Saturday, April 4, 2015

Race Report: Philadelphia LOVE RUN Half Marathon

My weekend in Philadelphia was going to be an easy one - bus in, attend the expo, judge an a cappella competition, run a half, bus out.  I took a 10:45am bus on Saturday morning to head to Philly, getting there literally 3 minutes before the bus left, and lo and behold, there are FLURRIES coming down in New York City.  It's freaking March 28.  Anyway, the two hour busride went by quickly, as I slept through most of it, and we were at the Philadelphia bus stop just before 1pm.

I took the SEPTA train down to AT&T Station, the South Philadelphia Sports Complex where practically all of the Philadelphia professional sports teams have their arenas and stadiums, as this was where packet pickup would be held for the LOVE Run.  Getting there around 1:30, Citizens Bank Park was just opening up for runners. CGI had set it up pretty well, establishing a good flow for picking up the bibs, t-shirts, commemorative mugs, as well as any other accoutrements that were being sold as part of the expo.  Except, it was COLD.  And this being a baseball stadium, there were several parts that were essentially outside, exposed to the elements.  I felt bad for the exhibitors and volunteers who were forced to be outside for the duration of the expo, as the brisk wind was not helping at all.  Most of the booths were pretty typical, anyway, so I managed to get in and out pretty quickly, even posing for a photo op with the Phillies' 2008 Commissioner's Trophy, which they won when they last won the World Series.  I grabbed lunch at McFadden's Bar and Grille (a tasty Italian pork sandwich!) before heading back into town to check into my Airbnb.

I stayed at a comfortable Airbnb located in the Fairmount neighborhood at Poplar and 28th Street, only 15 minutes from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the start and finish of the race would be early on Sunday morning.  It was very much a no-frills accommodation, having a room and bathroom to myself in this middle-aged couple's home.  After settling in for a little while, I headed to the Drexel campus to prepare for the evening's festivities: the Mid-Atlantic Semifinal for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.  I've been a judge for these competitions at the quarterfinal and semifinal level in multiple regions along the east coast and south for the last five years - this is the real singing competition that the movie Pitch Perfect is based on!  Long story short - ten groups, long evening, and the best group won, they'll be heading to the Beacon Theatre here in New York City on April 18 for the Finals!

Bright and early I was up to get myself to the startline for the Love Run... and it was COLD.  26ยบ at the beginning, I walked the fifteen minutes bundled up and then stuffed everything into my bag to give to the UPS trucks, then wrapped myself in a foil blanket that I brought with me from a previous race.  Soon, we were off, heading down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and around Logan Square, the same way the Philadelphia Half Marathon started back in November.  We turned onto Arch Street, passing the Convention Center and then making a turn onto 6th Street, just before Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We turned again onto Market, on a nice long stretch before making our way around Philadelphia City Hall.  We returned back onto the Ben Franklin Parkway and hit the 3-mile mark at Logan Square.  My first three miles, which were pretty flat, were going out quite well, which boded well for my goals of beating my November time.  We returned to Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum, but this time took the road heading to the other side of the Schuylkill River, where we would take Martin Luther King Dr for about 1.5 miles.

We turned into Fairmount Park and encountered the first of our big hills, and headed toward the mall in front of the Please Touch Museum, passing the 6 mile mark, and then a fast downhill toward mile 7, returning back to MLK Drive.  We'd stay on this again for another 1.5 miles before hitting the second big "hill," the onramp up to the Strawberry Mansion Bridge at Mile 8.5.  The last of the hills would be ascended after crossing the bridge into the east side of Fairmount Park, hitting mile 9 rounding the Strawberry Mansion Music Pavilion, and then returning to the bridge for mile 10 and another downhill down the offramp back to MLK Drive.

We'd do the turn around just a little further upriver, and then it was the last 2.5 miles all the way back to the Art Museum, where we would get back to the finish line.  I was hitting a great stride toward these last few miles, and was progressing toward a very strong finish in Philadelphia, eclipsing my November half time by a lot.  When I crossed the finish line, my time was 2:09:38 - fourteen minutes faster than November, and of 11 halfs this year, my fastest!  Bodes really well, as this was my SIXTH half marathon in successive weeks in the month of March.  I ran a total of 81.7 miles in the month of March, and posted my fastest half at the last one!

with Pam and Steve at the finish line!
After the race, I stuck around to get my customary headstand photo taken, and then stuck around to track my friends Pam and Steve from New Hampshire as they crossed the finish line. While waiting, I also happened to witness a marriage proposal at the finish line, which was pretty special!  I even tracked down the happy couple on instagram - who were ecstatic to get a photo from another angle :)

The trip was quick... after getting refreshed and packing up my stuff, I went to the fantastic mainstay brunch place in Philly, Sabrina's, and had a massive stuffed French toast... it was perfect and got me well rested for my trip back to NYC.  Half marathon 25, completed!

The proposal I witnessed at the finish line!

Victory Headstand, with Philly City Hall composition at
a perfect location, hehehe....

Yo Adrian!

Stuffed French Toast... yum!

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