Monday, November 24, 2003

Philadelphia Marathon

Sometime last week the maples finally caught up and changed color. Almost as if a switch was thrown. One day green and seemingly the next golden. Unfortunately the wind and rain of recent weeks had stripped quite a few of the leaves but they still are quite beautiful. Sunday was bright but some clouds soften the sun and the day while warm for November didn't get quite as warm as predicted. Still I was to run a great deal of the race soaking wet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I came into Mantua just across the river from the Art Museum I went to my usually parking space to find all the places taken - I ended much further then ever before and thought it must be because of so many more runners. I was surprised to see that there were only 5317 runners on the official finishers list (about the same as last year) especially since the weather was so nice. (Although this is the most spectators I have ever seen for this race - still sparse by many races' standards it was a notable increase over last year.)

Speaking to a runner before the race I asked if he was from Philadelphia. No but he has visited many times, as an immigrant he wants his children to appreciate liberty and this country's history. I was humbled by his enthusiastic description of the new constitution center since despite living nearby I still haven't got there.

Nice start to the race. The new course leaves out the parkway loop and takes you onto Arch (in the race packet Citizens Bank had included green gloves - someone had toss them away and a dog was holding one in his mouth. It made everyone laugh.)Then on down to Columbus Blvd. That portion is not pretty but gives a nice flat straight away.

Then it's urban running - South Street, Chestnut, 34th Street past the zoo and into Fairmount Park. My slowest mile is the hill up to Memorial Hall and my fastest is the mile right after.

I can gauge my Philly Marathon on how well the next miles go. If I still feel strong at the Art Museum (about mile 14) it will be a good race. Another good check point is mile 17 at Falls Bridge. On the out of Kelly Drive you have the chance to see the faster runners coming in. The lead runner who will set a course record is way in front of all others. The women's race is much more competitive. And in fact the woman I see second and urge on will past in last quarter miles and win. I have never much enjoy the mile or so into Manayunk but once there it's fun to see the other runners who have made the loop and are on their way back.

I'm always glad to get over the overpass that leads back to Kelly Drive. And then it’s downhill until boathouse row. I am spent but am able to maintain a slow steady pace. I keep checking the time. Sub 4 is possible but only just and only if I don't slow. I'm in danger of cramping and plenty of runners are walking or trying to stretch and I remember last year's disastrous run. But the succeed tablets are working. I don't dare stop. I skip the last water stop. Now it's push - keep steady and get ready for that last .2 and the small uphill to the finish. One final nice surprise - friends call my name - they are spectating with their new baby. Cute baby I call out.

And once again I'm approaching a finish as the clock ticks toward 4 hrs. But I will make it. 3:59:13 Clock. 3:57:13 Chip.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Fall Running

Yesterday was trail day. I headed south this day. For those of you familiar with mid Atlantic east coast institutions this is the trail that goes behind Wawa’s headquarters. This part of the trail is maintained by Middletown as part of their open space project.

I’m a big fan of headphones and usually run with them, but on my trail runs I forgo so as not to miss any of nature’s sounds.

The winds had been blowing for more than thirty hours and were still quite strong. You would hear a low roar gradually increasing until all the trees were swaying and rattling and then it would be gone and quiet again. The woods now are mostly bare and probably for that reason I saw quite a few deer. The path was only blocked in one place but it doozy – a large tree had taken down others and created quite a tangle to get thru. Other than that fall running is actually easier since the vegetation has died back (with the one exception the leaves tend to cover the wet spots and you can find yourself in deep mud without warning).

The trees are quite beautiful in their summer fullness but equally if not more so in their late fall barrenness as the branches frame the sky and you get long views into the woods.

The path goes out Darlington Road near which a memorial has been placed on a bench to remember a son who “died after battling bi-polar disease”. It is a beautiful pleasant spot – I hope it brings peace to the family and all who use it.

Today on a calm, bright morning I ran, on my usual route past Merion golf course where they are rebuilding greens – an interesting process. One of my favorite things about fall trees is seeing the squirrel nests which despite the winds seem quite secure in their high perches. The bright, clear weather makes for great running.

Next Sunday the marathon. Hope the weather stays cool.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Penn Wynne 5K

Four weeks, four races: marathon, 25K, 10K, 5K. I didn't plan it but it turned out to be an interesting pattern and fun to run each week a little faster. Maybe this racing has become an obsession. Well at least each was a decrease in distant. Yesterday’s speed was less then I expected since I felt strong and relaxed and the weather was crisp, but all that running has undoubtedly taken its toll and the course is very hilly. The 5K benefits a small local library and is nicely put together. It is thru very nice suburban streets; part of the last mile (and the only flat portion) is along Powdermill Drive which parallels Karakung Creek. The opposite side of the creek is Karakung Drive which is a major part of the Haverford Day 5K course.

I love running in the fall. It’s been unusually warm and very wet but yesterday and today chilly weather finally arrived. Today I ran an early morning run under a bright blue dome of sky with great pleasure. I stopped briefly to watch workman installing a cobblestone drive. I just had my drive redone with concrete to look like cobblestone but it was nice seeing craftsmen doing the real thing. When I commiserated about working in the cold, one fellow asked aren’t you cold; I completely forgot about how strange it seemed to be standing there in shorts and a t-shirt (although I was wearing gloves). Many trees especially the maples are still green. The wood which last year reminded me of Lothlorian’s golden trees is, this year, still green. Later on the same the nature trail (at Haverford College) I saw a fox, an unusual suburban encounter. A great weekend of joyful running. Three more races this year: Philadelphia Marathon, Jingle Bell Run, and Reindeer Romp. Then I will take a month off. Well unless something catches my eye.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Ben Franklin Bridge Challenge

I believe this race has gone thru a couple of renditions. Currently, it benefits the Larc School which provides services for children and young adults with multiple disabilities. The course is 10K.

The first three miles are from the Jersey side of the bridge to Philly and back. That means two tough hills in those first miles, but great views. The last three miles go thru Camden. For those of you not familiar with the east coast, Camden is a rather depressed community that has been trying to come back by taking advantage of the water front. The race makes use of Rutgers Camden campus. The course takes you by the minor league baseball field (Campbell Field – Campbell Soup was a big presence in Camden.) Here's another view of the field, and also here. Next is the newly renovated RCA building (Nipper after their mascot and now the Victor Building.
Past The Tweeter Center which is a concert venue. Down battleship way and past the USS New Jersey (a retired battleship) . Here's a nice view of the battleship.

You only see the back of the New Jersey Aquarium, but here's a nice view of the path you're on.

You end up back at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The run made me very nostalgic for the old Zoo run which was a 10K that went from the aquarium to the Philly Zoo.

After my race was finished I slowly ran back out about ¾ mile and cheered the runners still coming in.

If you run a race for the goomies this is the race for you. I have never seen so much food on display after a run. The choices were yogurt, cereal, snack foods, pastries not to mention the old standby bys bananas and bagels.

The course was beautiful (in an urban way) well marshaled and lots of volunteers. Minor complaint is water was in plastic (paper is always better). But I think the charity, the distance and the views make this a very nice race. I have a feeling this race will grow.

Congratulations to the organizers.