Philadelphia Marathon 2008 Race Report

There’s really no better place to eat your night-before-the-race-dinner than a restaurant named the ‘Marathon Grill’.  With that, begins my (hopefully quick but turned out not so quick) 2008 Philly Marathon Race report.  Since the race was kinda a blur for me, I’m going to explain a bit more behind my pacing/racing and training strategy leading up to it.


The Philadelphia Marathon comes at the end of a very long year for me.  With my first race of the year being a half-Ironman way back in March, and having essentially a race every month (including three Half-Irons and an Ironman), I was pushing the limits of my desire to train and push hard.  So my coach put together a fairly carefully orchestrated plan for the 90 days between Ironman Canada and the Philly Marathon.  It called for roughly a month of rest immediately after IMC (although, that included the Nation’s Tri), and then about 5-6 weeks of build and a two week taper.

I suck at prioritizing goals.  So in the simplest way possible – here were the goals: Sub-3, Qualify for Boston (3:10:59), perhaps go for 2:55:00. It really wasn’t until the last two weeks that I believed I could do a sub-3.  Once the taper set in though, my speed to HR ratio really started to work out well.  My paces were getting incredibly fast, and my HR was staying very low for a considerable amount of time.


They say not to change things before a race.  Bah-humbug.  Because of the cold race day temps (25*F), my coach suggested I run with long-running tights.  I’ve never run in anything other than shorts.  (He convinced me with some numbers that roughly said for every degree temperature drop, it’s a 1-2% decrease in muscle performance).


So, 18 hours before the start of the race, I picked up a pair of running tights and hoped for the best.  Also, I tried some gels I’d never tried before.  And I tried a new running belt to hold the gels.

The initial pacing plan for the race was simple.  Dead simple.  I was to maintain a HR of 169BPM, which my coach and I estimated would produce around a 6:45ish pace.  But, over the final few days leading up to the race, that was producing closer to a 6:15-6:25 pace.  So we put a limiter in effect that basically said a HR not to exceed 169 or a 6:35 pace.

With that…it was time to line up.  I started on the front line.  Yes – the front line.


The plan for the first mile was to slowly get into zone.  Sure – I knew people would pass me in that first mile.  Go ahead…I’ll see ya around mile 20 (or 2 as it happened in many cases).


(Running by mile 1)

By the end of the first mile I had settled on a 6:20 pace.  Yes – faster than the limiter.  Buuuuutttt…my HR was absurdly  low.  Low 160’s.  So, I made the executive decision to put some time in the bank as long as my HR stayed super-low.

I was feeling fantastic.  I knew it was going to be a good day.  But I paced very carefully.  I let me HR govern everything.  I slowed going up the early hills, and screamed down the others.


(Swinging by mile 6, above/below – that’s me in the white to the left below – the time is 8 seconds faster than my time)


As you can see from the above time, I flew through the 10K mark.  And I kept on chugging.  I plodded up the only major hill at mile 9 by slowing down and just taking my time.  My HR just barely blipped.  In fact – over the course of the entire run (nearly 3 hours), I was only out of zone a total of 7 minutes – of which, the majority was my final push at the end.

Running Philadelphia, PA 11-23-2008, Heart rate - Time

I hit the half-marathon mark in 1:24 – on track for a sub-2:50 marathon.  This really energized me.  Now I knew that not only was a sub-3:00 time plausible, but also a 2:55 time.

Like my pacing plan, my nutrition strategy was super simple:

  • A few sips of water at every water stop (about every 2 miles)
  • A gel every 30 mins
  • Three enduralytes (salt tablets) every hour

Taking in nutrition on a cold-weather run is tough mentally.  You think you’re fine…until it’s too late.  However I was *really* good though about nailing my nutrition exactly.  Which…gave me the energy to just sail through the race.

Speaking of sailing…around mile 18 or so heading into the wind, one of the Pro-Women came up behind me and said “I’m just gonna draft off ya for a bit, if you don’t mind”.  Ha!  A top-5-female drafting off me!

The plan for the final 6 miles was to just turn it on and scream back to town (it was an out and back on the second half).  But, I didn’t quite have the confidence to really push it.  I think this was the one place where if I had someone pacing me, or someone running with me, I would have picked up the pace.  But…I played it safe.  Sure, my pace slowed a bit – but I was still cooking along.

I never felt tired or fatigued during the race.  It really did feel like a walk in the park – at least compared to Ironman Canada’s Marathon.  Sure the last 6 miles I slowed a bit, but my HR stayed about constant and had I had more motivation I really could have pushed it.

Oh – check this out – somehow along the way I started bleeding.  I didn’t know it till post race, and it doesn’t hurt at all.  But it’s pretty bad-ass.


But…back to the race…Over the final few miles, my mind stated to play math games.  Could I indeed hit 2:55?  How far am I anyway?  How long does it take to run .2 miles?  I know how long it will take me to run 3 miles, but what does .2 miles take anyway?

So, as I neared in on mile 24, I picked up the pace and began to push a bit – which you can see in the graph earlier.  My only goal was to keep it below 2:55:00.


As I hit mile 26 I checked my watch and knew it would be close.  Again – having no idea how long it would take me to run .2 miles, I just let it fly.


I pushed really hard (which you can also see in pretty graph)– it wasn’t until I had the clock and the finish line clearly in sight and attainable under 2:55:00 that I slowed a bit to enjoy it.  One of the positive sides to finishing under three hours – is there is nobody in the finish chute.  I had the whole street – lined with a gazillion spectators cheering me on.  It was awesome!


