becomes official.

I headed over to the section where official marathon clothing and gear were for sale.  Most of the items were severely picked over, with all the good stuff in the popular sizes taken.  Plus, the check out line looked to be at least an hour wait to pay for your goods.  I had plans to buy a jacket in commemoration of my fifth Philly marathon in a row, but the jacket I wanted was sold out in men’s large.   They had a different jacket with a giant “Philadelphia Marathon” emblazoned on the back, but it lacked the subtlety I was going for.  Leaving the official wear area, I headed out to wander through the aisles of the other booths.

Philadelphia Marathon expo.

Booths at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo.

I came across a booth by Sigvaris, a company which makes compression stockings, mainly for medical use.  I had a nice chat with a saleswoman there, explaining I often wear their stockings at work, having to stand for hours on end.  I was looking for something to run in.

Sigvaris saleswoman who helped me get my compression socks.

 

 

 

 

Many of the compression garments for runners either don’t have sufficient compression, or cover only part of your leg, or your knee, and act more like a tourniquet than a useful support.  She had just the thing, a knee high sock built for running, 20-30 mm Hg gradient, knee high.  For me, it serves two purposes.  One is to provide compression for my broken down veins, the other is warmth for running in the raw, cooler and windier days of fall and winter.  I bought a pair on the spot.  I was so pleased, I got a photo.

 

There were many booths selling all sorts of other goods, gels, arm warmers, t-shirts, “The Stick”, ear buds guaranteed to stay in your ears while running, Clif Bars, Power Bars, Snyder’s Pretzels, custom running shoes, and myriad other items.  One display I did not fully explore were the two real buses, one Greyhound, one some other company.  I’m not sure what they were there for, perhaps to take your club to their next big race?

Leaving the expo, I crossed the street to one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market

Entrance sign for the Reading Terminal Market

This market, which opened in 1892 as part of the Reading Railroad terminal, with tracks over the market space, has survived many economic downturns, and is currently a vibrant, packed, hectic market selling produce, poultry, meats, cheeses, bread, coffees roasted on the spot, cook books, spices, and in short, anything that’s delicious.  The Pennsylvania Dutch have a prominent presence here, and can be identified by their typical garb.  Yes, I dropped a few bucks here, picking up some bread from Metropolitan Bakery (Pain au Levain, and a chocolate cherry loaf), some house-roasted coffee, the Balzac blend, from Old City Coffee, and some fine cheeses from Downtown Cheese.

Leaving the market, I walked to the Ben Franklin Parkway, to check in to our hotel room.  Our club rents a room close to the start and finish of the race, to have a spot for our runners to stay warm and stow their bags before the race, and have a comfortable place to change afterwards.  Along the way, I passed some more iconic symbols of Philadelphia.

Jacques Lipchitz, artist, Government of the People, in front of the Municipal Services Building

Ben Franklin and the printing press.

Ben Franklin and the printing press.

Crossing the street you arrive at the start of the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the nicknamed Love Park, so named for the famous LOVE statue.

Love Statue

LOVE Statue, famous symbol of Philadelphia, is constantly surrounded by people taking photos.

Love Park

LOVE from behind.

I checked in to the hotel, but wasn’t assigned a room yet.  So, coming back later that evening, I finally got in to our room, which was, coincidentally, room 2012.  I had to argue a bit to get the promised view of the parkway from the balcony, but it was definitely worth it.

Ben Franklin Parkway

View of the Ben Franklin Parkway at night from our hotel balcony.

The large circle is Logan Circle, and the fountain in the center is the Swann Memorial Fountain, named for Wilson Cary Swann, the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society.  I suppose that’s one way to get your name on a fountain.  It is an incredibly beautiful fountain, though, representing the three rivers of Philadelphia, the Delaware, Schuykill, and Wissahickon, using native American symbolism to portray them.  The marathon starts at the far end of the parkway, and runs down and around this circle as it heads down to Columbus Boulevard along the Delaware.  Later in the race we cross both the Schuykill and the Wissahickon, so in a way, this fountain is a good representation of the marathon.  I didn’t stay over in the hotel, wanting to sleep in my own bed, and have access to my usual breakfast.

