A couple of firsts for me this past weekend: my first trip to Philadelphia and my first night run. Both exceeded my expectations!
Back in June I entered a draw over at RunKarlaRunfor a free entry into this race. The truth be told I really didn’t think I would win but thought what the heck, why not enter? Obviously I did end up winning. Apparently the only contests I have luck in are running ones; last year my name was drawn for the NYC Half Marathon lottery on my first year trying and then I won this entry. My husband, while happy for me, has suggested I try winning something that actually earns us money rather than costing us
I’ll be perfectly honest, Philly has never even been on my radar as a place to visit. Had I not won the race entry I probably would never have made it to this city. I am so glad though that I did get there. I love being in a city where I can just walk for hours and Philly met that requirement. It is a very “walkable” place and my husband and I clocked many miles just enjoying the city. Philly is of course full of history. I admit to being a little weak in the whole American history thing, but this city made it easy for us to learn about all of the events that have taken place there. There were historical plaques everywhere and bus shelters had posters saying “This block in the year __________”. Just looking at the architecture alone was enough to keep me happy. Then there was the food. It is very safe to say that my 13.5 km run and all the walking didn’t come close to burning off everything I ate at several excellent restaurants over the weekend. I am choosing to not step on a scale for a few days.
Race kit pick up was held at a downtown running store. This was a small race so there was no expo but it was fun to look around the store. While there we met Scott, Executive Director of Back on My Feet, Philadelphia. Back on My Feet sounds like a phenomenal program that helps homeless people reach new goals and see themselves in a positive light. It is a program that has expanded to many American cities and as of 2013 it has seen 1000 members obtain employment. I probably can’t do justice to all that this organization does. If you love to read how running can change lives I strongly suggest you check out the Philadelphia chapter’s website at http://philadelphia.backonmyfeet.org
Meeting Scott was one of the highlights of the weekend. He was so enthusiastic about the race, within moments of meeting him you know why he has the job of Executive Director of Back on My Feet in Philadelphia. He was excited to know that we had come from Ottawa so I could do what he called their little race. I think he was somewhat shocked when he realized that the race was our soul purpose for the trip. He kindly gave us some advice on how to speak with a Philly accent (apparently my pronunciation of “organization” completely gave away the fact I wasn’t a local) and recommended foods to try while in town. If I hadn’t already been excited to try this race, Scott’s enthusiasm would have done the trick.
I would be lying if I said the thought of safety during a midnight run in a major American city hadn’t crossed my mind. This was particularly true when the final information email came out with a note that all runners were strongly encouraged to carry their cell phones. But hey, running in a park in the middle of Philly after midnight…what could go wrong, right? The fact was I felt perfectly safe throughout the run. With only 200 runners I certainly wasn’t always in a pack, but I had no concerns for my safety. The path for the most part was well lit, though I did learn quickly to watch the pavement when near the many large trees alongside the route. The roots often pushed up the pavement just enough that at night time it could be easy to miss. But otherwise I felt very comfortable out there and it was such a unique way for me to see a popular Philly running route.
We arrived in plenty of time for the race, which was a good thing because it didn’t start exactly where I thought. After climbing the “Rocky” stairs and circling around the museum with no sign of the start line, I spotted a couple of ultra marathoners walking on a path below us. I ran after one and he very kindly gave me directions to the start. For someone who had been running and walking for almost 14 hours at this point, he was very friendly and helpful. Had that been me I would have probably struggled to be coherent, much less friendly.
At the hotel room we had stitched some glow sticks on my clothing, but once we got to the race it was time to do more. In the end this is what I looked like (my shoes and compression socks, which you can’t see here were also adorned in neon):
For a while I chatted with a runner who had in previous years taken part in the ultra marathon event. Check out her illuminated outfit (that is me on the left, her on the right)
I was impressed with her “glowing” effort but even more impressed to find out in previous years she had completed from 50 to 80 miles (miles, not kms!) when competing in the ultras. For the in24 ultra event runners start at 10 am on Saturday and see how many miles they can complete in 24 hours. Our midnight race ran the same loop as the ultra runners, but in the opposite direction. It was amazing to have the opportunity to cheer on these runners, probably my favourite part of the race. It is pretty difficult to mentally moan about being tired when you see people who have been out there for over 14 hours. Remarkably some of them still had the energy to cheer us on too!
Running in the dark along the Schuylkill River was wonderful. I’m sure it is lovely in the daytime but at night it was so peaceful. I was surprised by the number of fishermen out at that time of night. Halfway through the race you cross over the river and I slowed my pace down and just enjoyed the views. Heading towards the end of the race the view included lit up boat houses and the city skyline with the Museum of Art in the foreground. I kept debating whether I should stop and take pictures but in the end I decided to just keep moving. To make up for it, after the race my husband and I headed to a spot where I knew I could get some shots of the scenery. Remember, by this time it was after 1:30 am, so my husband gets bonus points for being the most patient spectator ever
Some of the views:
As for my run, I have to say my legs were a little tired from playing tourist. That and my stomach might have been a little too full and I can’t say it was feeling happy at the 10k mark. Ideally I would have liked to run just a little faster, but I was still in the time range I was expecting. I can definitely tell I need to start doing a little more work if I want to pick up my speed. But as I mentioned in the previous post, all but one of the female runners ahead of me were younger, so that always makes me feel good While I didn’t have a lot left in me at the end, I had just enough to give a little sprint and a big smile ( I think) as I hit the finish line. My medal was handed to me by Scott who asked if it was worth coming all the way from Canada. The answer to that was a resounding “Yes!”
And what do you do the day after a midnight run? Head to the waterfront and grab a hammock!
And finally, my favourite Philly photo: