My First Marathon: 2016 Philly Marathon Recap

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | race recap

Nov 23

A few days have passed, my body no longer feels like death (LOL), and it is still sinking in that I am a marathoner!!

I’m so excited to finally share my recap of the Philadelphia Marathon with you!  Last Sunday was a HUGE day for me and I will never forget November 20, 2016 as a very special part of my running journey.  I’m thankful to say that this will overall be a pleasant recap!

I’m linking up with Susie, Debbie, Lora, and Rachel for the Running Coaches Corner, Annmarie, Nicole, Jen, and Michelle for Wild Workout Wednesday! Check out their sites to find new workouts to try and lots of great running and fitness tips!

I’m also joining Julie for the Best of the Blogs monthly linkup!

Check out my recap of the Philadelphia Marathon - my first ever! Great race on a rough day! #runchat #phillymarathon #run215 Share on XI'm sharing my experience running my very first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon! A dream has finally come true! Check it out and more running recaps and resources at!


Philly Marathon Race Recap

I’m an extremely goal-oriented person.  Love it or hate it, it seems to have served me well in life.  After having a really successful spring racing season, I knew that I was finally ready to train for the big one – and as early as July, I began preparing my body for the Philadelphia Marathon.  Soon, I was signed up for coaching with Kristy, and I would set out on a path that would challenge me every day but show me how much I have grown as a runner and how strong I am.

Philly Marathon Expo


Philadelphia Marathon Weekend consists of the marathon, half marathon, and Rothman 8K.  For the first time this year, the half marathon and marathon were held on separate days, so marathoners would be all on their own on Sunday.  The expo took place on Friday and Saturday, so I decided to pick up my things on Friday since I had the day off.

My mom was coming in from town for Thanksgiving and to watch me at the marathon and I picked her up that morning.  After breakfast and some sightseeing, I went to the expo at the Convention Center (she didn’t have her walking shoes so she stayed in the car).  I’m not in love with expos, but I did pick up a new pint glass and paid over $60 for a nice half zip with the Philadelphia Marathon branding.  They had a LOT of race clothing to choose from, but I was really disappointed in the quality.  I didn’t want to pay $30 for a flimsy T-shirt.  The real highlight of going to the expo was seeing a few City Fit Girls like Katie, Katy, Sharon, and Na Seema shopping around and good spirits.  Sorry mom, I know I took forever!

Can I say that on Friday night we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant right near our home and all had the most amazing meal ever?  I was focusing on carbs on got some fantastic sweet potato gnocchi.  My mom got the veal ravioli that was fantastic.  Bret and his mom weren’t complaining about their dishes either!  I do wonder if this should have been my pre-race meal instead of the flatbread…


The Night Before

As you can imagine, being the headcase that I am for any race, I was a wreck on Saturday.  I rested all day per coach’s orders, but that certainly didn’t keep my mind still.  The weather for the half marathoners turned out to be perfect (congrats to them!), and it just seemed unfair that on Sunday, the weather would take a turn for the worst and give us marathoners freezing temps with up to 50 mph winds.  I freaked out the logistics of where everyone would be on the course to cheer me on.  I doubted myself as my family (now including Bret’s sister and brother-in-law in town to cheer me on) tried to cheer me up and assure me that I could do this thing.  I was probably a horrible dinner companion, lol.

Plenty of flatbreads!

Plenty of flatbreads!

I went to bed extremely early – like 8:30 pm.  It didn’t take too long for me to fall asleep, and for once I had no weird dreams and didn’t wake up through the night.  The big day was finally here.

Race Morning

I woke up at about 5 am to get ready for our 5:45 am departure.  I already had my clothing laid out, but I wasn’t sure if I should wear a jacket during the race.  I looked back at my recap of the Cherry Blossom Run which also had insane winds, and for that race ,I wore my trusty blue windbreaker.  Bret was positive that I wouldn’t need it for 26.2 miles, so I only wore it that morning before the race.

We ended up not leaving til almost 6.  We had to find parking (still not used to having to drive into the city) and found a free spot around 15th and Mt. Vernon.  We walked from there to the race entrance.  I heard warnings that for Saturday’s race, Security was denying people’s water bottles and gels, but thankfully, we had no issues getting in with my Orange Mud Hydraquiver that had a full water bottle and was packed with my Honey Stinger chews.

The Starting Line


Once we got settled in I looked at my watch and realized it was already about 6:45!  The race started at 7 am.  Since I was in the last corral (for those finishing in 4:59:00 and later), I guessed that we wouldn’t cross the start until 7:30.  Bret was there with me every step of the way, which was great because I didn’t see anyone that I knew.  I did my warmup stretches, took off my jacket, and got ready to embrace the miserable.  I was in race mode now.  All the worries about weather vanished.

Due to the wind, it appeared that the start line banner wasn’t posted, so I was really confused about when we were going to get started!  This was my first time truly being in the back of the pack, and when it was our turn to go, there was lots of noise, especially from my fellow first-time marathoners.  I did get emotional in that moment, and then it was time to get to work!

Miles 1-5

Since I’ve run the Philadelphia Half Marathon before, I was very familiar with the first half of the course.  The plan from Kristy was to go at an 11-minute pace for the first 5 miles.  The race starts at Eakins Oval near the famed Art Museum, then takes you down Ben Franklin Parkway (with a great view of City Hall), through Chinatown and Independence Hall, and along Columbus Blvd where you get a view of the Delaware River.  Then you make your way  to South Street for a few blocks until heading to Chestnut Street.

