that prevented me from walking let alone running. I was making my way back. Slowly but surely. More slowly than it was surely.
Still, I needed to find out where I was in regarding to the Falmouth Road Race in a few weeks time. And, a work colleague of mine from England wanted to do a race while he was over here. What better way to spend your timeoff in a different country than to run a 5 mile race? What better way, indeed.
The race is held in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. About as suburban as you can get without being in the suburbs. It is run on a path in Fairmont Park called Forbidden Drive next to the Wissahickon Creek. It's a popular spot for runners, walkers, strollers, etc. as it is, not just scenic but very shady. An out and back course. Not much of an elevation drop but rolling hills that seem to go on forever as you return.
I picked up my colleague from his hotel in downtown Philadelphia at 6:30a (as a frame of reference, I'm about a 45 minute drive without traffic from his hotel). We were planning for him to take the train up to Chestnut Hill, but it would have been very tight to pick him up, park, register, go back to the car and run the race. So, off we went for the half hour drive to the site of the race.
(I'm always fascinated to talk to my colleagues from England on what they think of America. One of the things he remarked about was how 'cheap' petrol (gasoline) was in the states. He saw a sign for gas prices and asked me was $4 for a litre or a gallon. I said gallon and he responded, 'Blimey, that's cheap.' In the UK, they pay around $11 a gallon. Lots of public transportation going on over there).
We got there with plenty of time to spare. As we were signing up, my colleague thought it would be a good idea to just put his hotel name down as his address. 'No,' I said, 'I want to see their reaction when they see your home address.' Well, the people behind the desk didn't know what to do. 'You're from England?' was their remark. 'How do we enter this?' As they were debating, we were going back to the car to drop off our goody bag.
As we were waiting for the start of the race, a fellow runner came up to us and asked, 'Have you seen the Phillie Phanatic today?' (pictured above. And you thought it was a picture of my colleague). Startled, I said, 'Am I suppose to?' Plus, I thought, I'm not sure if my colleague is the right person to ask anyway. The fellow runner said, 'Yes, he was here last year and I wanted to get my picture with him and I didn't have my camera at the time. I wanted to be ready this year'. (For those of you who don't know, the Phillie Phanatic is the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team mascot and is considered one of the best sports mascots in the country. Kids and adults in the Philadelphia area love him. People in other areas just don't get him.)
The race was about to start. Temps were in the low 80s (F) with lower humidity. The Phillie Phanatic makes his appearance. He is working the crowd. In his own way, he is saying hello to all. (He doesn't speak) My colleague is talking to me. Suddenly, the PP comes up behind him and wraps his green arms around my colleague and gives him a big hug. My colleague turns around and gives PP a high-five. I told my colleague that kids in Philadelphia would love to have been in his shoes at that moment. The national anthem begins to play. My colleague doesn't know what to do. You see, they don't play the national anthem in England for sporting events. He commented to me how truly unique Americans are.
The race starts. My colleague is way ahead. Doesn't matter. I need to run my race. I look down at my Garmin. I can see the minutes and seconds but no distance or pace. Crap! I think about Frayed Laces July 20, 2008 race report and the comments associated and the issues she had with her Garmin that day. (http://frayedlaces.blogspot.com/) I think about the people who I knew that week that had phone problems, cell problems, WiFi problems, internet problems. I immediately think the evildoers have found a way to cripple us. They are taking our communications away. They have jammed the Garmin satellite systems. It is their way of getting back at us. I will have to figure out my pace the old-fashioned way--wait for the first mile marker and see what time it is then.
I am struggling that first mile. I must be going out too fast. Probably a 7:30 pace. I hit the first mile. I was doing 8:30s. 8:30s? Damn. Seems like a lot more effort than an 8:30.
I hit mile 2 at the same pace. I think I am going to die. I'm struggling. And this is a 5-miler? I hit the halfway point and have to slow down. Slowing down forces me to gather myself. Yes, people were passing but I wasn't stopping. And, that's what I felt like doing after mile 2.
I finally found my pace. I wasn't struggling anymore. I had to plow ahead. And, my Garmin awoke. Ok, maybe it wasn't the evildoers afterall. Or maybe it was and they were taking a coffee break and that's why my Garmin was working again. Or, maybe it was the trees that were blocking the satellite links at the start of the race. I still think it was the evildoers.
The last mile is mostly uphill that seemingly goes on forever. You get to a corner, make the turn, to see the next corner. But, with a 100 yards to go, I see the finish. My colleague has already finished and he is cheering me from the sidelines. I want to make sure I break 45 minutes. I do, easily with a 44:17 finish. I'm tired. I'm sweating. But, I feel great. I feel back.
We waited around for the results to be posted. We found him on the sheet. His address shows up as 'England, PA'. The race director said, 'yes, we could hardly believe it but there was a fellow from England in this race! We didn't know what to do so we just put England down as the city.' We both chuckled.
As we were leaving the race, I asked my colleague his thoughts. He loved it. He couldn't believe how well organized it was and the food that was available before and after the race. We ran into the fellow runner looking for PP. "Did you find him?', I shouted. 'Yes,' he said, 'but I forgot my camera again.' Maybe next year.
(Notes: I ran 5+ miles the Thursday before the race at the 'new' old course at TZ Sports. My favorite running store moved from New Britain back to Doylestown, right across the street from where they were previously. They are now sponsoring a Thursday night run on a course that was popular when they were located in Doylestown before. I also ran 6 miles around the lake the day after the race. Again, slow and steady.
This certainly has been the year of not making up my mind. Steve wrote me and wants to do a marathon together afterall. We are now looking at the OBX marathon (http://www.obxmarathon.org/site3.aspx) in Outer Banks, North Carolina on November 9, 2008. I was hestiant to do this as I thought it was going to be all open with little shade. Looking at the website, it doesn't seem to be as open as I first thought. I still haven't ruled out Columbus but this might fit my timing better.)