In my quest to improve my corral placement for the Dopey Challenge at Disney in January, I planned 2 fall goal races. Both are destination races, but ones I can drive to. Rock ‘n Roll Philly is the first. It was on my bucket list to run a RNR race. The timing worked out for this one.
Why plan 2 goal races in the same month, especially when the second race is just days before proof of time is due? Because of the possibility one of those races might not be conducive to a PR.
Turns out it’s going to be this one (and hopefully this won’t be an issue in 2 weeks) with kind of weather forecast for this weekend. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
First off, registration was easy and pre-race communication was good. That’s not something I can say about most half marathons I’ve run. I received detailed updates and final information via email, but the official Web site and Facebook page also had the updates and the Website was easy to navigate with a wealth of information.
I took Friday off from work and drove to Philly from central MA. What should have been a 5 hour drive took 6, in the middle of the day when there should not have been any traffic. Three words. George. Washington. Bridge.
After checking into my hotel around 2 and sending my car to the crazy expensive valet parking, I walked the 3 blocks from my hotel to the Philadelphia Convention Center for the expo.
The convention center is huge, encompassing several city blocks. There was no signage outdoors to indicate which building, side of the building, or doors we were supposed to use to get to the expo. I was only somewhat clued in by the fact there were lots of school children going into one building, so I assumed that was not the one I wanted. I was correct. Signage could have been better.
The expo was actually quite well organized, and I walked right in and got my bibs and T-shirts for both the 5k and half with no wait at all. Pick up was by bib number and very clearly marked. They did have a reminder and tablets just outside the expo for those who needed to print their waivers, which had your bib number and starting corral on them.
Signage was good
The T-shirts were “meh”, in my opinion. It’s not a shirt I’ll ever wear for anything but a nightshirt. The 5K is gray with a record on it and the half is dark gray with a guitar. They run small.
After picking up bibs and T shirts, you were then in the official merchandise area and also Brooks had a huge booth. I did find the port-o-potty style dressing rooms to be amusing. Runner humor really does make you chuckle at the darndest things. I was uninspired, other than purchasing a RNR pint glass.
Confusing to the experienced runner!
From there, it was your typical expo. I did very much appreciate the free Bark Thins chocolate! If only the booth next to it gave away red wine… Some booths had nice give-aways, some seemed out of place like Lasik (?!), and the rest were the usual expo exhibitors. It took me all of 15 minutes to go through the entire process, although granted, I sped through the expo without really stopping anywhere.
Saturday of the race weekend there as a 5k which started at 7 am and a 10K that started at 7:30 am. When I signed up for the races, there was no 10K option. Probably a good thing, as I’d have signed up for it like a fool, and regretted it big time given the way the half went.
Flat Kimmy for the 5K
I left my hotel at about 5:40 am and walked the 1.3 miles to the start area, in the dark. It was 67 degrees and probably close to 90% humidity. I was comfortable in a running skirt and tank top. The sunrise was quite pretty.
There were tents set up for runner services, medical, and a good number of porta potties, although there were not really that many runners there for today’s races. I suspect tomorrow, it will seem as if there are not nearly enough porta potties at the start/finish. There was also a beer “garden”.
The finish was in front of the “Rocky Steps”, the corrals were to the left if you were standing looking at the steps. It was a bit confusing as they were not easy to see from the pre-race area and there wasn’t really any direction to them other than the DJ saying “over there”, which was not at all helpful considering we couldn’t see where he was pointing. We were corralled at about 6:45. There were only 5 or 6 corrals, and I was seeded in 2 with a 28 min estimated finish time. That was waaaaaaay optimistic.
The 5K course was out and back. It ran along the river and they kept us to the right lane of the outbound road to allow the 10 K runners to have the left lane once they started. As is usually the case, by the time I was at mile 1, the lead runners were already at mile 2+.
I ran with a new friend from Team Shenanigans. We ran the first half mile or so at a slow and steady pace, then started intervals at 90:30. I believe there were 3 bands on course (one was actually a DJ), but they were all good. It was sunny and quite warm and humid, even that early in the morning. There was one water stop on course.
I finished with an overall 11 min ave pace, which was a little (actually quite a bit) faster than what I had planned, and somewhat surprising considering the humidity. I was not paying attention to my pace, I just ran to comfort. As I ran past the start corrals to the finish chute, the 10 K was getting their final countdown to start.
Post race there was a photo opp with a RNR background and Marathon Photo photographers, water, bananas, pretzels, a protein bar, and cheese doodles.
The medal was fashioned after a nickel, with Ben Franklin sporting a sweatband on his head on an orange ribbon. The 10K was basically the same medal on a yellow ribbon.
From there, I walked back to my hotel, pausing to take some photos along the way. Benjamin Franklin Parkway is quite pretty as are the sights along the way.
Another early morning. 4:45 am wake up for a 5:30 meet up with a friend who was running with me, and then the 1.3 mile walk to the start area. Why so early? I needed to shower and braid my hair, make sure I have everything I need, and have wakey tea, get some hydration and a small snack into me before leaving.
It was cloudy, but crazy humid. CRAZY humid! I was not at all optimistic about a PR given the temperature and humidity. I know my body well enough to know I could not push the pace I’d need to in the humidity that day.
Flat Kimmy for the half
We got to the start nice and early. We had our photo taken SIX times. One of the advantages of getting there early, I guess. We scoped out the finish and start areas, and acclimated to the temperature and pre-race experience. It was my friend Sarah’s first half-marathon, my 17th. Over the next half hour, the number of folks milling around increased significantly. The race began at 8 am. We made our way to the corrals about 7:25.
