Philly Distance Run - The place to set PRs even if you're horribly undertrained

by - Monday, September 21, 2009

The Philadelphia Distance Run this weekend kicked some major booty, but that probably has everything to do with that fact that I set a PR (even though I wasn't properly trained) and Ryan Hall won the race. Whoo!

Seriously though everything about the race was pretty awesome: flat course, fun bands, Ryan Hall winning and me hearing him being announced when I was at mile 4.6 (It's a wave start people I wasn't that far in the dust). The only thing that majorly sucked was their lack of porta-potties.

Remember one of my goals was to see RH start the race and not be the in porta-potty line? Yea major fail. I got in the line 30 minutes before the race was supposed to start and had just finally gotten to the front of the line when the gun went off. The race directors seriously need to get wayyyyyy more porta-potties. There's no way the line should take that long. In Virginia Beach I got in a massive line 10 minutes before the start and had finished before the gun went off.

Major fail Philly!

The only other minor glitch was the giant clusterfuck at the end of the race. I was trying to get some Cytomax in the "Secure Zone" but there were too many people jostling about and I couldn't even see where they were handing it out. I almost missed the people with the medals because it was so crowded.

Other than that though it was a really great race. I thought Virginia Beach was a a flat course, but if possible, Philly was flatter. The weather was a little bit cooler (dumb luck, it could have been blazing hot) and there was a decent amount of shade on parts of the course.

My parents and I got there super duper early because we didn't know what the traffic or parking situations would be like. Luckily, we had no problem and were able to get a spot about a half a mile from the start and finish lines, which proved to be extremely clutch at the end of the race.

I was supposed to be in corral 13, but I couldn't find corral 13 so I just jumped in line and started early. I think I was in 10 or 11. The first mile was a little crammy even with the wave start and it was hard to run any kind of "fast" pace. It was more just trying to avoid tripping over people. In the end I think that helped me though. I clocked the first mile in 10:30ish give or take a few seconds.

Right after the first mile I noticed this girl about my age running my pace and I immediately made her my pacer. My goal was to stay with her until about the five mile mark, then access how I felt and decide if I was going to be able to speed up or not. That plan worked for all of half a mile because my pacer majorly slowed down (or I majorly sped up).

I gave up trying to hold back to stay with her and just tried to keep it steady for the next few miles. I took my first Gu at mile 4.5ish and was still feeling pretty strong. I was holding a pace around 10 minute miles and was definitely happy with that.

I took my first walk break somewhere near mile 6 just to give my legs a little breather. I was walking thrugh all the water stations, but it felt like my legs needed a little more, so I gave them a break for about two minutes.

I'm happy to say that by mile 8 I had made up those two minutes and I was back running a steady pace, just slightly over 10 minute miles.

I kept looking at my watch thinking if I can hold this pace until the end of the race, I'm going to smash my PR. I felt like I was working hard, but I wasn't really feeling fatigued yet. Mile 9 came and went and then I was at mile 10 at 1:41ish and I was shocked. I had never in my life run 1o miles that fast. Usually I fall so off pace at the end of long runs.

By mile 11 though I could really feel like I was starting to struggle. A girl ran past me chanting "two more miles, two more miles" over and over again to herself. I was thinking right on just two more miles. I told myself I had two run until I got to the 12 mile marker and then I could take a two minute walk break.

Thinking about my two minute break managed to help me push through to mile 12. I enjoyed my walking and then went right back to running. However, there was a water station about a minute later so I walked through that too.

I was getting a little nervous as I was looking at my watch because after the 20K I had no idea how much longer I would be running. I had lost all sense of pace and I was so afraid my PR was going to slip away. From the 20K to the end of the race felt like longest I'd ever run. I kept pushing and pushing and alternatively felt like I was either going to burst into tears or start laughing hysterically.

Not far before the mile 13 marker I saw my parents and they were cheering for me. Then a guy fell/collapsed right in front of them. I pointed to him trying to indicate that my parents should go get the medics, but someone was already helping him and I couldn't even form words at that point so my parents probably had no idea what I was trying to say.

