The short version. Twenty eight K2J runners, twenty three in the full and five in the half. Sixteen BQ’s, four PB’s, three top three age group finishes, an additional top ten age group finish and two top ten 2015 Canadian age group performances all on a windy day in Philly. Lots of other Ottawa area runners. We had the pleasure of meeting a few on a great bus trip down thanks to Joe, Al and Run Ottawa!
The Long Version
Twenty eight runners from K2J Fitness along with a dedicated group of supporters made the trip to run the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. They came by car, plane and a chartered bus arranged by Run Ottawa. The bus trip was great, highly recommended and a big thank you to Run Ottawa for arranging it. Comfy seats, no driving required and there was even power for a laptop. We arrived in Philly on Friday night in time to hit the expo which runs Friday and Saturday. It was a reasonable size and race kit pick-up was fast and efficient.
Everyone did their own thing on Saturday and for most that included a visit to the Rocky Statue and a run up the Rocky steps which are actually the steps of the Art Museum. Rocky was wearing a Philly Marathon Shirt and when we arrived there was a guy dressed like Rocky posing for pictures with the runners.
The statue was donated to the city by Sylvester Stallone after the filming of Rocky III in 1980. We all ran up the steps Rocky style, two at a time. To be honest it’s not that tough. Our average Tuesday night hill work out puts them to shame.
The Race starts and finishes in that area so we checked out the start and finish area.
Other attractions that caught our attention included. The Reading Terminal Market which has six bakeries (a runner’s dream!)
Whenever we go to a big US city to run a marathon we are impressed by how friendly everyone is. At Breakfast at the Down Home Dinner– good food, reasonable prices and reasonable service, the couple beside us wanted to know all about running marathons.
We had dinner the night before the race at Gran Caffe L’Aquila – small, local, great food, great service and world famous gelato but we did not have room to try it. The family sitting beside us wanted to buy our drinks because we were Canadian (they probably felt bad for us given the value of our dollar!)
The race starts at 7:00am so we attempted to gather the troops starting at 6:00am. (A great group but it’s a bit like herding cats). We met at the Sheraton which is very close to the secure area of the race.
We were expecting extra security and we got it. The whole run start area was secured. It was all fenced in and there were cement and garbage trucks parked across all the side streets so no one could ram their way onto the course. They were allowing runners and spectators in but they were patting everyone down and inspecting all the bags. Some of the tightest security I have seen. The line at the first checkpoint was huge so we went to the next one where the line was much shorter.
When we got to the front of the line the guy beside us was calling out to a friend that he was not coming in because they would not let him in. He had a big camera and the security person beside us said “no it’s Ok he can bring the camera in”. People started calling out to him until the security guard that sent him back pointed out the issue was not his camera it was his pepper spray!
This is a great race but the start was not. The security was expected and better safe than sorry but the lines for the bathrooms were huge. Personally I panicked and bailed out of the line when I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the start on time. It may only have been an issue for our coral but getting into the coral was not easy or obvious. We had to push our way through the coral behind ours in order to get in. Once we got into the corals there was a 15 minute delay in the start of the race. We got cold and personally I was cursing the fact I had left the bathroom line. ( Updated note, apparently the delay was security related so I officially take my complaint back ). At least one of our group never did manage to find his way into our coral and had to start a coral behind. In the race’s defence I believe there was an issue with a car on the course which held up the race.
Philly is unique in that the full and the half start together in the same corals. The first few miles of the race go through the streets of downtown Philly which are historic and fairly narrow (I tend to be a bit focused when I run so I missed all the history I just noticed the narrow), as a result we all found ourselves bobbing and weaving for the first few miles in order to get around runners who were either having a really bad day or who had started in the wrong corals. They were checking bibs so one assumes the runners not the organizers were at fault. Philly has 18 water stops but the spacing is a little odd. Some stops are over two miles apart and others are only one mile apart. There were serveal cheering stations some of which were very loud and enthusiastic. It was a windy day but the tall buildings and the crowds provided pretty good protection from the wind in the first half of the race. Just past the 7 mile mark the course crosses the river and heads towards the zoo. The crowd thinned out at that point. It is also the hilliest part of the course. Getting out of the port-o-potty line caught up with me at this point and I had to make a pit stop but at least there were no lines.
The course actually passes by the finish line at the halfway point. You run right by Rocky but you can’t really see him. The half marathoners pull in to finish and runners doing the full continue on. Another unique, and tempting feature of this race is that runners doing the full can chose to bail at the halfway point and they will still get a finish time.
The second half of the course is basically a long out and back. It also has one additional short out and back leg which you only do on the way out. There is only one timing mat on the second half of the course and neither of the turn arounds for the out and backs have timing mats on them. Given the recent stories about people cheating it may be time to add a couple of mats. There were some cheering stations but not a lot of random spectators (the security zone and the location made it much more difficult for the spectators to make it out to this part of the course). There was a beer only stop which we passed on the way out and on the way back. Brian O’Higgins actually had a beer and he still won his age group! The wind was also a much bigger factor. We had a strong and steady head wind for all of the 6.5 miles to the turn around. I kept looking for big people to run behind but they were few and far between. Unfortunately by the time we got the tail wind at 20 miles I was too tired and sore to take advantage of it. I was also starting to get calf cramps which I have not had not before and don’t care to have again!
The finish was much better than the start. Efficient, well organized and the medals were great.
We finished off the weekend with the traditional K2J celebration in John and Mike’s room with a bonus win by the Red Blacks. We then walked a mile to diner at Dinardos Famous Seafood which definitely gets two thumbs up.
Congratulations to all the Ottawa runners. Particularly thrilled to see Ian Govan place 3rd in his age group in the half and Mike Blois finishing 9th in his in the full. Corey, Mike and James were all well under three hours. Also another smoking hot time by Ottawa runner Pat Kelly. Congratulations to all!