Philadelphia Marathon 2011 Recap

by Joanne on November 22, 2011

You can do all the right training. You can log the miles, do multiple 20 milers, stick to the pace charts and the final day arrives. It could be your day or it might not.

Sunday, November 20, 2011 in Philadelphia was not quite my day. I lost the desire to run. There was no “wall” that I hit, no “bonking”, my mind was not one of a happy runner. Guess it can be compared to my view on baking:

If you bake with a smile and enjoy it, everything will turn out perfect. 


If you bake with a bad attitude and dread, everything will flop. 


My race plan flopped. That’s not to say it was a total bust because, hey! I finished my THIRD marathon, it just wasn’t a personal record.

Philadelphia Marathon 2011.

Friday, driving into Philadelphia, was no fun at all. It took us over an hour to go 12 miles. Talk about frustrating. We were starving but luckily had reservations at Table 31. The meal and service was SPECTACULAR!

table 31

Ted teased me with his wine since I committed to no wine nor cheese until after the marathon.  *Based on my run, to heck with that philosophy! I’m in a better frame of mind when I “wine” and cheese.


It was dark where we were seated and food photos didn’t turn out well so I’ll spare you the arduous task of trying to see dark photos of food as being mouth watering good.

But here’s a menu sampling…


We had the Fritto Misto – WOW! AMAZING!


Ted enjoyed the Paillard of Wild Rock Fish and I was swooning over the Halibut Francaise.  If ever in Philly, Table 31 is a must!

We enjoyed the walk back to the Crowne Plaza from the restaurant. It was a cool but mild, quiet evening. We joined the folks at the hotel bar for an hour then called it a night.

Saturday morning came quicker than I wanted. We were all set to eat breakfast then pick up Shirley, a runner from Rome NY that I consider my friend. We met on Facebook while asking if anyone was running Philly months ago. Both of us had our reservations going into this race, not feeling good about it at all.

Breakfast was a real trip. The hotel offered a buffet only and NO OATMEAL. Who doesn’t offer oatmeal when there’s a race going on?! We didn’t eat in the hotel, we found a diner down the road. I was able to get my Ezekiel bagel toasted and I microwaved my sweet potato at our hotel. Those are two MUST HAVES the day before a marathon.

The waitress was scary, especially if you’re an annoying patron like me who asks for all different things and NEVER at the same time. I think she eventually started growling at us as she passed our table. The food was good in any event, we enjoyed oatmeal, vegetarian omelets and dry rye toast.

Time to drive the course.

We picked up Shirley and tried to make our way around the 26.2 mile course but a lot of the roads were one ways the OTHER way. Still, we got a good feel of the terrain. There were some considerable hills so it wasn’t as flat as I was hoping. More on the course described in my run.

Now for the EXPO!


The EXPO was pretty packed when we got there just before noon. Packet pick up was easy and there were plenty of vendors with a lot of great stuff. Not too many freebies, or at least I didn’t grab many. There was an Endless Pool set up and the swimmer had been in it for 12 hours. Ted is interested in the Endless Pool for his swim workouts. It would be kind of neat having a pool in the house although you have to wonder about moisture problems?!

My stomach was rumbling and all I could think of was lunch. After standing in line for 30 minutes waiting to pay for a head band, Ted would only tolerate about 15 more minutes worth of Joanne checking out stuff she already had but thought she needed more of….Winking smile

If I had to rate the EXPO, I’d say it was very good. It offered everything a runner could want PLUS Philadelphia Marathon gear was great quality.

The three of us caught a late lunch, just before 2 pm, and enjoyed lengthy conversation before walking back to our hotels and calling it a day.

Shirley didn’t join us for dinner at Smith and Wollensky on Rittenhouse Square. It’s a shame because that was another meal that was OUT OF THIS WORLD – GOOD! The waiter and chef were accommodating in my special request for dinner preparations.  It was a perfect meal.  No photos, I was getting nervous about the race but I did get a shot from our table.



