Last but not least in my historical recap of races past: the Gore Tex Philadelphia Marathon! This race was a special one because it was my husband’s first (and he says, last) marathon! He never wanted to run a marathon until a few of his friends were talking about entering the New York City Marathon lottery. None of us got in to NYC (that lottery is BRUTAL), but somehow we took that momentum and he signed up to run in Philly–his hometown. (For the record, I’d still love to get into that NYC lottery with or without my husband!)
Website: Gore Tex Philadelphia Marathon.
Time of Year: Sunday at the end of November, the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Location: Philadelphia, PA. Start and finish are conveniently located at the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Size: 30,000 runners across all events. Half-marathon offered on the same day as the marathon.
Weather: QUITE chilly in the morning. I rarely check a bag, but I did for this one because we had so many layers to store. It sure was hard to part with those sweatpants 30 minutes before the race… Once we got running, the weather was perfect.
Expo and Swag: Expo occurs at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philly. There are several parking garages within a four-block radius of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It is also easily accessible to numerous SEPTA bus and train stops. It was a big expo but packet pickup was easy the day before the race. Race shirts were long-sleeved tees (not tech).
Logistics: Philly is easily accessible by car, air, or train. There are numerous hotels in town (obviously) and lots of shopping, sight-seeing, and eating to be done. Philly has a hot hot restaurant scene. I’d flag Stephen Starr restaurants for a nice dinner and of course Vedge for the plant-lovers out there. Famous Reading Terminal Market is right near the Convention Center, so grab lunch there when you do your packet pickup. We stayed with family in the suburbs and Ubered to the start. We arrived around 5:30 or something absurd but really should have arrived at least 30 minutes later than we did (race starts at 7 am). The Uber dropped us off right where we needed to be (road closures were not an issue), and once we arrived there was little to do besides shiver in the cold and use the restroom (and take photos like that below). I checked a bag just before the race start with plenty of time to spare. Once I got to my corral, I changed my mind and decided to climb the fence and use the restroom one last time. There was about a five-minute line, so I did not start in my corral and had to weave a bit more than was ideal to catch up to others going my pace.
Course and Terrain: The course is on pavement. It is not particularly hilly, although it is not pancake flat. There were mile markers at each mile and clocks at key points along the course. The start of the race was not particularly exciting, although the marathon eventually meanders past sights including the Liberty Bell (I’m told… I totally missed this). Miles 8 through 12 are nice through Fairmount Park. The half stays with the full until it breaks away towards the half finish at the art museum, and marathoners have to keep on trekking on the comparatively-lonely out-and-back along the Schuylkill River. The course goes through several Philly neighborhoods, including spirited Manyunk towards the end of the marathon. Expect a TON of spectators, fun costumes, signs, and shirts that say interesting things on them. Runners can be tracked via text message, which is nice for spectators or if you have a friend (or husband) running the race.
Speed: This course is average speed–not particularly fast or slow. In 2014, I finished just over 4 hours and 10 minutes. It was not one of my fastest races, but I had been focusing on training my husband for the his first marathon rather than pushing my pace.
Overall: Like It. Given the great crowd support and scenic course, this would be a nice first marathon. Like many other large city races, travel logistics are pretty easy, but race-day requires early arrival (but not as early as I did!) and some shuffling through crowds at the beginning of the race. At this race, I had the best donut of my life.