Philadelphia Marathon Review 2018
I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18, 2018. While it was FREEZING, and I sucked pretty bad (more on that later), it was a great experience overall. For this Philadelphia Marathon review, I’ll focus on the things that matter the most to me when considering a marathon: communication, the expo, the course, aid stations, and race swag.
Philadelphia Marathon: Race Communication
I hate to start this race review negatively, because the Philadelphia Marathon was a really great race. However, the only thing that could have been improved was the communication leading up to the marathon. I don’t expect weekly emails, or anything like that, but it was the week before the race and we still had not heard about corral assignments or the expo speaker schedule. When they finally sent out corral placements, there was a mistake with the database, which caused everyone to get some poor guy’s address and corral assignment. This wasn’t a huge deal, as they corrected the mistake right away, but we all know how pre races nerves are…this caused a little unnecessary stress for some people. When the race emails were finally sent out, I appreciated the attention to detail in the race guide. It really included everything a runner could ever need. I just wish this information was sent out sooner and put on the website sooner. The Philadelphia Marathon emails I got in regular intervals leading up to the event were soliciting me to buy things.
The Philadelphia Marathon Expo
Two words: Des and Meb! This was one of the highlights of the race. I have been following Meb’s career for a while, and have enjoyed reading his book “Meb for Mortals. I was super excited about seeing him at the expo. The meet and greet was on Friday and I didn’t fly in until Saturday, but I was able to catch them at the Q&A. They also led a shakeout run on Saturday. It was awesome to see them in person and a great motivator before the race. The expo was at the Philadelphia Convention Center, which was across the street from our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. Packet pick-up was simple, I didn’t have to wait in line at all. There wasn’t that many vendors and I didn’t care for any of the merchandise, but I’d rather have a low key packet pick-up than have to fight through crowds and lines like at the Chicago Marathon.
The Philadelphia Marathon Course
Where do I start with this one? As a flat land Florida runner, this course was HILLY!!! Everything I read said it is a flat course, no way is that true. I feel duped, mislead, lied to…OMG, the hills! Yes, I’m probably being a little too dramatic here, but it was really hilly for me. I wish I would have prepared better. That’s not the race’s fault, that’s my fault. And now that I got that out of my system, let’s take it back to the beginning…
I took the shuttle to the starting area. The Philadelphia Marathon had three shuttle routes, one picked up a few blocks from my hotel. There was a short line to get on the buses (which were heated, thank God). Luckily, busses were lined up, so as soon as one filled, another one pulled up right behind it. I waited for all of two minutes. The bus took us directly to the security checkpoint. I got there early, at about 6 am, so the line was short. I heard from those who got there later that the line got rather long.
Once in the starting area, I made my way to the port-a-potty, my usual race strategy. Lines weren’t too long at 6am. They had two large warming tents, which I greatly appreciated. It was in the 30s and I was absolutely freezing, despite my sweet ass throw away blazer I bought for $3.00 at Walmart.
It was muddy everywhere, especially in the tents. Luckily, I remembered to bring the mylar blanket from the Chicago Marathon and used that to sit on. I made my way to the bathroom one more time at about 6:40. At this time, the lines were insanely long. As I waited in the longest bathroom line I ever saw in my life, stressing about the 7:00 start time, an angel came up and informed me there was a bank of toilettes a little farther down that didn’t have lines. She was right! I found the miracle, line-less port-o-potties, then headed over to my corral.
For such a big race, I never felt crowded. Even in the corral, I had plenty of room to stretch. The first corral started at 7:00, I was in the third corral and crossed the starting line around 7:10. The time between waves was just right. We weren’t waiting around forever, but there wasn’t any bottle-necking. The entire course was pretty wide open. I was able to hit my pace, without having to weave around anyone. This pace proved itself to be entirely too fast, but that’s for another post :).
Despite the hills, I loved this course. The first half takes you through the center of the city. Crowd support is great. There are a ton of spectators, signs, and cheering. There was one stretch around mile 6 where the cheers were so loud, I couldn’t hear my headphones. I loved it! The middle part of the race, miles 8-16 were quiet and serene. The stretch by the zoo is especially hilly, but the scenery is beautiful. This is also where the pitch in the street is pretty steep. If you have hip or IT band issues (like I do) this part will kill. Miles 15-26 are an out and back along Kelly Drive. In researching this course, I thought this stretch sounded horrible. Actually, it was engaging, I still felt horrible (again, my own fault), but it wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be. At the end of Kelly drive, you go through Manayuk, a spirited neighborhood with plenty of crowd support and beer! After the turn around at mile 20, it’s a straight shot to the finish. For someone who actually sticks to their race plan, this would be a great opportunity to open it up and see how fast you can take it to the finish. For someone like me, it’s the longest 6 miles of your life. Despite feeling terrible and walking quite a bit, I still enjoyed this section of the race. The other runners were cheerful and supportive, patting me on the back and encouraging me to keep running. At the time, I wanted to kill them, looking back, I appreciate the camaraderie. Misery loves company and I noticed a lot of other runners struggling- many limping, stopping to stretch, and walking backwards. I guess they were duped like me.
Philadelphia Marathon Aid Stations
The aid stations were spaced about every two miles. Each was set up with Gatorade in the front, water in the middle, and Gatorade again at the end. I loved this! The tables were long, and there were enough volunteers, so I never had to stop and wait for a cup. There were signs before each station, letting you know that one was coming. I appreciated this, as I could work my way to the side of the road in preparation. The Gatorade wasn’t watered down, which is always nice. Volunteers tried their best to scrape cups off the ground, but we all know how that goes. It wasn’t too bad and I never felt like I was going to slide on a cup.
Philadelphia Marathon Race Swag
The Philadelphia Marathon medal probably my favorite race medal. It’s the Liberty Bell and the bell actually rings! As a Philly first timer, this is a great souvenir. Because I signed up early, I also got a commemorative blanket, celebrating the race’s 25th anniversary. I also got a pretty cool bag with my bib. It’s a drawstring with a mesh back and plastic front. Post race, I passed through a tent with water, bananas, and a Philly pretzel. Leading up to the race, I was so excited about getting a big pretzel at the finish line, as it is officially my favorite food. I tried to eat it, but my mouth was so dry, it was not the pleasant experience I hoped for.
Overall Opinion of the Philadelphia Marathon
I loved it! This is a classy race, with many runner perks, a great course, and energetic crowd support. Considering is was only $90 with early registration, it is a steal! I would definitely run this race again.