The race is run in Pennypack Park, which is a beautiful wooded park in northeastern Philly. The trees were all changing color and it was absolutely gorgeous. Most of the course is run on a gravel bike path, but parts are run on grass, pavement, and a single track dirt trail. The start and finish line is a German-Oktoberfest-themed party with accordion music, dancing, and lots of potato-based food. The race charmingly starts when the race director counts to three in German, and then yells “Go!”
The first mile went by quickly and I was very excited to be running. I struggled with finding the pace, however, running too fast and then slow in turns. 7:45 is not a pace I typically run (usually I’m going faster or slower), so I wasn’t used to how it was supposed to feel. But, I managed to hit the first mile in 7:43 and settle into the pace a bit. We hit the first hill in mile 2. The paved trail went straight upwards and I bounded up, screaming “like a ninja badass!” I ran down and had the very distinct thought “I’m going to regret that later.”
By mile 4, we had gone through quite a few hills and I was struggling. I decided to make it to 6.55 miles (halfway) and then I could back off the pace. At mile 5, a woman ran up next to me. I glanced over and smiled at her. She grinned back, and said “You’re running a really good race! I’ve been trying to catch you for a while now!”
I went, “WOW! Thank you!” and then bombarded her with questions. Running next to her, my legs turned over faster and I didn’t notice if I was struggling with my breath. I felt strong and free. I was so happy. We ran a couple of miles in the 7:30’s. Around mile 7, we took a hard right to turn onto the 2.5 mile section that was dirt single track. Jen, my hero, said she was going to fall back a bit. I went ‘nooooo’ in my head. I’m really, really hoping I said “Good luck!” to her, but I’m very worried I only said it in my head. I didn’t have any luck with getting her contact info from Google (like a creeper), so I asked the race director to pass along a message, because she saved my race and I am so grateful.
Jen and I had been following a guy running a 7:45 pace for a while, as we turned onto the single track and she dropped back, I refocused on sticking to the guy in front of me. He knew I was behind him, because as we entered the woods I yelled “Whee! I’m like Legolas!” He was very nice and pointed to hazards such as rocks and ditches when he encountered them. Each mile, I told myself to just make it one more mile and then I could slow down. But I just couldn’t watch my unofficial pacer run away from me, so I stuck with it.
Finally we cleared the trees again and turned onto the paved trail. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, which was really great, because the hills were back. I slowed to about 8:06 per mile in mile 10 and 11. I could keep the pace on the flat, despite the pain, but each hill slowed me to a crawl and I simply could not make my legs turn over faster. Finally, we hit mile 12 and I let out a strangled sound of joy and despair. It was weird.
I ran the last mile in 7:48, sprinted down to the finish line, and then bent over trying not to throw up. When I was reasonably certain I could, I stood back up and went to high five and thank my unofficial pacer.
My time of 1:42:22 projects out to a 3:34:23 marathon. So the one little thing I didn’t do was run a time that projects to my pie-in-the-sky goal of 3:32:00. That being said, the course was very hilly, the organizer himself stated that it was not considered a fast course in his welcome email, and I ran it during a peak training week (i.e. on tired legs). So I’m feeling pretty good.
This was the most fun race I’ve ever run. It was extremely well-organized and well-run (HAHA get it?? see what I did there??). Everyone was friendly and encouraging. The communication was clear and the timing company did a great job. The course was lovely and well-marked. They gave me a really beautiful tech shirt that actually fits me! They gave the winners handmade cuckoo clocks and age-group placers handmade barometers. The food was excellent and the music was…entertaining. They donate the proceeds to lung cancer research. I highly recommend it. I will definitely be there next year!!