Philly was my… 7th marathon? I think [counts on fingers] Yup, 7th. I genuinely never thought in a million years I’d need another (or any) hand to count the number of marathons I’ve done. I signed up on a whim because Philly was on my 30th birthday (exact day, yes, it actually was indeed my birthday on that day). What better way to spend your 30th birthday than doing a marathon? Probably sitting on the couch sleeping but, at the time it seemed like a really good idea.
My mom picked up my bib at the Pennsylvania Convention center on Friday. She reported that it went quickly, so other than that I have no details regarding packet pick up. I got dropped off at the start at 6 am and hung out in my corral til the race started just after 7 (if you’re coming from NJ, take the Callowhill exit off 95 and take that all the way down to the Whole Foods, that’s 1 block over from the corrals), so very convenient and easy drop off/pick up situation.
Observation #1: It’s different when you have a half and a full at the same time.
This was my first time having a half at the same time as the full so a lot of the runners around me were not around me after mile 13. It’s definitely different, the course thins out a lot after the half marathoners turn away. Psychological upside: you have an easily accessible “out” if you need it and want to drop down in distance. Psychological downside: it feels emptier after the half marathoners leave if that makes sense. The crowds thin out, the course thins out, and it’s a lot quieter.
Philly was great on water stations, phenomenal. No lines to wait in, no lack of cups/water. They did amazing at providing for everyone. Having said that, if you’re a 12 minute/mile and up, once you’re past mile 13 the course will be shutting down on your way back. It’s clear they’ve started cleaning up and a few of the live bands had stopped playing when I reached them. I could see the faster runners who had bigger crowds and more runners generally, and on my way back it was quiet and empty. Not good, not bad, just something to consider if you’re planning on running. I’ve run the same pace at Disney and it was a different feel, like the race wasn’t over yet.
Observation #3: There were fewer people but the people who run Philly are awesome.
The Philly marathon runners and spectators are really friendly and nice, especially in the back of the pack. Everyone was supportive, I enjoyed cheering for them, and I ended up running alongside a lot of the same people and recognizing them. It was really personable. The entire blue corral sang happy birthday to me before we started and I enjoyed the out and back because I could cheer for the runners coming back the other way.
The live cover band may have packed up and left but the guys running the beer stand at mile 18ish were out there working hard til the very last person passed. You could hit them twice on the out and back AND for the half runners, another group of men had set up a beer stop around mile 4/5 in front of their house. Philly takes their beer responsibilities seriously and Yuengling was served.
Overall assessment: Very good race.
I would say I really, really like Philly. You don’t have to rush and worry about registration like you do with other city marathons and honestly, I found it more personable and enjoyable than NYC and flatter than Marine Corps. Disney is still my hands down favorite marathon, but Philly was just where everything came together and made for a great birthday from the people, to the course, to the fact that one month after Marine Corps I still felt pretty good cruising through 26.2 magical miles. All without my garmin.