Monday, November 24, 2008

Philadelphia conquered in 5h 43m

Completed the Philadelphia Marathon yesterday!! My First Marathon!!

Took me 5 hours and 43 minutes to complete the 26.2 mile distance. I had hoped to finish in less than five hours, but I am not disappointed with the finish time.

The weather was very cold all through!! It was 26F when I left the hotel in the morning at around 5:00 AM, and it must have increased to 40F during the race. After training all through Summer in warm weather, the cold temperatures during the race was a bit of a challenge. However, it is much better the weather being cold than warm. I will take Frozen face and cold muscles over dehydration and sunburn any time.

Reached Philadelphia on Saturday morning by train; didn't drive to make sure I have a relaxed trip back home after the run. My friend and colleague John Zhang had some free time early in the morning, and he met me at the Train station and gave me a quick tour of the historic Philadelphia City. Spent most of the afternoon at the Health and Fitness Expo; stayed around for a while after picking up my number, speed tag and a goodie-bag with a T-shirt and other interesting stuff.

Forgot to pick up pins, and had to run the marathon without pinning on my number! That will make it difficult to get my photos from the marathon once it is on the Philadelphia Marathon web-site.

I had booked a hotel near Philadelphia Airport - three quarters of an hour away from the Marathon starting point; in hind-sight that seems to have been a bad decision - being close to the marathon starting point is preferable - especially for an early start. The good thing about the hotel is that it was at the airport and less than 2 minutes walking distance from the Train station!

Got to sleep by 8:00 PM on Saturday with the goal of waking up at 4:20 AM, but woke up sometime during the night and to my chagrin found it to be 9:30 PM!!! Try as I might, didn't get to sleep before 1:00 AM. Waking up in the morning was consequently a difficult proposition. Forced myself to get dressed for the race - in multiple layers, and made it to the 5:27 AM train. Got to the city by 6:00 AM and had a mile long walk from the station to the starting point - this was a good warming up before the start of the race.

A huge mistake I did before the start of the race was to not have breakfast! Consequently had to run the entire race with an empty stomach. I had planned to have breakfast at a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks after arriving in the City, but at such an early hour not a single cafe was open! If at all I am in this situation again, I will have my breakfast at the hotel, never mind how expensive it is ;-)

Around 8000 runners were running the Philadelphia Marathon this year, and there were more runners participating in the half-marathon and the 8K race. The participants in the marathon were started in different groups, and I was in the third wave which was started off around 7:20 AM.

Given that the weather was very cold, I ran very slowly in the beginning to allow for my muscles to warm up. The first few miles took us within the heart of the downtown - going past the City Hall, the Convention Center, Chinatown, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Penn's Landing, Washington Square, and so on. The latter part of the marathon was mostly along the Schuylkill river and it made it for a scenic run.

The half-marathon and the full marathon shared the same trail - the half point for the full marathon being at the same place where the marathon started. By the time I came to the half way point, I was exhausted and was ready to call it quits. BUT I DID NOT QUIT!!

The second half of the marathon was gruelling; walked more than I liked to during this phase. The second half also was unique in that it was a out and back path, so runners who were a few miles ahead of me were coming in the opposite direction.

My empty stomach started growling after around 15 or 16 miles, and luckily within a few minutes there was a guy giving out candy and twizzlers. Bless his soul! Later on, there was another guy giving out chips and pretzels! The race organizers had arranged for water and gatorade supply every 2 miles or so, and it was perfect. I stopped at almost everyone of them and collected two half-filled glasses of gatorade to replenish myself on the way.

I was twittering frequently along the way, and quite a few friends sent text messages of encouragement during the race - that really made a difference giving me a boost in inspiration!! I even uploaded a photo of icicles forming on a rock face onto Facebook - thanks to Facebook Mobile on my iPhone!

The organizers had provided for a Runner tracking functionality on their web-site, which allowed for the family and friends to receive updates on their cellphone or pager or via email about the progress of the runners. I had signed up for the email updates, and got the following short messages:

08:09:46 Prakash Murthy, 00:34:21 (NET) @ 5K Pace 11:03 , Predicted 04:49:43.00.
09:09:52 Prakash Murthy, 01:09:29 (NET) @ 10K Pace 11:10 , Predicted 04:52:46.00.
09:16:41 Prakash Murthy, 01:48:11 (NET) @ 15K Pace 11:36 , Predicted 05:04:08.00.
10:38:33 Prakash Murthy, 03:10:03 (NET) @ 25K Pace 12:14 , Predicted 05:20:44.00.
12:21:58 Prakash Murthy, 03:51:06 (NET) @ 30K Pace 12:23 , Predicted 05:24:40.00.
12:52:58 Prakash Murthy, 05:24:25 (NET) @ 40K Pace 13:03 , Predicted 05:42:09.00.
13:11:29 Prakash Murthy, 05:42:56 (NET) @ Finish Pace 13:04
I did finish strong, overtaking a few runners in the last 100 meters or so. Felt great to hear "We have Prakash Murthy from Jersey City finishing up the race now"!!

The crowds were amazing all through the race!! People were cheering runners all along the 26 mile stretch. Amazing!! Students from Drexel University were standing outside their dorms with pots and pans and ladles making a lot of noise cheering the passing runners. One guy had made up a sign which said "No Stopping Here" and was holding it up for runners to see just after the 22 mile marker. Made me laugh, and also start to run.

I ran a very conservative race, and am proud of completing my first marathon successfully - still standing and still smiling!! All in all this was a terrific experience!!

The parting note on the marathon is a song which was played at around the 19th mile marker and was very inspiring to me. Here is Eye of the Tiger from Survivor!


Kumar Basavaraju said...

Congrats Pal, Awesome and inspiring to hear about your achievements. Keep going, As you read on the path "Don't stop here" just carry on. Wish to some/any snaps of your marathon photos dear do share it. 5Hrs 43 min running mind blowing, Dear you are blessed man...Its really great accomplishment, You are a real Winner!

Anonymous said...

Way to go! The first one is the hardest. Good luck...

Ravi said...

Congratulations on your first marathon ! 5h43m is decent time.

Anonymous said...

So what happened? not running, or not blogging? Or both?

saucony shoes said...

You are doing such a nice run there. Definitely you conquer that race. Congrats.

scissorbill said...

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story.