At 3:58 my alarm went off. It was time to choke down some pre race fuel and move around a little, shaking out the limbs, get the blood flowing.  I wasn’t feeling good about the race.  My stomach, which had been cramping for the last 3 days was STILL acting up.  Ted caught a shot of the unmotivated runner.  I was already cold and couldn’t imagine how I was going to feel outside.

Where’s my MoJo?!!!


We left the hotel at 5:30 am. It was only a mile walk. No buses nor taxis. The roads would all be closing at 6 AM.

Ted had his bike and walked with me to the starting area at Eakins Oval. The temperature was 48 deg. F with only a slight wind, by the end of the race it would be 58 degrees. True to form, Philadelphia could once again boast perfect weather for running.

There were runners coming from every direction, some were half marathoners and some the full marathon. This actually bothered me because I knew one of the hardest points in the run was going to be the split off. I would SO want to go towards the finish but would have another HALF to endure. Why did they have to torture us so?!

As we walked along, there were plenty of porto-potties, we saw the massage tent, the changing tents, race results, information, etc. Everything was well laid out and easy to find.

We had about an hour to wait before race time.


After 4 trips to the potties, we went over to the UPS truck until I worked up enough courage to give up my sweat pants. I would keep my long sleeve since it was a throw-away along with my blanket and Dollar Store gloves. UPS trucks were labeled alphabetically and located at Eakins Oval. They would later move to 21st and 22nd Streets at the end of the finish chute for pick up after the race. Very convenient in both instances.

The Green Corral, which was my assignment, was easy to find. It seemed there was no strict enforcement of corral assignments. With 5 minutes to go, I laid the warm blanket across the fencing and wished it well.

I had a nice chit-chat with some folks around me and actually met RICK who is a blog reader from New York. HEY RICK! Hope you had a great run! We’re also Facebook friends.

We all moved forward and then it was time to run.


From Eakins Oval we split left and right then merging together down Ben Franklin Parkway. We headed to Arch St. , 4th Street, to Race Street which took us towards the Delaware River. We ran tight for the first couple of miles. This was a pretty flat portion of the run. I may have felt a slight decline but then again, it could have been that starting race adrenaline. My legs had no warm up mile jelly feel, they just took off running. That was a good sign, or so I thought.

We ran towards Chestnut Street and I had to toss my sweat shirt. As shady as the course was around the tall buildings, I was still getting warm. The crowds were phenomenal. Excellent support. There were some tight turns and, since I was still near the 3:40 pacer, I heard him announce upcoming tight turns so I positioned myself at the ready.

We ran through Drexel, the college area where there was music and again, some good cheering for all the runners. Entering Fairmount Park, there was a hill I had convinced myself to look forward to because of the challenge. It was at the 10 mile mark, short but a fair incline. Made it ok but I think it took it’s toll.

The signs for the upcoming split, half marathoners and marathoners started showing up. It seemed as if those signs went on for miles. Miles 11 to 12 , for what ever reason, seemed to take forever. Then FINALLY, we split. Hmmmm… not too bad. I didn’t veer right to head in, I stuck to the marathon course and went left. PHEW! No giving up yet.


At 13.1, feeling ok, slowing slightly and passed by the 3:40 pacer, I didn’t care. I thought that if I had it at the twenty mile point, I may still be able to tail the pace group.

We headed along the Schuylkill River. There were periods of sun and shade. It seemed long. I was counting down the miles. I reminded myself at mile 16, “Only 10 more. Remember all those runs when you dropped Shane off and you didn’t want to go out for another 10 but you did? You’ll do again now”. I kept going but I was counting every mile. Then I got toe cramps that came and went pretty quickly. They scared me though. I tried to look excited and happy for Ted as he snapped another photo.