I finished in a final time of 2:54:48 – 12 seconds under the 2:55 goal.  In addition to qualifying for Boston (3:10:59), that also qualified me automatic entry into the New York Marathon based on time (2:55:00).  I was super excited about both of those.  As I mentioned last week, I also cut off nearly 30 minutes off last years time, and almost 90 minutes off my first marathon time 2 years ago.

Here’s me running friend/road-trip-companion/blogger Rob – who also qualified for Boston.  Woot!  Road trip part II!


It is Rob who I officially blame for a ‘run’ up the stairs of the Philly Art Museum.  Rocky-style.  See, the Marathon finishes at the steps of the Art Museum.  As in – like 20 feet away from the base of this famous Rocky landmark.  He thought it would be a ‘fun’ idea for us to run up it post-marathon.  He had the distinct advantage of finishing 14 minutes after me, and thus his legs hadn’t solidified yet into a block of useless flesh.

So with that – I present a video of us running up the stairs.  Clearly I’m the guy who looks like Grandma. (If you’re reading this in an RSS reader, just visit the original post, or click here to see the video – trust me, it’s worth it.)

Once where you are rewarded with this view of the marathon finish area.  Getting back down however…that hurts like hell.


Oh, and this photo was taken by my photo-friend, near the finish line – with the races official participant shirt on it.


Once done, there was only one thing left to do.  A cheese-steak.  Or two. Nuff said!



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  1. Did you go to Jimmy’s, or Geno’s or Pat’s?

    Awesome race, great report. Very acute observation about the need for regular nuitition, especially in the cold when you’re feeling okay.

  2. YOU are a stud. The automatic qualifying for NY is fabulous. It’s also inspiring you cut 90 minutes off of your first M!!!! Congratulations Rainmaker…and to think…i remember when your knee hurt in Boston almost exactly a year ago. Oh how far you’ve come!

  3. Great RR. Been following this blog for a while but have never commented.

    I’m in the midst of searching for a training coach this winter and would be interested in a finding out a bit more about your selection process. And if you can recommend any coaches in the DC area. Might make for an interesting blog now that the season’s ending and you’ve hit all your goals?…

  4. I love that your toe started bleeding, cause that happens to me ALL the time. Seriously… like 5ks make me bleed. Maybe I need new shoes.

    And you look like you’re in pain running up those stairs. My boyfriend lives in Philly and that was one of the first things I did when I went to visit him for the first time.

    PS thanks for the trainer help!

  5. Amazing race! You are a sub-three hour marathoner! Interesting about the tights. Did you ever feel hot? Congrats again!

  6. Oh, ouch, oh, oh! The steps look very painful

  7. Your friend looks too strong on those stairs – clearly, he didn’t race hard enough :).

    Congrats again, Ray. This is about as perfect as a marathon can get, except for a bloody toe or two. You’ve aced an event that takes many people years to master. Well done, sir – and start thinking 2:45 at Boston!

  8. Awesome job on your marathon! Those stairs do look really painful..! Can’t wait to see what happens for you at Boston.

  9. Very cool race report.
    Loved the video.

    Nice bleeding foot too.

  10. Wow, you are so impressive. I can’t believe you have the motivation to keep going :). I guess that’s just what Rocky did.

  11. I know I already said how proud of you I am, BUT I AM SOOO PROUD OF YOU! YEAH, RAY!!

    Great race report. You were totally FLYING. You have had one kick-@$$ season, my friend. Nice work.

  12. NIIIIICE!! Congrats again on an awesome race…those steps…OUCH!!! Did you get red sauce and sweet peppers on your cheese steak?

  13. Phenomenal job, Ray!!!!

    That’s all I can say about that.

  14. Pat

    Congrats man! Pretty inspirational…hopefully I can follow suit and run some 30 min better than my first marathon time!

  15. i thought i told you that you weren’t allowed to say it was a walk in the park!!! you could have at least PRETENDED it was hard!

    now i am inspired to take 90 minutes off my marathon time–in a couple of years.. or so.

    i am shocked at the new tights but moreso at the new fuel and new fuel belt. thank god that all worked out.

    yes, you ARE a super-stud. amazing. stupendous. unbelievable!!! you REALLY rock.

  16. Congrats on your awesome race and qualifying for Boston! You rock so hard :)

  17. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Dang it you are fast! I have only been able to get rid of 12 minutes in the last 2 years on my marathon time. I want to drop off 90 minutes!!!

    I cannot wait to hear about your training for Boston!

  18. Congrats, congrats!! Wow. I’m really amazed at your athletic feats.

    if you have a second amidst all of your bloggy admirers, what kind of athletic background did you have before April ’07?

  19. Congrats on a great race! And to have a pro women ask to draft off you… crazy but awesome!

  20. I laughed as you tried to sprint up the steps but I was laughing with you…not at you of course……
    great report…its amaziing how the old heart rate kept low and how you could do so damn well and beat the bq time by more than 15 minutes….congrats into boston and new york…. I love the marathon sweatshirt..”kicked ashphalt”..very cool.
    I will have to at least run to the rocky statue when i go to philly in two weeks for our browns-eagles pregame show and eventual beat down of the brown and orange by mcnabb and company

  21. Loved the race report! Thanks for sharing the details (like the correlation between temperature drop and performance percentages). Congratulations on having such a super race and on qualifying for Boston and the automatic entry for NY. You are a supah stah!

  22. SLB

    Awesome stuff, although the run up the steps is the most precious moment for me!

  23. Incredible report Mr. Maker!

  24. Fabulous race, great report.

    Nice write-up on consideration of speed/HR limits.

  25. Thanks again for making me run it and coordinating everything. You’re the man