In the days leading up to the Philadelphia Marathon, I said a few times that I’ve been spoiled by the weather at my last three marathons, so I was due for one with crappy weather.
Coastal Delaware? Perfect. Boston 2022? Perfect (a true miracle for Boston!) Chicago? Perfect.
So when I saw the forecast for Philly, complete with starting temperatures in the high 20s (cold even for me) with wind gusts reaching 45 mph, I just had to laugh. Of course it would be terrible!
But I was OK with it. I said all along that Philly was just going to be for fun. I had an amazing marathon in Chicago and absolutely gave that race everything I had. I had a loose goal of finishing Philly between 3:25 and 3:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be upset if I were slower than that. And being an optimist by nature, I looked on the bright side – at least it wouldn’t be heat and humidity! Or a cold rain!
I ended up completing Philly in 3:24:43– my second fastest marathon time. More importantly, I had an absolute blast running this race, despite the crazy winds!
Here is my recap of the 2022 Philadelphia Marathon!
Before the Race
A week before the race, I ran the Bay Bridge Run, a 10K race that I do every year. Normally, I’d never race the week before a marathon, but Philly was just for fun, right? So I decided to race it as I normally would.
I ran my 10K PR at the Bay Bridge Run a year ago, and knew that time would be extremely tough to beat, but I gave it my all and finished in a strong 41:04. First in my age group, 2nd Masters female, and I believe 9th or 10th overall female. I admit I was a little disappointed not to be under 41, but that long incline up the bridge took a lot out of me this year and I guess I was in the middle of another marathon taper, so it should be expected. It was also a very windy and cold day, though I heard other people talking about the tailwind and how much they loved that it pushed them along. I didn’t feel it at all!! I didn’t actually mind the temperature when running, but I was so cold afterwards that I didn’t even take advantage of the all-you-can-drink beer bracelet I blew $20 or whatever on. Will remember that for next year!
The Philadelphia Marathon was on Sunday, November 20, so I headed up to Philly the day before. I went back and forth a lot over what to wear during the race. I get pretty hot when running, but with that wind forecast, I worried I’d be underdressed in shorts, a singlet, and arm warmers. At basically the last minute, I decided to run in tights, a long sleeved shirt, gloves with Hot Hands tucked in, and a hat. (It ended up being the right call– I never got that cold during the race and didn’t overheat, either.) I also got a throwaway coat at the local Goodwill to ditch at the start of the race, which was then picked up by the Salvation Army in Philly. I headed straight to the convention center, picked up my bib, and then met up with my friends Staci, Sarah, Melissa, Melissa’s husband Harry, and their daughter Lucy for lunch at Iron Hill Brewery. Then we explored the German Christmas Market and headed back to Melissa and Harry’s house to watch Brittany Runs a Marathon (fitting!) and order takeout from Haveaburger, where I ordered my usual veggie burger and French fries, determined not to make the same mistake I did in Chicago! Melissa and Harry set me up in their basement and I was in bed before 10. I was nice and comfy, but I still didn’t sleep great, typical the night before a marathon!
My pre-scheduled Uber arrived early at 5:10 am and I was off! I’d heard horror stories of the lines to get through security being super long at the half marathon the day before, so I didn’t want to take any chances. Got through with no problem and just chilled (well, OK, the opposite of that!) in the warming tent before the race. I remembered having a warming tent before the Philly Half in 2019 and thought that was such a great idea. I saw my friend Amy from Rip It Events and we hung out for a bit. Before I knew it, it was time to get into my start corral. I had wanted to hit the porta potty one last time, but the lines were ridiculous so I told myself if I had to stop on the course, whatever.
Once I got in the corral, I lined up behind the 3:30 pacer, who was wrapped in a heat blanket from another race and totally shivering. I saw my friend Sami, who was running her first marathon ever (and ended up absolutely killing, running a 3:17!!) and we chatted for a bit and decided to ditch our throwaways at the side of the corral. As soon as we did this, a HUGE gust of wind blew through and several of us huddled against each other. I knew right then we were in for an interesting race! The race started about 10 minutes late, making me wish I’d held onto my coat a little longer, but what can you do? Pretty much as soon as I started running, I had to pee. I knew I’d have to stop eventually, but I decided to see how far I could get before I absolutely needed to hit a porta potty (luckily, they were all over the course.)