We saw the elite runners going back the other way. It seemed as if we were running down hill on Kelly Drive and that the INBOUND marathoners were running up hill, but when it came my turn to run those last 3 miles, it didn’t seem up hill at all. Weird! Probably going too slow to notice.

At mile 17, we made a tight left which took us down and back. I had assumed we ran down to the 20 mile point then turned and ran back but NO…, we took another left out of the “boot” and continued on toward Manayunk. This was a very difficult part of the course. It was sunny and hot and I had lost the desire to finish in any amount of time. I walked. I jogged. I walked. I slogged. When we finally turned around, which was another annoying tight turn around a cone type set up in the street, the crowds were 3 deep along the road. A lot of cheering. I was actually glad I was running and not on the bike, like Ted. Yes, Ted was still with me. He was my saving grace in this race. Red heart.

Miles 21 and 22 were kind of a blur so when I hit 23, it was a nice surprise. “JUST KEEP PUSHING”, I thought, but no, walking again. I saw the 3:50 pacer go by and I thought about my Wineglass marathon when I was running with the 3:50 and thought “I don’t want this” then surged forward. There was none of that on this day. I just watched as the red and white balloons got farther away in the distance.

I ran past the pacers on the OUTGOING side, 5:00 pacer, then 5:30 pacer, there were quite a few walking. It must have been tough for them to see all the INBOUND marathoners, but they cheered us on as we did them. Runner support! There was A LOT of that in this race.

The last half mile, I found my surge, UP THAT HILL.


It was too late. I crossed the finish line at 3:52. Sure, it’s a Boston Qualifier for 2013 but it’s also a far cry from what I trained for during those 16 long weeks.

The biggest high light of the race, for me, came when I saw Ted waiting behind the fence. It was a high light for a few reasons:

1. I had finished.

2. I saw my loyal hubby waiting with a smile on his face, who stuck with me for most of the 26.2 (OR 26.43 by my Garmin!)

3. Because of what happened next which was the WORST THING!…

I walked over and said “Take a picture. This is my THIRD!” and I held up my 3 fingers for 3 marathons finished.


Before Ted took the camera from his face, I yelled in pain “OH! OH MY GOSH! MY CALF!” I was down. My left calf went into a cramp like I have never experienced before. It took me to the ground. Ted said the vein on my shin popped out like he had NEVER seen before. A lady police officer appeared next to Ted, trying to help. Two other police officers were on the ground with me. See that guy behind me in the photo with the yellow and black jacket? He was right there! The officer tried to massage it but it was too painful. They wanted to walk me over to the massage tent, while other people were saying “keep walking. you need to walk on it”. The pain subsided but I didn’t dare stop walking and I didn’t want anyone massaging it.

I got my bag from the UPS truck and walked in circles until Ted appeared again. We found a curb to sit and my calf relaxed.


We went back to the hotel. I couldn’t eat anything so we simply cleaned up, changed and checked out. I wrapped both hamstrings and the calf in the ice tape that was given in my goodie bag. I also kept massaging my legs with “The Stick” which I brought from homing, thinking the 5 1/2 hour drive out of Philadelphia might be rough.

Friends and family were concerned because my finish time never showed on the cell phones. I was concerned, STILL concerned since my results aren’t up yet. Wouldn’t that be a nightmare? Run a marathon, BQ and then they can’t verify your finish. I’m hoping to see my results soon….getting nervous!


My Garmin Readings: 26.43 miles in 3:52. Not sure how I got that extra .2 in there?

1 at 8:17

2 at 8:02

3 at 7:58

4 at 7:58

5 at 8:16

6 at 8:06

7 at 8:06

8 at 8:25

9 at 8:07

10 at 8:46

11 at 8:15

12 at 8:35

13 at 8:40

14 at 8:29

15 at 8;30

16 at 8:43

17 at 9:04

18 at 9:34

19 at 9:27

20 at 9:34

21 at 9:27

22 at 10:03

23 at 9:46

25 at 9;23

and 26.2 at 9:14

All in all, except for the lack of results and the awful news of two runners dying in this race, the Philadelphia Marathon is a good race. I wouldn’t say it’s “flat and fast”. There are at least three considerable hills you need to take into account. The tight turns should also be considered as they cause a loss of rhythm. I don’t remember seeing any of the historic sites, I just ran, wishing I was done.

