Barley’s Philadelphia Half Marathon PR Recap!

Check out the photo I created (1) This past weekend was pretty much your standard weekend away. It involved road tripping adventures, time with my guy, time with friends, exploring a fun city, and trampling people while screaming my head off for my best friend as she ran the marathon. Of course there was beer too. Yuengling because, when in Philly …

Isn’t that what you do when you go away for a weekend?

Oh, and I long a long-overdue half marathon PR!

Backing up a little bit here, this race wasn’t officially on my calendar until a few weeks ago. I wanted to race a competitive half so I could take care of my soft half marathon PR. I say soft because it was about the same pace as my full marathon PR!  But more importantly, I wanted to be in Philly to support my best friend as she attempted a marathon PR. So, I got to do both and also get away for a weekend with my boyfriend, Brian. Winning all around.

After an off feeling week I really had no idea how the race would go, but felt confident enough that I could work through it. What is the worst that could happen? I’d pour myself a stout and move on. So I went into the race with my original goal of 1:26. This was in the middle of the estimated range based on my 5k & marathon times. My marathon PR was 10 weeks prior and my 5k was much more recent so I felt comfortable in a time somewhere between the two.

Race day morning went very smoothly. I had reserved a parking spot before the race and had no issues getting into the city, parking, and walking over to the race area. I drank my bottle of Gen UCAN on the ride along with a Luna bar. We got there early enough that we made it through security and the bathroom in a total of maybe 15 minutes. Can’t complain about that for a big city race.

We made our way to bag check area and I did a warm-up around the circle and in front of the art museum for about 15 minutes. Some easy running, strides, and a few form drills. It was chilly and I needed to get loose. I found myself feeling emotional during the warm-up. I had some tears welling up in my eyes, it’s been a whirlwind year in running and life and I couldn’t help but take a second to think about it all.

I came back around the loop and got some last-minute hugs and luck from Brian; it was going to be a good day. I checked my bag and then headed to the start. I had no issues walking through the corrals but felt a little weird at first making my way to the front gold corral. With my 2:58 marathon in September, I qualified for a seeded position and I took advantage of it.

While I didn’t get an official elite entry (I still paid for the race), I enjoyed a great start position in a non-crowded corral. I was a bit intimidated by the runners that were around me, but also motivated and inspired. Right next to me were women who were gunning for the Olympic Trials standards, women who are far faster than I can imagine being right now. I felt out of my league but in such a good way; I earned the right to be up there too. I reminded myself that there’s always someone faster but that didn’t mean I didn’t belong there, too!

We started late due to an accident, but I had bounced around while eating my Honey Stinger Chews to stay warm. I took off at the start and kept telling myself to stay relaxed and soak in the cheers from the crowds during the early miles. I heard my friend’s dad yell and wave to me, and shortly after saw Brian and I gave him a smile and a wave.

I hit the first mile in 6:2X according to the race clock. Well, so much for the 6:40 first mile that my printed pace band suggested. But I shrugged it off and stayed relaxed, I missed the mile 2 marker and just kept rolling. Mile 3 clock said 19:08 if I remember correctly which is 6:22 average. I heard my name yelled and looked over to see my friend Carla cheering and it gave me another boost of confidence.

I repeatedly told myself “You’re going too fast!” But my legs felt good and I didn’t want to slow down. I did eventually reign it in, which was tough to do in miles 3-6 with the amazing spectators. I noticed the wind, but was distracted enough by everything else that I wasn’t thinking about it much. Somewhere around mile 5, I took a half of a caffeinated gel with some water and then chucked the rest.

I crossed the 10k in 40:01, which is a 10k PR, which was definitely ahead of my goal pace. Shortly before mile 7, we crossed the river on a wide open bridge and the wind just cut through like a knife. I could see more people in front of me and tried to catch up so I wasn’t alone.

From that point on I was running with a group of about six very tall guys from Toronto. I tucked in the middle of them and we all chuckled about the extreme height difference as spectators were also commenting. I liked the pace we were running and figured I would stick with them, which got me through the inclines while smiling … and still telling myself I was probably running too fast. I stopped looking at my pace band, and just went with it though. I figured, if I blew up I wouldn’t have Garmin splits to agonize over so I could just forget about it.

