Race Recap: Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Parkway Run

Back in September, I ran the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital (CHOP) Parkway Run as a representative of CURE Magazine (my 9-5) and had one of the best races in more than a year.

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The day started early – and I mean EARLY – because the race was in Philly, which is a solid hour and change from my place. I’ve also never driven in Philly and frankly, was terrified of the idea of trying to find a parking lot in a major city I was unfamiliar with at 7am. I was very lucky though, because my coworker Kristie (who was going to run the race with me but had to drop out due to injury) is a Philly girl and offered to drive from her house, which was on my way.

Full disclosure: Kristie was super nice and even offered to have me sleep over the night before the race to save me that extra hour, but Adam Driver was hosting SNL that Saturday. And if you know me at all, you know your homegirl here needed to be in her own living room with exactly one (1) pre-race glass of wine to take in the spectacle. And I did. The fact that I stayed up past 1am the night before a 4am wakeup call is an issue we’ll address later.

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So yeah, after driving an hour in the dark and arriving at Kristie’s, she drove us into the city and found us the perfect parking lot, and we found the start of the race relatively easily using my tried and true Comic Con logic: just follow the people in neon and spandex.

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It was shaping up to be an absolutely perfect weather day, and I said a silent thank you prayer to the running gods. After running the NYC Marathon in a cold drizzle for 6+ hours, I will take every crisp, clear morning as the blessing it is.

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This was my first run in Philly, and I must say – it was quite lovely. Granted, I saw approximately 2.5 miles of the entire city on the run, but what I did see what delightful. It’s making me consider other Philly races, tbh.

With a good hour or so before the start, Kristie and I entertained ourselves with dancing to the – admittedly EXCELLENT – DJ (seriously, it was like a wedding DJ with all the awesome dance-along songs) and filming some BTS social footage for the magazine.

Clearly the lack of sleep had not yet taken its toll on me at this point, because I was a dancing fool.

We also took advantage of the sparse crowds and got some awesome pictures with the Rocky statue right outside the Art Museum.

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Once we were done messing around, I handed off my backpack to Kristie at the last minute and jumped into the corrals right at Eakins Oval, and after a quick National Anthem, we were off.

The course had us go down the Ben Franklin Parkway (hence the “Parkway Run“) to Logan Circle and back, past the museum and down the Parkway for another mile and back.

I went into this race with some high hopes – after a mildly disappointing finish at the Seaside Semper Five a few weeks back, I wanted to run the race I knew I could. I also knew that as part of a team (and with a reputation as a runner in my office), leaving it all on the pavement was pretty much my only option. So I raced smart and started slow down to the circle and back, with a nice breeze and a solid crowd of runners the entire time. Once we passed the museum at a little more than a mile, I was grateful for the slight downhill we had for the next mile along the parkway – because the sun was starting to come out and it was hot on my back.

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The view was beautiful – there was a cool waterfall to our right and the rest of the parkway to our left. I didn’t walk once the entire time, and ran smart with a steady pace. The only water station at the turnaround at just past mile 2 was a blessing, and I held onto my cup for a few meters because I knew there weren’t any more stops from there.

After the turnaround, just as I expected, the sun was now directly in our faces and the heat was starting to build – but not like full-on summer running. This just made me want to run slightly faster, so I switched to my Power Running playlist and took on the final mile with determination.

The teeny tiny incline the whole way made my calves burn, and I knew from running down it at the start that there was a SOLID hill just before the finish line, so I wasn’t shocked when we came to it. I did slow my pace just to make it to the top, and then motored through the final 100m to the finish at a respectable 36:25 (12:03 pace).

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Of course my Garmin said I did much better, but I still managed a 1:30 improvement over the Semper Five two weeks prior, and for not racing in more than a year, I’ll take it.

The best part is that the runners and their friends raised more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS for pediatric cancer research, which is AMAZING. I learned later that there were more than 10,000 participants at this run, too – making it probably the biggest 5K I’ve ever done!