Why did I lose my MoJo? I think I came out of running Boston in April, 2011 all excited and kept up my distances over the summer. I burned myself out. I eventually slowed in shorter races and, although I remained injury free, just lost it.

What’s the plan now? Take a break. Mentally and physically recover then get my mind and legs where they need to be for Boston 2012. Maybe THEN, I’ll get my marathon PR.

Calf Report: It hurts like BLAZES. I don’t know what I did but it’s got me hobbling.

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  • At 2011.11.22 07:50, Heather said:

    I’m so sorry your head wasn’t in the game on Sunday. But, shoot, if you can BQ when your hearts not in it, just think what you can do when it is!!!! Congrats on #3, Joanne – you’re awesome!!!

    • At 2011.11.23 06:21, Joanne said:

      Thanks Heather. You got me thinking 🙂

      • […] Philadelphia Marathon . It wasn’t a PR but it WAS a 2013 BQ:  3:51:35 NET time, 8:50 pace.  Tough. Lost my […]

        • At 2011.11.22 10:45, Ali @ Peaches and Football said:

          Phew – what a race. What’s funny is that it sounds so daunting to me to have to get up that early. I don’t know how people do it. I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep, would wake up ultra tired, and then would die on the first mile (and that’s assuming I could even RUN a mile!).

          Sorry to hear about your calf. I hope it recovers soon. Still… I have to say, finishing a MARATHON is just amazing. Finishing in under 4 hours is inspirational. I can’t even comprehend and am very jealous – calf pain and all.

          Way to go, major congrats!

          • At 2011.11.23 06:22, Joanne said:

            That was pretty weird about the calf. Certainly hope this cramping thing isn’t going to become a regular thing after running. Yikes!

            • At 2011.11.22 15:33, Bonnie said:

              Very proud of your completion of Marathon 3 and BQ. Your intense calf pain reminded me of something that happened to Raf Nadal after an US Open match. Right in the middle of the post match press conference he slid off his chair onto the floor with horrid leg cramps.

              • At 2011.11.23 06:24, Joanne said:

                Yeah, the pain was something to bring a person down. Pretty intense but it didn’t last long. Phew!

                • At 2011.11.22 16:06, Lori said:

                  Congratulations on qualifying for Boston again!

                  Sorry your heart wasn’t in this one. And I really hope your calf is okay!

                  • At 2011.11.23 06:24, Joanne said:

                    thanks Lori.

                    • At 2011.11.22 18:51, lindsay said:

                      congrats on the BQ!!! scary about the calf… i wonder if it was one of those charley-horse cramps? i get those in the middle of the night sometimes, and sometimes it’s sore to walk on the next day.

                      pre-race restaurants sound delicious!

                      • At 2011.11.23 06:25, Joanne said:

                        I usuallly don’t get cramps but in the last two races, I’ve had toe cramps and now a calf. No more, please.

                        • At 2011.11.23 06:23, Joanne said:

                          Oh wow! Me too. Boston AND a PR?! That me be the climax of my marathon career, all be it short. 😉

                          • At 2011.11.23 12:16, Sandi said:

                            You finished AND qualified for Boston…be proud of yourself girl!!
                            And Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

                            • At 2011.11.23 22:01, Gera said:

                              Impressive the description of the marathon! I know the feelings before a long race and when the first runners ended it and are coming back haha I see them often.
                              Less than 4 hours is good time with or without mojo!

                              Now take a break without running 😉

                              Happy Thanksgiving!



                              • At 2011.11.24 01:01, claudia @whats cookin italian cuisine said:

                                Have a great Thanksgiving!

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