Today's Mighty Oak

Philadelphia Half Marathon 2019

The Philly half was my A race for the fall. Read more after the break for a full race report and pictures!

Race Information


AMandatory: Have fun
(including some sweet, historic high fives)
BMandatory: Thank the volunteersYes
CDon’t get injuredYes
DSub 2:10Yes
EStretch goal: Sub 2:05Yes




For my fall A race, I knew I wanted to try to get faster at something shorter than a marathon (running that many miles in the heat sounds awful to me). I found out about the Keystone Challenge (run the half or the full in both Pittsburgh and Philly in 2018 and/or 2019) and decided to see a new city and run Philly’s half.

I picked a new type of training plan and did Pete Pfitzinger’s 12/47 (12 weeks, peak at 47 miles per week) plan. As many are quick to say, and I am one to agree: it feels like Uncle Pete is trying to kill you. It works, I knew I got faster, but it also beat up my legs a lot.

As always, due to my busy schedule (mostly work this time around), I did a lot of swapping of individual days. Having read Pfitzinger’s book, I tried to use my best judgement moving workouts around, and ended up having a week of 54 miles just due to sliding things a day or two.

This training cycle included one PRANK run, The Great Race and crewing/pacing at Sleepy Hollow Ultra outside of Atlanta.

Greensburg train station

Pre-race and Travel

I opted to take the train from Greensburg, and this was a great choice! The seat was spacious, I worked on my NaNoWriMo novel and generally was just super, super impressed with Amtrak!

Once I got to Philly I made my way to the Convention Center (taking some touristy photos along the way), did a quick once-around and then headed to Reading Terminal Market for a corndog (with vegan batter, so no dairy)! From there, I headed south of Rittenhouse Square to our AirBnB.

Inside the 30th Street Terminal in Philadelphia

Mike and Jill from PRorER showed up a few hours later and we headed back to the expo. On the way back we stopped by Wawa (which, good lord, Sheetz is so much better: more choices, better selection, better quality, better availability. Why is this even up for debate?) and then went back to try to get some sleep.

I had a not great night of sleep (a random alarm clock in the living room went off at midnight, and just being in an unfamiliar place), but woke up excited!


We did a two mile warmup run to the security checkpoints, which was a bit awkward with our gear check bags, but nothing bad. Security was quick and once we got inside to the runner’s village I tried to orient myself to everything. We took some photos, checked out gear (which, props to the Philly Marathon, you get a wristband with your truck and bag number, it’s a great system!), hit the portos and then ended up two corrals back from where we were supposed to be, which made for a lot of weaving during the race, but nothing unmanageable.

Repping the team and heading to the race!

Right out of the gate there were some Wesboro-esque protesters yelling at “the homosexuals and the feminists.” I apologized to the woman beside me who was cursing at them, since they were obviously there to protest me. We both got a chuckle and we continued on.

Running down Benjamin Franklin Parkway is beautiful, and then we hit city hall. Running around that building and getting to admire its architecture was just stunning. I commented a few times to people around me how gorgeous it was, but really I was just in awe.

We turned a corner and suddenly I saw a woman running with the Lebanese flag. I made my way over and we chatted for a bit. There’s riots going on right now, and she said her family in Beirut was safe so far, but it’s still a very uncertain time. I’ve been following along as best I can via social media, and I wished her and her family the best.

Just after that, we ran past Independence Hall where I saw the Liberty Bell (fun fact: the same mold was used to cast a second bell, which toured the country and is now on display, where you can ring it, in Pittsburgh at the building I used to work in!) and got high fives from Ben Franklin and Deborah Read reinactors and totally geeked out a bit!

The course took us next to the Benjamin Franklin bridge and south past Penn’s Landing on the Delaware. There was traffic on the other side of the street I occasionally waved to, but generally was just clicking off miles and passing people. The tall ships on the river look really awesome, and I’d love to come back to see them with the sails up! After a few turns I finally caught up to the 2:15 pacers.

Next up was South Street. Holy crap, the city comes out in force to cheer this race on. There had been a lot of cheer groups, but from here until we got to the bridge to University City, it was just a wall of people on both sides! Had a small collision with another runner who didn’t look before going over to see her family, but otherwise, I loved interacting with the crowds here!

A lot of people were dying on the bridge to University City, but, being from Pittsburgh, this was easy for me. Got to the top, ate my Gu (and had to hold onto it for a while: for everything I love about Philly, there is a huge lack of trash cans) and kept on trucking.

The area around the zoo was a bit barren, but I was just in the zone, keeping up with a couple people who I made unofficial pacers in my mind and trying to keep up the pace. This was where I noticed, and was thankful, that the shirts from this race (this year and previous years) had the course map on the back, so I could check out where I was!

Fairmount Park, right after mile 10, was a big loop. As you start, you can see the entire field in front of you, and it’s a bit disheartening, and I saw a lot of people slowing down here. Grit your teeth and keep going, that’s all you can do, and it’s a pretty, albeit desolately empty, park (points to that one guy with his bike bell cheering us on!).