The only downside was having to drive home for more than an hour and change by myself on my pitiful 3 hours of sleep while keeping myself awake with blasting music and open windows. But I regret nothing.

All in all this was a great race that I’m looking forward to next year!

Race Recap: 2018 Seaside Semper Five

I’ve done the Seaside Semper Five 5K basically every year since it started – yes, including the year a bomb went off on the course. So I never miss it. Even this back in September of this year, when I had basically done zero running up til that point, save for a handful of miles every week and a solid 20 mile week the week before the race.

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As usual, this race calls for an early wakeup, so when race day rolled around on September 15th, Mike and I headed down to Seaside in the dark and got there just as the crowds were starting to form – and got to admire the local art:

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I enjoy this race for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with logistics. There is plenty of parking available (if you get there early enough) and a super clean bathroom in the bar/restaurant it starts in front of (again, if you get there early enough – the lines soon get out of hand just like any race). So since we were there from the get-go, I was able to sneak in to the bathrooms and get my bib before it got too cray-cray.

(Though I got a little cray-cray over the excitement of my first real “I’m going to race this thing” race in nearly 10 months!)

I met up with a bunch of folks before the start, including my friend from the Rebel Legion (and badass Marine) Sean and his beautiful girlfriend, some IG friends, my cousin Heather, and my friends Jess and Ed (Ed was running) and Liz and John (who were both running). You could say this was more of a social event than a race for me, and I liked it.

By the time the opening ceremonies started, I was hungry, so I took a gel. I have to admit – treating this as a real race had my nerves a little jangly, so I had to kind of rely on muscle memory to remember how to prep. I’ve run a few little fun runs since the NYC Marathon last year, but not for time. So wanting to do this right had me a little rattled.

But all those nerves were for nothing, because it was a beautiful morning by the water, and the race turned out to be great.

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I mean look at this picture Liz took from the roof of the bar we started at! *chef’s kiss*

At the sound of the gun we took off going north on the boardwalk on the newly modified course that was started last year. Previously this run was just a straight 1.5 mile shot south on the road then back 1.5 on the boards, but last year they switched it up to take us like half a mile north then out into the city. It’s a fine switch – still fast and flat – and honestly a little more fun because the winding streets give us a little more to look at and give people in those houses we pass a chance to cheer us on.

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The whole 1.5 out to the turnaround point was great – I had been working on not walking in the weeks prior to the race, and raced for the first time in my Altra Escalantes, which, if you haven’t tried, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. They are so choice. Full review to come.

Anywho, I was feeling good through the turnaround, and loved the fact that I got to cheer on the folks behind me when I turned around. All the Marines in this race also make for some serious motivation – there are folks that run this race with prosthetic legs, crutches, the whole nine yards. It’s seriously awe inspiring and makes you realize what some people have given up for our ability to do stuff like run races and write blogs about them. Thank you, veterans and active duty military, for all you do for us!

The sun was starting to get hot once we turned back around and got through mile 2 before getting back on the boards, so I finally took my first walk break for the 2nd water stop. And that’s where I kind of fell apart.

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Well, I didn’t FALL APART like full-on meltdown mode, but I basically said “Oh hey I can walk, I forgot about that option!” and kind of jogged it in through most of the final mile. I wanted to find the right power song, then I had to stop to sip some more water, then I wanted to take a picture, and before I knew it I’d blown the lead I’d given myself by not staying strong – and proving to myself that this running thing is nearly 100% mental.

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Either way, when the finish was in sight I kicked it back up into high gear and crossed with a relatively solid time of 37:53, for a 12:22/mile pace…. Aaaaaand a face for the record books, because I was laughing at my friends for waiting past the finish line and getting the most unflattering finish line photo ever:

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After the race we got to enjoy the boardwalk and the beach for a bit, before heading over to Jess & Ed’s family’s place down the road to clean up then grab some bangin’ post-race food.

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and a cupcake, because otherwise what’s the point?

Overall this year’s Seaside Semper Five was another success, and I can’t wait for next year’s race!