The first few miles felt OK. The wind had died down a little and the sun was out, and I even contemplated taking the Hot Hands out of my gloves. I’m glad I didn’t, because once we got to mile 7 or 8, the wind picked up again and it was fierce. The crowds were amazing, though!! The cold and wind did not diminish their enthusiasm one bit. I knew Sarah was planning to be out on the course around mile 9, even though I’d told her not to feel obligated to come out and spectate in the cold. I really think it was worse to be standing still than running in those conditions! At mile 8, I saw a line of porta potties and quickly ducked into one, after walking in on some dude in another pot. Lock the damn door next time, buddy! I peed quickly and caught up to the 3:30 group within the next mile, and Sarah was right where she said she’d be! I also got to see her just before the halfway point, because she was standing at a spot where we ran by twice. She also said she saw me around mile 25, but I completely missed her then, probably because I was deep in the zone.
There were some hills between miles 9 and 14 of the course, but nothing too crazy. I knew it wouldn’t be pancake flat like Chicago anyway. I did have to be careful around the water stops, because people were spilling water out of the cups and it was starting to freeze on the ground. I saw a few runners slip and fall!
At mile 16, I was still with the pace group and feeling strong, so I decided to pull ahead. Soon after began the very toughest part of the race, the long out and back down Kelly Drive along the Schuykill River. I’d heard that it’s windy through that stretch even on the nicest of days. Well, the wind on marathon day whipping off the river was just nuts! It was kind of blowing me sideways at some parts and I did my best to tuck in behind some taller runners to block it. But there wasn’t much I could do. Definitely the craziest wind I’d ever raced in. I still wasn’t too cold, though. I was wearing a neck gaiter that I’d gotten for free at the expo, so I pulled that up over my face a few times, but overall I was OK.
We entered the neighborhood of Manayunk at mile 20, which is where you turn around before heading back to the finish in front of the art museum. This was by far my FAVORITE part of the race. The crowds were so, so much fun. A lot of people were partying hard (a fraternity at Drexel was handing out beers and I think shots, too) and just loudly cheering for everyone by name – a cool thing about Philly is they print your first name on your bib! I saw someone holding a sign that said “Welcome to the Manayunk 10K” and that made me smile. After I passed the turnaround, I saw I was a few minutes ahead of the 3:30 pacers, but I had no idea how far ahead since I wasn’t really looking at my watch. I just decided to keep on pushing and was hoping that maybe we’d get a tailwind on the way back (we didn’t!)
There was a guy handing out small plastic cups of beer at mile 21, and I NEVER take beer during marathons or any other races, but since my goal was to have fun and I felt good – way better than I felt at mile 21 in Chicago, in fact – I took one and chugged it and went on my way. I definitely was reaping the benefits of starting out at an “easy” pace and was clicking off miles in the 7:20-7:30 range.
I never felt like I hit a wall. I did feel a blister pop on my left foot at mile 25.5, and that sure sucked, but it hurt for a minute and then went away– and I was so close to the end by that point anyway. The crowds were deafening during that last stretch. But it felt like the finish line was SO far away and I remember thinking the same thing when I ran the half in 2019. You go around the art museum and you know you’re near the end but can’t really see the finish. It’s weird.
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and was absolutely stoked to see 3:24. Sub-3:25 in a marathon I was running “just for fun” a year after I finally broke 3:30 for the first time. I ran a smart, controlled race in shitty conditions and I’m as proud of it as I am of my 3:18 in Chicago the month before. And most importantly– I had so much fun!
The volunteer who gave me my medal noticed my Boston shirt and said “It looks like you’re going back to Boston!” I smiled and said yes I am! Yes, I already had my 2024 BQ from Chicago, but any BQ is special!
Sarah came to meet me at the finish area after I picked up my checked bag full of my sweats and puffy coat. She was holding onto my Uggs for me and it felt so good to take off the Alpha Flys and put those on. Then we met up with Melissa, Harry and Lucy and had lunch at Schlessinger’s Delicatessen.
The Philly Marathon was an awesome experience. It’s a well-organized race, the spectators kick ass, and the route around the city was fun and scenic. I highly recommend it! This was my 13th marathon and I would say Philly is now high on my list of favorite marathons. If you’re looking for a great big city marathon in the later part of fall, check this one out.