Leaving Fairmount Park is a sustained downhill. Again, I used this to pass a ton of people, much like the uphills earlier. I feel as though I’m slow on the flats (at least I feel like I get passed a lot), but on hills, in either direction, that seems to be my time. Something to work on, for sure.

Coming back and nearing the finish line, the area was pretty (as I learned from the map, it’s called Boathouse Row), but I was focused on dropping my pace even more if I could. With about half a mile to go, three of the Philly Frontrunners were out cheering and one of them gave me a “Go, gurl!” which was needed and propelled me to the end.

The finish line was crowded with cheering fans and I crossed the line unsure of what my time would be (I couldn’t remember if I had started with the clock showing 0:23:XX or 0:27:XX.

I did this training plan confident I could go sub 2:10, with sub 2:05 as a stretch goal, my previous PR being 2:13:15. New PR time: 1:58:07

I can say I was honestly surprised, I did not think I had sub 2 in me! But I was ecstatic that I did!


The real reason I did this race was to complete the Keystone Challenge. The Philadelphia Marathon does some things really well, and some things really poorly. No one knew where the Keystone medals were going to be. Turns out, right after you got your regular medal and heat sheet, they were tucked off off to the side. I went through the rest of the chute and had to search around and basically trespass to get back to it. But they were happy to give it to me, and so I left with the ridiculuously sized second medal!

Keystone challenge and half marathon medals

I will say, the fact that there was hot broth at the end of the runners chute was such an amazing touch! It was exactly what I needed and kept me warm (as well as that sweet, sweet salt content). Met up with teammates, grabbed our gear bags and then we grabbed hot dogs from the Dietz and Watson booth: for everyone they gave away, they donated $1 to cancer research. So I can proudly say that putting wieners in my mouth is helping the fight against cancer. Take that protesters!

Strava crapped out on me, and it only shows me moving through the chute, but I was able to get some pace data from Zombies, Run! which I was running the last three missions of season 4. As soon as I get those screenshots off my other phone, I’ll add them to the gallery below, but I surprised myself with my speed, but all in all, I was pretty consistent, which is normal for me.

Time in the City and Travel

We headed back to the AirBnB (stopping at a coffee shop where the barista is a Pittsburgh ex-pat and talking with some locals about the race and the train), got showered and then explored the city for a bit. We hit up the Mütter Museum (highly recommended), did a quick circuit through the Expo before it closed, got some Sharma at the Reading Terminal Market and made it to the preview weekend of the holiday market around City Hall. We grabbed beers from the corner store and headed back to get some sleep.

Philadelphia Holiday Market

The next day we slept in a bit, grabbed food from a corner store and then found the nearest corner of the full marathon to cheer. We yelled our hearts (and voices) out and had a great time! We left as we saw the sweeper van pulling up to collect two runners. Mike and Jill were kind enough to give me a ride back to the train station and I headed home.

The ride home was spent (with a brief intermission in the club car to grab a beer and some hummus) finishing my NaNoWriMo novel and then reading more of “The Starless Sea.” All in all, a great way to travel!

Mental Health

The second half of this plan beat me up mentally as well as physically. A lot of that had to do with work stress (which as much as I had hoped it would, hasn’t let up yet). I was in Ohio at least once a week for the last five weeks of training, and that not only ate at my schedule and cramps up my joints being in the car for so many hours each day, but also wore me down mentally.

A few big projects are either finishing (or I thought they had, and they’re back for a bit), or will be soon. So all of that, combined with my busiest volunteer time of the year with National Novel Writing Month, and I am worn down. I still feel like I need a break and it will be a bit before I’m back to a normal. I didn’t get much of a break over Thanksgiving due to family and friend obligations, so I still feel like I just need a moment to breathe.

Speed work, and Uncle Pete’s plan for sure made me faster. Part of me also misses training for ultras. I miss eating real food (as much as I legit do love the Mint Chocolate Gu) and running for hours on end. I have a small backlog of podcasts to get to when my next training cycle starts up.

I specifically didn’t do a fall marathon because I knew that kind of training in the summer heat would be the end of me, and fall is busy enough as it is with family obligations, NaNoWriMo and all the rest. This was a bit of a stretch for me, so I’ll have to seriously consider if I do a fall A race next year, or what that would look like.

These last two training cycles have helped me better understand the weird, and unhealthy relationship I have with my body and food. I’m not necessarily closer to making better changes in my life, but at least I’ve been successful in being introspective enough to see where there’s a problem, and that, I hope, will be the first steps to correct things.

For now though, I’ve found I’m having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, but I’m hoping things turn around. If they don’t, that’s okay too. I’ve given myself permission to do what feels right for me this holiday season.

Looking Ahead

I’m taking some time off, just running a bit right now. My hips are still a bit sore, and I’ll be getting back into a more regular bodyweight fitness routine. I’m signed up for the Sarasota half marathon in February where I’ll be visiting my uncle, and then I have three ultras on the calendar for next year, one that is my A race, and two tune-ups along the way. Training starts on December 23!


In the gallery below the vertical images might be cut off, sorry about that!  Here’s the link if you want to see all the pics with their original ratios!

Made with a new race report generator created by /u/herumph.

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