Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Race Report, Part II: Philadelphia Marathon Event Review

Since I did such a long race report that included pre-race, my race report, lessons learned, and post-race adventuring, I wasn't planning on doing another multi-part race report.

But, two days removed from the event, I realized that I wanted to talk a little more about the event itself, as independently as I could from my own race experience, for someone that might be thinking of the Philadelphia Marathon.

My advice: Do it!

Either the half or full marathon is a good tour of Philadelphia (to be more clear than I was yesterday, the half course is the first half of the full marathon course), but first half is the more interesting: downtown, along the Delaware, South Street, Old City, University City, Fairmount Park.

The second of the course is generally a very pretty run along the Schuylkill River, but generally lacks the varied scenery of the first half. It's interesting to see street side of Boathouse Row, and Manyunk is like a fun little town nestled within city limits of Philadelphia.

I can't decide which part of the course is tougher. For me, obviously, the second half. But if I ran them independently of each other the first definitely has the bigger hills. Whether you run the half or full, the finish at the Art Museum is spectacular.

Between the scenery, very good crowd support and interesting things or people to see along the course, it's at least a visually stimulating journey. My favorites were the Sixers Dance Team, Eagles Drumline, and the goofy costumed entertainers at mile 11. After three years, I still can't figure out what the hell they are but they always make me laugh.

I can think of just a handful negatives about the course. I can think portions of it are very crowded (the start and Chestnut Street namely). A few more port-o-potties at some of the stops would have been helpful, and later in the race the aid stations were running out of cups. The volunteers continued to fill water bottles, trying to save cups for those who didn't have bottles, and I have no complaint at all with the aid station volunteers who numerous and friendly. There were aid stations approximately every two miles, which seemed adequate to me. (I did have my hydration belt.)

There's a lot of history and a lot of interesting sights along the course. For a lot of runners, that's probably reason enough. For all you other shallow folks like me, let's talk about the expo and swag

The expo at Philly is a little bigger than the one at Shamrock, but also more crowded -- the seemed to make not the best use of the available space in the convention hall, but at least it was crowded with cool stuff: Whatever supplies you were looking for, whether last-minute stuff for the race or just some new gear, you could probably find it here.

While I didn't like the race merchandise as much as I did in previous years (the main logo stays the same, but the designs change a bit each year), there's a good selection of race logo merchandise. I went with two hats (a white one to try as a running hat and a black one that I just thought was cool) and a fleece jacket.

I've run the Philly Half or Marathon each of the past three years, and the main giveaway has always been a long-sleeve Endurafit tech shirt with the race slogan on the front and course map on the back. I like the shirts, especially since the maps are on them, but the sizing is a little funny. I have three "mediums". 2009's is on the small side, tight in the arms; 2010's is perfect; and 2011's is probably really a "large". The course maps, cool. The slogans, another matter. 2009: "Running Means..." (Signs all over the city filled in cheesy slogans "Running Means Independence", "Running Means a Rhino is Chasing You", etc.). 2010: "Push Through". 2011: "Best Time of Your Life." I already mocked that one yesterday. Still, it's a good giveaway.

The ubiquitous drawstring goodie bag also has a bottle(?) of coconut milk, some chocolate-covered berries, a therapeutic wrap, and a voucher for Sixers tickets. This will be seriously cool if the NBA ever resumes play.

Overall Impression
Two days after my race, I'm not feeling nearly as negative about myself (more on both that and on the tragic deaths of two participants on Thursday), and I think I can say I'll remember the experience with a good amount of pride, even though I still want to use this race as motivation to do better next time.

But, all that aside, I think this is a good event. The post-race party and swag don't stack up to Shamrock, which seems to just have a more "fun" atmosphere. Philly doesn't really have any post-race celebration at all. (As Nancy clarified below.)

However, there's a lot to do in Philadelphia, but it's manageable to see a lot during the weekend and if nothing else you see a good portion of the city during the race to at least be able to orient yourself later (I know downtown very well from having worked there years ago). It's a visually interesting course -- it has Shamrock beaten in that regard -- that with good support, a good expo, and good swag (if you care about swag). I thought the course was challenging, and positively mountainous compared to my only other marathon, but I've heard that among marathons Philly is still considered "flat and fast."

Train better than I did, and you might even have "The Best Time of Your Life."


  1. What "post-race party?" Aside from that latin band by the UPS trucks, which noone other than myself and my family was listening to, I would love to know what party you are referring to!!!

  2. well, yeah. I didn't do the best job writing that but that was my point. Shamrock has a huge tent with bands and a beer, whereas Philly didn't really have any post-race celebration at all to speak of.