Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Recap

It's only rock and roll (half marathon) but I like it!  Huge day for me in my life of running.

This morning I set a PR in the half marathon for the first time in over four years by running 1:26:05.

As I grow older, personal records become increasingly harder to come by in any distance, and frankly I don't know how many PR's I have left in me.  So I'm ecstatic to have finally taken down my PR from 2011.

Let's get into it, shall we?

Normally this race is run towards the end of September, but because the Pope was in town at the same time this year, Rock 'n' Roll changed the date to Halloween.  I've run this race for the better part of the last decade, starting back when it was known as The Distance Run, though I missed last year to attend a wedding out near Pittsburgh.  Sadly, my dad's friend whom I mentioned in the last post who has completed every iteration of this race for the last 38 years, had to end his streak this year due to pneumonia.

I took the train over to Philly this morning leaving at 6:10am for a 7:30 race start.  Met my dad on the train and walked over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the race started and finished.

Logan Square at 6:30am
Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

Close to start time
Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

Two years ago I arrived at the starting area 35 minutes before the start, only to have to wait 40 minutes in line for a porta potty.  I ended up starting in the 8th or 9th corral which I'm pretty sure cost me a PR that year because I spent so much time dodging and weaving around runners going at a different pace.  So imagine my horror to arrive at the starting area and find myself reliving the exact same situation, standing in line for the port potty freaking out as the line inched forward and the time ticked closer to the starting gun.  I can't tell you how close I came to dropping my shorts and going in the bushes outside the Rodin Museum.  In the end I stayed in line and made it into the corral with about 90 seconds to spare.

The start
Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

For the first half mile I had to repeatedly slam on the brakes to not hit people, but it didn't take long until I was surrounded by people running a similar pace.  The first half mile was the only crowding I experienced in the whole race.

The course had been altered slightly since the last time I ran it.  I have to give credit to whoever created the course, as it was almost 100% flat with long straightaways ideal for cruising speed.  I loved the course.  It did, however, make it difficult for spectators to access the course for the majority of the race, so there was little crowd support, but this didn't bother me as the bulk of my training runs are done alone, so I'm used to the solitude.

I was running consistently in the 6:20 - 6:30 min/mile range, and I honestly felt like I was holding myself back.  I decided to continue this pace until I hit the turnaround point at the Falls Bridge around mile 9, and then ramp up the pace a little.

I was concentrating on hitting the tangents, alternating between water and Gatorade at the aid stations, and picturing myself celebrating a new PR as I ran.

By the time I reached the turnaround point, though, I had developed a side stich under my right rib.  By mile 10 the pain was excruciating and breathing was difficult.  I considered turning this into a war of attrition; who would break first - me or the race?


At mile 11 I couldn't take it anymore and decided to slow down to about a 7:30 pace.  I was worried that the side stitch would unravel me altogether in the final mile, so I figured I could run mile 11 at a slower pace, then ramp it back up again during mile 12.  When I hit mile 12, I did just that.  The final mile of the marathon ended up being my fastest one of the race.

Mile splits:

Mile 1: 641
Mile 2: 6:53
Mile 3: 6:44
Mile 4: 6:31
Mile 5: 6:28
Mile 6: 6:38
Mile 7: 6:32
Mile 8: 6:35
Mile 9: 7:05
Mile 10: 6:30
Mile 11: 6:40
Mile 12: 6:31
Mile 13: 5:50

After finishing, I collected the various food on offer - a banana, water, chocolate milk, chips, protein bars, etc.  My dad and I had arranged a meeting spot, but he was able to find me easily enough before I even exited the runners' finisher area.

Proud owner of a new medal and new half marathon PR
Photo by Wayne Partenheimer

Father and son

We didn't stick around long for the festivities and missed the Gin Blossoms play their extensive catalogue of 90's hits.  Instead we walked back to the train and headed home to New Jersey.

Once again, I'm ecstatic to have lowered my time in the half marathon.  A lot goes into a PR, such as luck.  The conditions today simply couldn't have been better: temps in the 40's, sunny skies, no wind, no humidity and dry streets.

But at the end of the day, the biggest factor in setting a PR is the hard work put into training.  I may often question whether I am training as hard as I could be, but there is no doubt I am training hard.  I came into today's race confident I could run a PR, and in fact it's kind of odd how effortless it all felt.  It didn't feel like some grand heroic struggle like some of my other races.  Aside from overcoming the side stitch, it was all rather mechanical and business-like. I simply set out at a sustainable pace and maintained roughly even splits for the whole race. That's all there was to it.

My time today is only 3 minutes away from a New York Qualifier.  It makes me wonder if it might be worth it to concentrate on that goal for 2016.

As a PR is pretty rare these days, it would be nice to celebrate properly tonight, but I'm already putting it behind me and training my focus on the Philly Marathon 3 weeks away.  As nice as today was, it is only a minor detour in the larger journey to a sub 3 performance.

Big thanks to my dad for coming out today, for spectating and holding my bag.  I'll never get tired of bonding over running.


  1. Scott, those splits are awesome! Way to throw it down in the last mile. Congratulations on a very well deserved PR!

    1. Ah, sorry I missed this comment, but thanks for reading and for the congrats! I'm going to focus on 5k's primarily for this spring and look forward to seeing you at more races!


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