There were 24 corrals, we were in 16 with an estimated finish time of 2:20. There were speakers placed every few corrals so we could all hear the MC and send off music for each corral. The race began a few minutes before 8 with the wheelchair athletes and the elite runners. Several Olympians were running!
From a corral far, far, away, taken when several corrals had already started, when I could finally see the start line. We saw the lead runners hit the 5k mark on the opposite side of the street about here, too.
Corrals were released every 1-2 minutes and each corral got a send-off song. The MC was doing her best to get the energy up of the runners. Some people just don’t know how to have fun! I did laugh when a few corrals before ours she said, “We let the intense runners go first, and then we bring the paaaaarrrrr-tay!” Our corral got “Jump Around” as our send off song. So of course, we had to jump around in the corral before we got the air-horn release. I’d estimate each corral was a few hundred people.
The course was billed as flat and fast. The first 5K went from the Eakins Oval toward City Hall, around a few city blocks and then back to where we started (opposite side of the oval), then toward the penitentiary (a long, gentle uphill) where there was a turn-around back to where we began that out and back, and toward the zoo. The course was quite wide in most places, but did narrow in several, which made it hard to keep a consistent pace, especially on the out and backs where you had one lane of road only.
I made a cardinal error, in that I did not start my intervals early enough and went out a bit too fast without realizing it. The first 2 miles were race pace, but that did not last. The heat and humidity were already biting me in the ass by about mile 5, at which point I officially abandoned the stretch PR goal and hoped to run about my usual race pace. By mile 8, I just wanted to finish upright and uninjured, I didn’t care what my finish time was.
At mile 8, we ran across a bridge and began our trek back toward the finish. There was a DJ at the other end of the bridge doing his best to get the energy up. At this point, most of us mid and back of the pack runners were doing run-walk intervals and a lot of people were starting to struggle because of the heat and humidity. The medical tent at mile 10 couldn’t get ice into bags fast enough for people.
Course support was good. Water stops were every 1.5 miles or so and both water and Gatorade were options at most stops. They had one energy gel stop as well. Porta potties were strategically placed along the course.
Rock and Roll is about the music and there were bands or Dj’s every 2 miles or so. Most of them were quite good, although my favorite was the simple drum corps playing various cadences. They were awesome.
The Marathon photo photographers were at the beginning and first 5 K of the race and at the end. I didn’t see any after the 5K point until almost mile 13. They make you pay for your photos and it’s expensive. So unless I ever get a fantastic finish photo, I’m not likely to ever purchase a race photo. Especially when there are no more photographers than at a race where the photos are free!
The finish was around a corner and up a slight incline before you had the finish line in your sights. There was a bridge you ran under. RNR had photographers on the ground and on a crane with a big RNR rug and a band playing right at that corner. Spectators were lined up looking for and cheering for their runners from that point all the way to the finish line.
The finish line, prior to the race, in front of the “Rocky Steps”
There was an MC and music at the finish line, although I couldn’t tell you what it was. I collected my half finisher’s medal and we made our way thru the finish chute. This was a fustercluck. It was not wide enough nor designed to move runners through.
The finish line photos with the RNR backdrops were FIRST, causing people to get caught up in the lines for photos and newer runners not realizing there was water on the other side (which you had to seek out, since there were many more runners finishing than there were people to hand them water). Once past that, there was Gatorade way off to the right and snacks way off to the left (bananas, chips, granola bars, etc.) and chocolate milk on both sides but if you were not walking directly past it, and were in the middle of the cattle crawl, you missed it. They also had ice cold facecloths they were handing out waaaaay over on the left side, which again, many people missed. Because of all the dripping water, it was also quite muddy in this area. At this point, the finish chute got narrow toward the exit.
From there, I had to search for where I was supposed to pick up my challenge medal. It was a black topped tent on a street corner at the entrance/exit from the street to the finish “festival” and family reunion area. Not really well identified or explained pre or post race other than “pick up your challenge medal at the tent”. I was given a wrist band when I picked up my bib to wear to identify me as a challenge participant which they cut off when I picked up my medal. I must admit the remix challenge medal is pretty cool. I liked it much better than the other two medals. I kinda wanted the Liberty Bell design of years past.
Half Marathon Medal
Remix medal side 1
Remix medal side 2
In talking with other runners after the race, several others also found the finish chute to be horribly organized and that was surprising for a race of this size and scope. Also mind boggling was the fact the bibs were HUGE and instead of the timing chip being on the bib, they still use D-tags you have to put on your shoes. Who the hell still uses D-tags? Why a race organization that is HUGE and all over the world. I don’t get it…
After the race, my friend met up with her family, who sadly did not get to the finish line in time to see her finish. We had our snacks/drinks and did a little stretching and recovering, then they made their way to find lunch and I walked back to my hotel, took a shower, had a bit to eat, and then packed up for the drive home.
Would I do it again?
I’m not sure what I expected, but given the travel and the expense of travelling to a race weekend, even one I can drive to, I’m not inclined to do another RNR race. It was a great race to experience, and Philadelphia provided a lovely venue and a pretty course. RNR provided the musical entertainment on course, and there were some fun signs and spectators along the way that made the race more entertaining than most half marathons out there. That really helps the miles to go by faster, especially when it’s a challenging weather day like this one was.
That said, I’ve got one more RNR race on my bucket list. I’d like to do RNR Vegas and run the strip at night. I’m setting my sights on that one as a 50th birthday celebration race. I’ve never been to Vegas in my adulthood. Seems like a good excuse to go. 🙂