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Pacing at the Philadelphia Marathon 2011

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. I love running. I was sore on Monday and am still sore today, but I like the soreness too!

Because of my twisted ankle and poor build up to the race, I was aiming to finish in 5 hours. Two things made me feel confident that I could finish faster than my slowest marathon (5:15): the weather was better (around 55 degrees vs a humid 85 degrees) and I felt in better shape. My goal was to start really slowly (about 12 min/mile), to avoid dodging around people, and enjoy. All things were accomplished!

I started off at an easy 11:21 min/mile pace. A stop at what felt like the slowest porta-potty line took 10 minutes. I finished the half marathon at 2:38 with an average 12:03 min/mile pace. I sped up a little with some restraint. I was very aware of taking walking breaks and not going too fast. I got tired between mile 17 and 18, but regained my energy. My feet started hurting at mile 23, but after a mile the pain lessened. I was able to pick up the pace in the last mile and finishing chute. I finished in 4:58:16! Overall average of 11:23 min/mile. About a 2:20 second half which was a 10:41 min/mile pace. Negative split baby! And no crashing!

I was very conscious throughout the race of pitfalls I experienced in previous races. I crashed in the 2009 and in 2010 Philadelphia Marathons. In 2009, I dodged around people on the Columbus Boulevard section (around mile 3) and I sped up too much between mile 13 and 17. In 2010, I dodged around people along Chestnut Street (mile 6). This year I was extra-sure to not dodge around anyone. It’s so easy to let other people’s pace dictate yours and speed up. It’s easy to speed up a little to get into the next open spot in the crowd. Those actions take more energy than they are worth.

In 2010 I think I had energy intake problems. I started losing energy before mile 17. I had stomach issues at mile 18. I wasn’t able to regain energy during the last miles. Some thoughts that have prevented proper energy intake include “It’s early, I don’t need a gel yet” and “There’s only three miles left, a gel won’t kick in before that time”. This year I made sure to have gels often enough. I also had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast instead of my previously favored toast and eggs. More carbs in my stomach from which to draw energy!

My take home message about this race was the importance of pacing. It’s dangerous every time you slip into an energy-consuming stride unless you are in the last few miles.

And here were some of the awesome things that happened along the way:

  • My boyfriend ran with me between mile 6 and 13
  • My parents cheered for me at mile 7 and 17
  • I finished before one girl who kept leap frogging me in the second half of the race.
  • I ran with a woman dressed as Rocky at mile 6. She got ahead of me because of the epic porta-potty break, but I caught up and passed her around mile 21.
  • My favorite sign was “Keep going, don’t Occupy Arch Street!”
  • In South Philly there were guys with a sign “You yell Philly, we drink beer!” Of course I had to yell “Philly!” to which one responded “You’re killin’ me!”
  • Around mile 10 or 11 a group who has been there the last two years were people dancing in costumes giving out high fives. One was dressed as a Hungry Hungry Hippo!
  • There were lots of tutus and a few capes.
  • I saw two completely barefoot runners, and tons of people with Vibram Five Fingers.
  • I had some beer both times I passed the Beer Stop in Manayunk

I can’t wait for next year!

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