This post includes a race recap I wrote for an article in the Florida Track Club December 2018 newsletter plus some extras added in.
My choice to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon through a Steven Detweiler Scholarship was influenced by what got me into running a few years ago. In 2013, I found running as just a way to stay in shape for basketball, but caught the running bug when I realized that running was not only an outlet through which I could improve myself, but also support others. The tragedies at the 2013 Boston Marathon inspired me to run for those who can’t and participate in races for causes. I ran recreationally in college and decided to join Florida Track Club and Team FTC to start training competitively in 2018 after moving to Gainesville to study nutrition and dietetics at UF. The first FTC meeting I attended included a race scholarship report that got me interested in applying for the scholarship myself. I chose the Philadelphia Half Marathon, because of the race weekend’s affiliation with the American Association for Cancer Research, which ties together my interests in research and in running for a cause (also because a few runners on Instagram recommended it to me).
After a breakout Spring season, during which I improved my race finish times in the 5K and 10K thanks to training with Coach Enoch and Team FTC, I had my eyes set on a big Summer of base building in prep for this Fall Half Marathon with a goal of breaking 1 hour and 30 minutes. Summer did not go as planned. I started experiencing lower hamstring tendonitis and decided to take a week off from running, which was extended to two weeks after I was involved in a serious car accident in which I was fortunate to survive with only some scrapes. I visited Physical Therapy to determine that my hamstring injury was caused by weakness in my hips and once the pain was gone, I started strength exercises to correct it while maintaining aerobic fitness through biking and aqua jogging. I also continued to focus on adequate nutrition through eating mostly whole food plant-based to support my recovery. After a total of about 2 months off from running and 2 months left before the race, I was cleared to start gradually adding runs back into my training. A few weeks out from the race, I ran my highest weekly mileage ever (40mi) and was able to include some faster runs back in as well.
When race weekend came, I had the opportunity to take over the Florida Track Club Instagram page stories to share my trip and the race scene. After a connecting flight through Atlanta, we arrived in cold Philadelphia and stopped by the race expo. For it’s 25th anniversary, the Philadlephia Marathon expo featured talks by Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezghi (typo: should be Keflezighi – what a long work day and not enough sleep does to you, lol). and Des Linden, tons of expo booths and the history of the race. Besides hotel accommodation, our stay in Philly was mostly unplanned as we relied on shuttles and UBER to get around the city and coincidentally found a food market right across from the expo convention center.
The night before the race, I had everything prepped, except for my race plan. When coach texted me for any last minute questions, I let him know that I doubted I could maintain the pace I needed for my finish time goal, but he assured me that I was fit enough. I then believed in the possibility again, but decided that my main focus going into the race would be to simply enjoy it and challenge myself rather than set expectations and be hard on myself.
(I did not get to meet Des or Meb in person despite paying extra for the VIP pass, which the VIP features were not as useful to me as I thought prior, but my mom who came to run the 8K was within feet from her and snapped a photo)
Race Gear and Fuel
Shoes: Asics Dynaflyte 2
Compression Calf Sleeve: CEP compression
Night before race meal: Chinese food (white rice, curry tofu – possibly too spicy for pre-race) + black bean burger from Vegan Deli in the market.
Pre-race Breakfast: 1 banana + black tea.
Intra-race Fuel: Huma Gel – Berries & Pomegranate.
Post-race meal: pretzel and lots of veg food from the Reading Terminal Market a few hours later.
On race morning, the weather could not have been any better for racing with temperatures in the the 40°Fs, no ice on the roads and just a few patches of snow on the ground. After an active warmup, I got to the start line with a throw away hoodie that I tossed to the side too soon before the start as I started slightly shivering. Once the race started though, my focus in the first few miles was to gradually warm up and find my pace. The race started on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, across from the Philadelphia Art Museum and the steps from the Rocky movie and winded through part of the city before running along a highway and the Delaware River. During a sharp turn at mile 2, which ended up being my fastest mile in the race, I accidentally kicked down the calf sleeve on my right leg to the point it was scrunched at my ankle, but I never stopped to adjust it during the rest of the race. The course passed by historic buildings and monuments, including the Liberty Bell and some universities.
For the next couple miles, which winded into neighborhoods outside of the city, I stayed within sight behind the 1hr 30min pacers. I took my only gel of the race at around mile 6, taking water at stops before and after and carrying the gel for about a mile while taking it in small amounts as I was trying to maintain my breathing rhythm. At around mile 8, when the course went onto a few bridges over the Schuylkill River and had the biggest elevation changes in the race up through mile 11, I started to develop painful side stiches, which caused me to slow down, lose sight of the pace group ahead and another college runner I was strategically latching onto. After mile 10, I started focusing on my breathing and it helped the side stiches go away.
At this point, for motivation to overcome any pain to finish the race strong, I thought again of “running for those who can’t” as I usually do towards the end of each race. I thought of the cause of the race, everyone who has or is undergoing a health condition with worse pain that what you may feel in a race and which sidelines them from running and I ran stronger for them. I picked up the pace in the final miles to the point that I caught site of the 1hr30min pacers again with less than a mile to go, passed them and ran as hard as I could with everything I had left. As I approached the finish line, a huge relief came upon me when I spotted the time clock showing 1hr28min and something sec. After crossing the finish line, I was greeted by my mom whom I traveled with and was overwhelmed with emotion to the point that I cried tears of joy for overcoming everything I faced to make it to the race and accomplishing the goal that I thought I could not. My official finish time was 1:28:52, which in my 3rd half marathon is a 15min PR from my last half marathon at Tom Walker Memorial in 2017.
Thank you to Florida Track Club for the race scholarship that gave me the opportunity to travel to and run this race and to Team FTC and Coach Enoch for an amazing supportive running group to be a part of. If you are considering a race on your bucket list or of your dreams, I recommend applying for a Steven Detweiler scholarship. Perhaps my next application will be towards a trip to the NYC or Boston Marathon after qualifying.
Philly was such a fun and memorable race that I think I’d go back to run it again if I can and maybe visit more of the city if I have more time. Did you run one of the Philly races too and if so, how was your experience?