On the morning of the marathon, I met up with a few other club members at the train station at 5 AM.  We took the train in to Philly and got to the hotel in time to do a little stretching.  A good number of other club members showed up, and come 6:20, we headed down to the lobby and walked up to the start line.  The crowds of runners and spectators were busily getting to either their corrals or to prime viewing areas for the start of the race.  As with every marathon, there’s an edgy tension, people adjusting clothing and retying shoes, starting of Garmin’s, stretching in the limited space available in the corral, and nervously chatting.  Then comes the national anthem, and the start of the race.  Throw away t-shirts get pitched to the side, and the corrals move up as first the wheel chair racers, then the elites, then the rest of us make our way to the start.  As we got close to the start, the walk broke into a trot, then a run, and we were over the start line, heading for the first of 26.2 miles.  This year we had a special group in their own corral, the runners from the New York marathon, who started after my green corral.  They were heartily welcomed to the race from the runners and the spectators, and I saw many signs along the route in support.  The route is a great tour of Philly, going through old town, down to South Philly, with onlookers in bathrobes standing on their porches, up Chestnut Street, with the street filled to capacity with cheering fans, over the bridge to the Drexel University area, past the fraternity houses where frat boys were out banging on pots, making noise for us, and looking like they hadn’t gone to bed the night before.   From there we head to the Belmont plateau, past the Zoo and the Please Touch Museum, down on to West River Drive.  A quick switchback along the drive, then we head back along West River Drive to where we started, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the halfway point.  Large signs, much more visible than years past, show the way for the half marathoners to peel off to their finish line, and the marathoners to continue on to Kelly Drive.  Then, it’s out along another Philly landmark, boat house row, out to the Falls Bridge, over the bridge and down on to West River Drive again for another (and very annoying) switchback.  I don’t like this part because the road heads down hill and you need, of course, to come back uphill again at a time when the legs are starting to feel the fatigue set in.  The last outward bound stretch is along Main Street in Manayunk, with its young and hip fans lining the streets, offering home baked brownies and cups of beer to the runners.  At the end of Main Street, another switch back for the last 6.5 miles to the finish line.  My legs were pretty well cooked by the time I made the turn in Manayunk, and I lost a lot of time having to slow down.  On the bright side, I didn’t have to stop and walk for leg cramps like I have in my other marathons.  I got a big boost from two club members, Rich and Joy, who were waiting for me around mile 23 and ran with me to mile 25.  Their encouragement helped me speed up the last few miles, and really push to the end.  Fellow Steamtown runners Tony and Brian, watching from the sidelines, said that I looked totally focused the last mile.  It was either that, or I had completely lost the ability to think and could only run on basic instincts.  My final time of 3:57:18 was not what I was shooting for, but it is now in the books.  I was pleased to run under 4 hours, pleased to have done two marathons in 6 weeks, and pleased to have completed my fifth Philadelphia Marathon in five years.

Vies from the balcony, Nov. 18, 2012

Frank finishes his fifth Philly Marathon in five years.

Ben Franklin Parkway and the Philly Marathon

View of the Parkway, with the crowd of runners and spectators, the beautiful trees, and the art museum in the background.

That’s how it went, Sunday, November 18, 2012.  Of note, our club, the South Jersey Athletic Club had many runners in the marathon and half marathon, and they all put in great performances.

Frank

 

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. James

     /  November 19, 2012

    Thought I’d check in –
    Thanks for this splendidly easy going and informative piece about the city.
    Congratulations on your fifth consecutive Philly Marathon!
    Jim

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jim. I think you are ready to run longer races. Perhaps a half in the spring (Caesar Rodney?) and a marathon in the Fall.
      Frank

      Reply
  2. Nice piece and strong performance there Rodir. Heck, you could write a book on marathoning in all the major cities and I’d buy it!

    Reply
  3. Dan Bikel

     /  November 19, 2012

    Congratulations, Frank! Excellent write-up, too!

    Reply
  4. walterplods2012

     /  November 19, 2012

    Frank great write-up and pictures. As good as a cool glass of smithwicks. You looked marvelous on your 5th Philly marathon run. You should be proud of yourself and all the work that you’ve done. It was a great year and a tip of the glass for another great year in 2013.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Tony. It was great training with you over the summer and into the fall. I look forward to our next race together.

      Reply
  5. Congrats on finishing your 5th Philly Marathon! That’s quite the accomplishment. I did the half there in 2009 and loved the course. Nice race report!

    Reply
  6. Congratulations – nice report. I’m planning on trying to do Philly next year as my first marathon. It seems like a good one to start with (by the way, which hotel was this? I’m assuming planning ahead for accommodation is a good idea).

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. The hotel is the Embassy Suites on the Ben Franklin Parkway. You are right about planning ahead. The hotels that are close sell out pretty far in advance. Philly is a nice marathon to start with. It is neither the largest nor smallest, and is well supported. Best of luck to you!

      Reply

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