21 September 2009

2009 Philadelphia Distance Run Race Report

I am not going to lie to you. I am writing this post a week late. You did not miss it the day after the PDR, I am just predating it in an attempt to hide the fact that I am a major procrastinator. Especially when I have a head cold.

One of my favorite things about major races, is the race expo. The atmosphere at the expo can be exhilarating. The large number of runners, all bustling about in a cloud of nervousness and excitement. You can find some great deals on running gear, as well as some great freebies. And if it is free, it is for me.

I went to this expo on Friday afternoon, so it was not as crowded as they usually are on Saturdays. My highlight of the expo, and probably of the week to that point, was meeting Ryan Hall. I actually walked by him while he was talking to some people. I was not sure if it would be rude to interrupt, but I went over and said hello. We talked for a minute, but I kept it short because he was getting ready to talk to the crowd that was gathering in the runners lounge.

Here are some of the elites talking to the crowd. In the blue Asics jacket is Ryan Hall. In the red is Constantina Dita, winner of the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing. And on the right is Catherine Ndereba of Kenya.

Ryan Hall ended up winning the PDR in 1:01:52 and Catherine Ndereba won the women's in 1:09:43.

One of the great things about running is that the professional athletes in the field are so accessible. See how close they are to the crowd. They talk directly to the spectator and back of the pack runners as well as to the other elites and pros. You can just walk up and say hi and on race day you are all running the same streets... although I was running way behind them. They were finished before I was even at the halfway point.

So then came race day. Going to the expo on Friday rather than Saturday was a mistake, because the excitement builds at the expo and then you have to wait an extra day for the run. Not too much of a problem, but I think I will go to expos on Saturdays from now on.

The morning was great. I rode my bike over to the art museum from the University of Penn Hospital. That was a nice start to my warm up. I met my brother and cousins and we hung out while we waited for the start.

We were in line for the bathroom when the race started, but our corrals were in the back so we were fine. I was in corral 16 and the rest of my group was in 18. I decided to just hop in 18 with them.

It took 30 minutes to get across the start line, but since I was so far back I was able to control my pace a little better. That lasted for only about a half mile and as I started passing people I started picking up the pace. It was nice to seem fast, but I would pay for it later.

I have raced two major races in my short time as a runner. The Broad Street 10 Miler in May and this, the Philadelphia Distance Run. The one thing I learned in these two races is that I cannot keep my pace slow enough in the beginning to run efficiently in the end. I always plan to start slow and negative split, but I always get caught up in the crowd and start too fast and end up slowing down at the end.

I was doing good through mile 7 or 8, then I started walking through the water stations. As the run went on, the walks got a little slower.

Mile 10 was a good point for me, because until now that was the furthest I had ever ran. This gives you a mental boost because every step from then on is further than you have ever ran before. With only 5k to go I picked up my pace again, but the high did not last long. I quickly slowed down as I came to the next water station. My legs were telling me that I could not hold a fast pace for three more miles, and I allowed my mind to listen to them.

The final mile was pretty incredible. As I was winding my way toward the finish, I could not help but get a boost from the crowd. They were cheering and shouting words of support, which was much needed for the back of the pack runners such as myself.

As I rounded the final turn for the finish I noticed my fan support. My Mom and Dad brought my sons up, and my Uncle was there with two of my younger cousins. It was great to see them.

My legs were dead for the last couple of miles, but I tried to give it a good kick at the end. I was able to sprint for the last couple of hundred yards, but after crossing the finish line I though my legs would buckle.

The key was to keep moving, and they had the finish area set up very well for that. Maybe it was because I was so close to the last of the runners, but there was no waiting in line for your medal, or for much needed refreshments. And they had the path set up so you walked around and out and it was not a mass of people aiming for one tiny exit.

My chip time was 2:24:12. I picked up a pace bracelet at the expo for 2:15 not really expecting to be able to do it, but I think now I could have. I just needed to pace myself better at the beginning and run negative splits at the end.

All in all I am impressed with the run and the way it was organized. Next year the Rock and Roll brand takes over so it is going from the ING Philadelphia Distance Run to the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Along with the name change is a price hike. Early registration this year was $55. Early registration for next year is $80. I paid $80 for the full marathon in November, so paying the same for a half marathon in the same city seems a little steep.

I am now halfway to 26.2. After this run I am feeling confident that the full marathon will be a good run. I am feeling good with my training and excited to give it a go for the full.

As I write this, I mentioned to my wife that the full marathon is 8 weeks away. She said "Are you sure you are ready for that?"

My only response was, "I will be in 8 weeks."

15 September 2009

I Run For My Wife

I do not talk about it much here on my blog, but my wife is very sick. Two years ago she was diagnosed with severe lung disease that is a result from radiation treatment years ago. It has progressively been getting worse, and now the doctors are saying it may be due to other factors as well.