I saw the 13 mile marker and knew I was so close. I looked at my watch and saw 2:13:andsomething and knew I was going to break my PR. I kept running and running and I made the final turn and I saw my watch had just clicked to 2:14 and I started sprinting as fast as I could toward the finish line because I wanted to clock in under 2:15.

I have never felt so emotional crossing a finish line. I couldn't tell if I was about to laugh or cry. I had stopped my watch at 2:14:30 and my official chip time was 2:14:29. A new PR and a finish of under 2:15.

I could barely walk when I crossed the finish line. I stumbled my way through the majorly overcrowded finishers area. Collected my medal, grabbed a water and a bagel (that I ended up throwing out) and was just in time to hear Ryan Hall being announced as the winner of the race and see him accept his award. I guess that makes up for not seeing him start. He waved, people cheered, I found some energy to clap and cheer and then I found my parents and sat down.

I was, and still am, a bit shocked that I managed to beat my PR. My best race previously had been the National Half Marathon back in March when I finished in 2:17:05. I don't know how after a summer of pretty crappy training, I was able to run two half marathons so close together and PR the second one.

Hands down this is my best race to date. I don't think I've ever run a smarter race or put in more effort consistently through out a race. I started off nice and steady and I knew when I needed to pick up the pace after walk breaks to keep my splits consistent. I pushed harder at the end of this race than I have ever pushed in any other race. There were so many times my legs were screaming at me to stop and walk and let them rest, but I tried really hard to win the mental game. And I think in the end I did.

I'm really, really proud of myself for this race. I went in expecting to just have a fun run, collect my Beach to Bell medal and say I ran two half marathons two weeks apart. Never in a million years did I expect to be in a mental battle with myself at the end of the race pushing to set a new PR.

I haven't experienced the wanting to cry in the middle of a race feeling since my first marathon three years ago. To have that feeling spring up again was definitely strange.

I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of reflecting on this race over the rest of the week. If I figure out how I managed to pull a PR out of my butt with barely any training, I'll be sure to let you all know.

I also want to take a quick minute to give a huge shout out to my parents for being my support at this race. They woke up at 4:30 Sunday morning to drive me to Philly and then watch me run. If they hadn't been there I wouldn't have been able to keep my sweatshirt and sweatpants on until literally seconds before I entered my corral and I would have been stressing out about things like finding parking and getting to the start in time. So thanks Mom and Dad. I can't explain how much it meant to me to have you there.

And thanks to all of you who have read through this whole very long race report. Apologies for the long windedness and lack of pictures.

Me with my finisher's medal being a major squinty McGee because it was super sunny.

You May Also Like


  1. CONGRATS GIRL!!! an awesome pr job, and on back-to-back halves no less! man i wish i had been there :) i'm glad the 'rents were able to go and cheer you on. lol about being flatter than vb, though there was that "hill" after the bridge. i swear that stretch of road once you came down the bridge was uphill.

    you look cute with your medal! love that tank top!

  2. Congratulations Jess. That's awesome news.

  3. Congrats on the PR! That's awesome!

  4. Yay Jess!! Congrats on an awesome race and a great PR! Maybe having the pressure off helped you to PR? You were just going to have fun and ended up with a fantastic result. Maybe that's the key!

  5. Nice PR! Congrats on a good race. Who needs training anyway? Cheers!

  6. How awesome is that? I lurve surprise PRs!! Congratulations... Just goes to show you that you CAN push past your limits. I will try to follow your example this weekend :-)

  7. Great job! You should be WAY proud.

  8. Inspiring post, sister! Congrats on the new PR that you got in my Home Town!


    Which brings me to my next point:

    Who's Ryan Hall? Is he like the male Kara Goucher?

    Which brings me to my next point:

    Who's Kara Goucher?

  9. AWESOME job girl!!!! you did amazing! YAYYY new PR and just after you ran one what a week or 2 ago? you are awesome!!!