Shortly before the base of one of the hills I looked up between the tall guys, and saw my friend on the right side of the road. She was pointing me out to her kids and I beamed as I ran across the road towards them. I got smiles and high fives as I yelled, “I’m running too fast!” and they told me I was doing great. I barely noticed the hill that followed because I was so giddy from seeing them.

A little while later we were climbing again. One of the guys muttered something about it being “the zoo hill.” I just tried my best not to waste all my energy going up, and was glad that I couldn’t see my pace slow down- ignorance is bliss. After we reached the top and mile 10, came a steep drop. I hit mile 10 before the 1:05:51 that I should have, but I felt like I had more to give and knew the hard parts were over. I knew that racing down the steep drop is risky on the quads but figured it was my chance to start making up ground and didn’t want to wait until mile 11 to push. So I cruised down, and then hit the short out and back portion which helped propel me forward.

Now I was on the hunt. I’d see a group ahead of me, reel them in and then find the next group. I still had no idea where I was and it didn’t matter. I stopped telling myself I was running too fast and simply focused on just running. I knew my 1:26 goal was in reach and perhaps low 1:25. Who cares?! I was going to PR! I was finishing strong and I was enjoying the hell out of myself!

In the last mile I was running near another guy, who was running the marathon. He noticed my bib was a half bib and asked me if this would be a PR; he could tell I was pushing. I breathily replied, “by a lot.” He smiled and simply said, “go crush it.”

I continued on. We reached the hill that comes before the museum and I still felt like I had more, so I found another gear. We came around the loop and I basically put my foot to the floor and peeled out through the chute. I saw 1:24:5X and I was overwhelmed, and also incredibly happy I didn’t throw up. That little surge at the end was like grinding gears and my stomach didn’t know what was going on.Philly splits

I crossed and entered the hands-on-the-knees-oh-shit-I need to catch my breath pose. I chatted with some of the other women and then made my way through the remainder of the chute. Medals, heat sheet, food, and gear check. Brian and I planned on meeting at the Italian flag along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, but it wasn’t too crowded yet so he actually met me right at the gate. I saw him, smiled and ran over for my favorite post race celebratory hug and kiss. That won’t get old!

Overall I’m incredibly happy with the race.  This was a 4-minute personal best for the half marathon distance, including a 10k and 15k PR in the process. You may have noticed I talked about not knowing pace and there is a reason. I didn’t wear my Garmin, instead I just used a printed race specific pace band for 1:26. I had brought both because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. When my friend Heather who was going for her marathon PR told me that her Garmin broke, I didn’t think twice about giving her mine.

Heather and I post- race. Clearly enthused about a great day!

After the finish I did the important things, like change, coffee, bathroom, phone calls to family. Then it was time for the other very important aspect of the weekend; the reason we were originally going to Philly in the first place. We made it back to the half point of the marathon just in time to see Heather coming through smiling away at us.

I was able to see some more friends and catch up with people while we waited for her to come back through. There was a lot of excessive staring at phones and refreshing the runner tracking and then we spotted her!

I almost knocked over five people and a gate while balancing coffee in one hand, camera phone in the other and screaming at the top of my lungs. She ran a huge marathon PR and finished with a negative split, that made me just as happy, if not more than my own race did.

Has racing without a watch ever helped you exceed your goals? 

A new mom and Upstate, NY resident who loves the marathon, a good beer, and all of the numbers/nerdy things. I write about my journey to a sub-3:00 marathon, training tweaks for improvement, and finding that "running/life balance" unicorn. On tap Next: Maneuvering through motherhood and postpartum running!

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  1. Love this for so many reasons! You didn’t go nuts with your goal time – it was a very conservative goal given your marathon time. You just ran and enjoyed yourself. You didn’t sweat splits. You had fun and you cheered for friends! What a great race experience all around!!! Loved reading all about it 🙂

    1. Thank you Sandra! it was great to feel comfortable enough to push (if that makes sense) I was totally content with whatever would happen and stopped being afraid (cheesy but true!)

  2. Next time you’re in the Philly area give Flying Fish a try! They’re locally brewed across the bridge in New Jersey, and pretty good!