My second Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this year after the inaugural Brooklyn race was in the City of Cheesesteak and Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. While this race wasn’t the culinary and beer adventure the last few have been, it was a great trial run for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon for several reasons. Our good friends John and Rebecca just moved to a huge apartment within a 10 minute walk to the Art Museum, where pretty much all Philly runs start (yes the proximity was a deciding factor) so we had a great base of operations for the weekend. It even meant we could bring Hershey (both real and cardboard versions) to the race though he’d have to make friends with their two cats.
Pre-Race: Packet Pickup and Fueling
Packet pickup was super easy for me as Rebecca picked up my bib, shirt, and special hoodie for running Brooklyn and Philly from the expo. Apparently the expo center in Philly is awesome and eclipses all but the NYC marathon expo, but I can’t confirm or deny. Our office Halloween Party was the night before as well which had tons of chicken catered from Popeye’s, so that was mostly our pre-race fuel. However, Rebecca did make a tasty fried rice with garlic and teriyaki which provided ample carbs. Unfortunately Hershey and the cats didn’t get a chance to meet after a round of hissing and growling so they had to go on time out.
A Course is a Course of Course of Course
Unlike Brooklyn, the Philadelphia race has been held every year for several years now, though usually earlier in September. Because of the Pope’s visit this year, it was pushed back and landed right on Halloween. This was a perfect excuse to wear my Mario costume purchased several years ago and never really worn because of the freak Halloween snowstorm. It was surprisingly comfortable for the whole race with no chaffing issues though it did get a bit warm. The cheers of countless spectators cheering for Mario were more than worth it though.
The course begins near the famous front of the Art Museum known from Rocky, proceeds down and around the arts district, and loops back past the museum before taking a substantial out and back up the river, over a bridge, and the back down to finish at the museum. The whole course was very flat with only a few very short inclines and a few more gently rolling hills. The only bad part was the incline up an exit ramp that falls about 500 feet from the finish line.
The start line was organized very similarly to the Brooklyn event with tons of corrals but no checkpoints and not enough potties. The lines were incredible again and we still saw people waiting at them when we looped back past at mile 3 or so. Luckily they didn’t have the starting hiccups though and got things started quickly and smoothly.
The section through the city is nice, Philly does have a nice skyline and some great history. I really liked the band playing in Colonial costumes, I believe they were called the Grateful Dead Presidents, they really seemed to like Chicago’s hits. The entertainment along the whole course was good, but because I chose to run without headphones, felt a little more sporadic than Brooklyn. The high school bands and cheerleaders were great and especially receptive to my costume, giving me lots of energy.
I also ran the first 4 miles or so with Rebecca until we separated for water. I always forget how nice having someone to talk to, or even just for support when you are out of breath can be. We’ve run together a few times this year and it always does make the time go faster. With my fake Mario mustache, it was a bit hard to stop for water or Gu. Surprisingly, it made it to the finish line still attached to my face.
The out and back section along the river was nice in one way because every other race I’ve done has only gone on the west side of the river, and this encompassed both, but also was a little difficult as every step forward going out meant another step coming back. The out part seemed much longer than the back. The crew teams were out on the river in their boats cheering us on and the frat boys of Drexel ventured out to drunkenly push us through. Between these, it was easy to make it to the bridge before the Headless Horseman could reach us.
Post-Race: Entertainment & Food
I didn’t think the atmosphere at the end felt as much like a music festival as Brooklyn did. At Brooklyn, you nearly had to walk past the concert to get out. Here, the concert space was much smaller and was quite muddy. The headliner was also the Gin Blossoms compared to Nate Ruess in Brooklyn. The atmosphere was therefore a bit different, but still quite good. It felt much more like the end of a huge race. People were definitely supporting each other and there was a good amount of socializing between runners. They also had the same huge array of post race stuff to grab including water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, chips, granola, nuts, and bananas. I almost had a full lunch just from this. After getting feeling back in our feet, we headed back to home base without catching much of the concert.
The best entertainment of the afternoon was instead watching John and Jason, who also ran, wall mount the tv. Hilarity ensued. John made us a great assortment of recovery food on the grill and mimosas which are scientifically proven to aid recovery. Often times the best post-race food is good home cooked food.
Though if you do find yourself in Philly, you owe it to yourself to get a Cheesesteak. My favorite options are Jim’s and Geno’s. We had Jim’s last time in Philly so decided to revisit our college favorite, Geno’s and take it home for dinner. There was a bus of student athletes who had run the half already there, so rather than wait in the enormous line, we crossed the street to Pat’s. I find Pat’s bread to be slightly better, but don’t like the raw diced onions as much. I think the caramelization add an important texture and flavor to the sandwich. Still, after a long drive home where the meat flavor absorbed into the onion a bit, this was no longer an issue.