kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran 13 miles.

So I ran the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Philly on Sunday, September 15th 2013. I've been running half-marathon distances every week for the past couple of months and figured I might as well get a medal for my efforts. Typically the way I do it is "Roswell wakes me up at 4:30 am, I get dressed, I run 13 miles and I come home, take a shower, wake trillian_stars up and we have breakfast and the day goes on," but there's something oddly different about running that distance with thousands of other people. I started worrying about it days out thinking, rethinking and overthinking all sorts of decisions that I'd never worried about before, at all. Running is a sport, but it's also an activity. Sports you do for times or for scores and activities you do for fun and I suppose when you add a bunch of people your activity is more like a sport. Some of my decisions seemed to be good, others maybe not so.

I picked the wrong corral. That's for sure.

When signing up I entered the time I'd been running, 2:15 in my corral assignment sheet -- which is how they group you with other people who are going to run at the same pace and they let everybody out in a staggered fashion so there's not a bunch of crashing as faster runners collide with you from behind. This should work really well if everybody puts themselves in the right corral but there were an awful lot of optimistic people in front of me and I spent almost the entire race weaving around people (I guess it could have been worse; it might be demoralizing to have people passing you the entire time). I'm not sure if the lesson learned here is "overestimate your corral, because everybody else is" or "keep reminding people to be realistic about where they're starting from." I ran it in 2:06:36, with an average pace per mile of 9:29. I was hoping to come in at under 2 hours, but it just wasn't in the cards.

Roswell didn't know that today was any different, so she got me up at 4:30 right on schedule.

Roswell gets me up at 4:30.
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I made my way down to the start about 30 minutes before the gun. It was a weird setup -- there were dueling PA systems blasting different music just a few yards from one another. At one point some poor guy was trying to sing the national anthem on one set of speakers while the other was blasting Thunderstruck by AC/DC. It left me wondering if one person was in charge of the whole thing or not. The start was a rolling thing over a period of about half an hour. Instead of corrals actually being released at one or two minute intervals it seemed they just had the big line walking up to the start and then starting off when they crossed the line.

Before the start selfie.
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I actually couldn't run as fast as I wanted for the first few miles just because of the congestion. Within a mile a lot of people had stopped running and started walking, by mile three this turned into a really significant amount of people and I found an angry young woman with a blond pony tail and pink top who was really annoyed by this and tucked in behind her as she yelled "excuse me! excuse me!" and made a hole.

The course went through the city, around city hall, down to fourth street and back -- it seemed to take neither time nor effort and by the time we'd gotten to mile 5, looping around the starting point I felt pretty much like I'd just stepped out of the house. That part of the course was all new for me and it was exciting to run in the middle of the street with lots of other people.

The last organized half marathon I ran I clocked an extra 3/4ths of a mile crossing the street to get into the shade and other things that made my running less efficient. This time I was promising myself to stick to the inside lane as much as possible and not expend too many extra steps going around people thinking I'd be better off saving the energy until the end (note: not sure if this worked to my benefit).

After mile six the course spilled out onto my every-weekend-run along the Schuylkill and it was all familiar territory. I knew how far apart everything was from everything else and the crowd spaced themselves out a bit more.

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Mile seven was more or less the the half way point and around here a group of 70-something guys put the hammer down and shot past me like I was standing still. I picked up my own pace, hoping to do the last half faster than the first half. After chowing down on some horrible tasting energy paste my feet turned into veritable rockets and I passed ... KISS.

I ran past KISS.
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I love this part of the course, along the side of Laurel Hill Cemetery, you run past Elisha Kent Kane's grave which is on the side of the hill (and will probably one day be in the middle of Kelly Drive) -- a lot of people think Ben Franklin or Edgar Poe to be Philly's most interesting resident, but my vote goes to Kane -- and I'm happy to look up as I pass him every week.

There will come a day....
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The miles went by quickly after that -- I felt like the crowd was pulling me along faster and I had a great playlist on the iPod.

People running into a tunnel.
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Eventually around Falls Bridge where a lot of people stopped to take photos (not me, I was taking them on the run thank you very much). The water tables were having difficulty keeping up with people and people inexplicably would run up to the table and just ... stop ... creating big throngs around them, and it suddenly made sense why some people would run with their own water. If you're looking to get a time by seconds or minutes, you can lose it trying to get to a cup of water through a group of people just standing around. I ended up skipping a bunch of the water stops, which was fine. I managed to hit one of the Gatorade tables and ... wow, that stuff tastes awful. I'm amazed that people drink it recreationally -- and enough people drink it recreationally that it's a huge wall in every 7-11 (thank you people) and it kept me feeling fueled and hydrated.

At mile 10 I decided to throw everything I had left on the fire although my hopes of making an under-two hour half were unlikely by then (I'd have to run pretty much the three fastest miles I could) and that was where it stopped being fun. There was a voice in the back of my head going "this can be fun again if you just freaking slow down" -- but I was able to beat it back with thoughts of it all being over fairly soon.

Along the final stretch there was a cheerleader standing in the middle of the road from my high school, waving our mascot around (the bulldog), and then I noticed there were a whole BUNCH of cheerleaders from my high school I yelled "I went there!" and ... they started cheering and waving pompoms and I had this fractured moment in time thinking that cheerleaders from my high school were cheering me in a sporting event. I felt somehow vindicated, though it may have been the endorphins -- it was one of the better moments of the whole race, even though it didn't last for more than ten seconds.

Final stretch.
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Trillian was waiting for me on the ramp on the way to the art museum right by the finish line and she waved and screamed and jumped up and down as I ran past ... which is something that's so nice to have. I can't really even begin to describe what that's like. Anyway, it was just a couple hundred yards after that and I was over the finish line and someone handed me a medal and a bottle of water and I got directed down the Chute of Plenty where there are many bananas and bags of potato chips and bagels and giant pretzels. It was difficult to get out of the fenced in area and it ended up taking me about half an hour to get 10 feet from where I finished but I eventually met up with Trillian by the Rocky statue, sat under a tree and drank a lot of water and watched the world spin around me. (I discovered among other things on my journey that The Philadelphia Police Department has a Batmobile. )

I won, here's my medal.
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Part of being the Rock and Roll half marathon I guess is that you need Rock and Roll. There was a band performing every mile or so the point of which I'm not entirely sure of since you're only within earshot of them for 15 seconds and you mostly probably have headphones on anyway, but it ended up with a concert by Walk Off the Earth in front of the art museum, who were fun and just the sort of people you'd get to headline something like this.

Here's that band, Walk Off The Earth.
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The Big Machine that's behind RnR (Competitor Group) has gotten some flack for turning what was once the "Philadelphia Distance Run" into, as someone put it, "the Walmart of races" and I definitely noticed that. There was a sort of "have your credit card ready" vibe to the whole thing, from being forced by security to walk through the gauntlet of vendors at the expo before you could leave, to not allowing people to pick up multiple packets (for friends and family) without paying $20 per packet to the most expensive race photos I've ever seen, there was a large size commercial atmosphere to the thing which was a little off-putting. But on the whole I had a grand time. My medal looks nice, I came out stronger than I went in and had a pretty splendid day.

Hope you did too.

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