This past Thursday night I was writing a blog post about your body being stronger than it thinks it is, a post which is still saved in my drafts and will be published later, when my wife called me from the other room.

She was having trouble breathing, and I could tell it was not good. I needed to call 911. Her lung collapsed, and since her lungs are diseased it made the situation worse. She is still in the hospital and it seems she will be in here for some time yet.

In the back of my mind I have always ran for my wife and kids. I run to get healthier, so that I can take care of them. I run to have more energy, so that I can keep up with them. I run to inspire them, so that they can know what the human body is capable of. But now is the time that I really need to run for my wife.

This is race week in Philadelphia. The ING Philadelphia Distance Run is on Sunday and I have been signed up since the beginning of the summer. Luckily, even though my wife may still be in the hospital, she will be well enough for me to head over to the art museum and run the 13.1 miles.... and run it for her.

I need to show her that the human body will always think itself to be weak, but even when it is sick, it is capable of much more than we can even fathom. I need my running to inspire her and give her hope. I want my running to get into her soul and give her strength to push on.

This weekend at the Philadelphia Distance Run I will be letting everyone know who I run for. I will be wearing one of these on the front of my shirt so the cameras can pick it up, and I will be wearing another on the back, so that every runner I pass will know that I run with a purpose.

This weekend I am running with only one thing in mind. My Wife.

06 September 2009

Adjusting My Speed

When I created my marathon training plan a little over a month ago, I was pretty conservative when it came to speed workouts.

Even though I had a specific time goal in mind at the beginning of the year, I have since adjusted that goal due to the fact that I have not seen as much improvement as I thought I would over the summer. My current goal for the Philadelphia Marathon is just to get through it. As I get closer to race day I will re-evaluate my fitness and training and then possibly set a time goal.

I have recently seen some improvement. I finally got in tune with my body and I am training properly and feeling good. I am not running too much and not skipping runs. I have put in some quality miles that feel good. Even though my improvement has not been off the charts, the improvement is there and I am feeling better about my running.

So now I look at my training program and feel as though my speed workouts are too easy. I have decided to be a little more aggressive and get some hard workouts in there. I am still a little nervous about going too hard. I will be approaching these workouts with enough caution so that I do not injure myself, but smart enough to know when I can go harder.

I have done a few speed workouts over the last month and a half. I have done some fartleks, an easy run with some sprints mixed in. I have done 5x800 which I plan to build up to 10x800 in order to measure my fitness and possibly predict my marathon pace. Finally, I turned an easy day into 2x10:00 minutes with a target pace around 9:30. That one I could have done more than 2 intervals, but it was supposed to be an easy day and I wanted to keep it semi easy.

These workouts were not always comfortable, but they felt good. If that makes any sense. When I finished the workouts I felt like I accomplished something. Even though I was sore, it was a good sore, and I did not have any pains that worried me.

I feel like my body is becoming much more adapted to running, and now I can work toward improvement a little better than I have been.

02 September 2009


There is a little section of road not too far from my house that is secluded from the rest of the neighborhood. There are two streets that form a loop and this loop just so happens to be about a mile long. This is where I first started running because at the time I was only running a mile or two at a time, and as said before it is secluded, so I had less chance of embarrassing myself in front of someone that I know.

I have not run back there in some time, but the other day I decided to finish up my easy run back there. It was a crisp morning, as it was when I first started "running for real" and it reminded me of the beginning. The memories flashed through my head of those early runs and it was as if I could compare those runs to the ones I am doing today. It was nostalgic.

After that run, I decided to flip through my running journal. A little over a year ago I could barely run a mile or two without stopping, and was only doing about six miles a week. Now I am not running less than 3 miles in any run, and have long runs that are greater than my weekly mileage back then.

I also noticed my heart rate. When I decided to get in shape I checked my resting heart rate every once in a while and it was between 70 and 75. My resting heart rate is now 55. I do not train within heart rate zones, but I do keep track of heart rate and use it to gauge improvement.

I first started using a heart rate monitor in January. Back then, if I wanted to keep my HR around 150-160 I would have to keep my pace around 13:00 a mile. My run a couple of days ago had an average pace of 11:00 minutes per mile and my average heart rate was 151.

These are only minor improvements, that have taken close to a year, but it is progress none the less. Am I keeping up with a lot of the runners out there? No. I am middle of the pack... make that back of the middle of the pack runner.

I am keeping with it and improving at the rate my body is allowing me to. I try not to compare myself to other runners, only myself, and the best way to do that is look back on what all the hard work is doing.

So if you are just beginning, or do not think that you are seeing any progress, then flip through your running or workout journal and you may be surprised at what you find. If you do not have a journal, then you better start. It can be motivating, inspiring, and most of all fun to look back and reminisce about how far you have come.