I felt really good starting out, and I kept telling myself to “go slower than I think I need to go”.  My Nike+ watch always goes crazy in the city, so I knew I couldn’t trust the pace.  I decided that to preserve battery life, I wouldn’t start listening to music until mile 8, so I took in the sights around me.  The wind actually played no role in this section, so I was relieved.  We had some great signs and a decent amount of people still out cheering for us, but it did have that “worst parade ever” vibe since we were the back of the pack.  On one block, there was an adorable little boy in a tiger costume as “Eye of the Tiger” played on a speaker system.  People passed out tissues along the way.  The only disappointment in this section was South Street…there were hardly any people out and the street itself was a tripping hazard with its uneven pavement.  Still, no problems.

Splits:  10:47 (knew I had to dial back), 11:38, 11:13, 11:25, 11:05.

Miles 6-13


From miles 6-20, I was supposed to be at my marathon goal pace of 10:40.  Soon I would be approaching mile 6 where I expected to see Bret on Chestnut Street.  Again, the crowds were thin, so he’d be easy to find.  He was there with my friend Katie who killed the half marathon on Saturday.  I was so surprised to see her and I gave her a hug – though I was a little abrupt as I wanted to keep moving.  I told them that I was feeling great!

Chestnut Street was fine but seemed to get emptier as we moved forward.  There were a couple of hills as we headed west, and I handled them with no problem despite the breeze!  When I spectated the marathon years ago, 34th and Chestnut was a huge cheer zone with a ton of energy!  Standing in that spot in 2011 made me want to become a marathoner one day.  Five years later, I was greeted to an empty block…yikes.

Then we made our way past Drexel’s campus towards the Philadelphia Zoo and some more hills.  When I ran the half in 2012, I walked up those hills.  This year, I ran.  It’s always tough when you see people walking around you, but I kept focused.  I knew that I’d have family nearby but wasn’t sure exactly where.  Finally, I realized that I was staring at my mom!  I went up and hugged her…clearly I was in a fog!  Ben (Bret’s brother-in-law) was there and took some great pictures of the moment.


I knew that from that point, around mile 8, I would need all the help I could get, so I finally started my Marathon Motivation Playlist.  We were heading to West Fairmount Park to pass the Please Touch Museum and actually made our way towards the Mann Center – I wasn’t sure exactly where we were going, but the hills weren’t killing me, or so I thought.  At some point, my hips started to feel sore for the first time during a race.  It was certainly an unpleasant surprise.

Before making my way to MLK Drive, I saw my friend, coworker, and original running buddy, Tom.  He was there with his wife and daughter.  I really appreciated the boost as I was worried that they packed up and left.  Four years ago he saw me struggling not too far from that point in the half…again, this marathon was showing how much I’ve grown!

Along this section, I was fighting to keep up with the 5-hour pacing group.  I didn’t force it, but I was happy when I passed them, lol.  Then there was another 5-hour pace group up ahead (huh??)..eventually I passed them too as we headed to mile 13, and they stayed behind me.  It was reassuring especially since they seemed to be ahead of pace.  MLK Drive was pretty dead, but that was okay.  It was weird coming up the hill where you normally see a finish line and realize oh wait, I have over 13 miles to go…

Splits:  10:36, 10:00, 11:11, 10:48, 11:18, 11:06, 10:37, 10:52.

Miles 14-19

Now I was coming to the dreaded section of the race – Kelly Drive.  When I lived in Fairmount, I ran on Kelly Drive 3-4 times a week for 3 years!  While it is beautiful, especially in the fall, it bores me to death!  This is the out-and-back section that heads past East Falls and up to Manayunk, then eventually back and to the finish.  Unfortunately, as I headed towards Manayunk, the wind headed towards me…and it was brutal!

You may also like:  ZOOMA Cape Cod Yoga and Run Fitness Weekend

As I was going up Kelly Drive, I watched the runners coming back down.  I saw runners going for 3:35 finishing time and gradually past the 4  hour mark.  Phew, more power to them.  I thought it would stink seeing those people heading to the finish, while I still had so far to go but honestly, it was a nice distraction from the wind!

I was able to see Coach Kristy on the course around mile 15 – I’m pretty sure she said I looked strong, but of course it’s a blur now, lol!  City Fit Girls also had the GREATEST cheering section.  It was great to see them as they had some “Nasty Women” signs and so much energy!  The wind was so bad that the leaves were spinning like a tornado and I had to keep my head down to avoid them blowing in my eyes.  At this point, my body definitely felt the cumulative effects of running a marathon, and my legs were starting to feel tired.  I didn’t bother looking at my watch anymore, I just kept pushing forward.

Bret’s mom and sister were around mile 17, and I really needed that pick-me-up as I was still approaching East Falls.  Meanwhile, I started having some really bad digestive issues.  I can’t remember when I felt the first twinge, but this back half of the race was a real struggle.  I was tempted to stop to find a port-a-potty but the lines were always too long and I didn’t want to mess up my momentum.  Thankfully, I didn’t have an accident, but it really was a fight and I’ll say no more!  Again, an unpleasant surprise.

Anyway, we headed towards Manayunk which I was told would be full of energy, and it was!  I saw Cynthia, a fellow Penn Band alum who ran the half on Saturday, which was a pleasant surprise!  I was hoping to Katie and I finally did while approaching mile 19.  She looked great!!  I didn’t take any offers of beer or snacks from strangers, I just wanted to get this thing done.

Splits:  11:04, 10:47, 11:12, 11:06, 11:05, 11:29.

Miles 20-26.2

As I approached mile 20 (which seemed to take longer than I hoped), I was sooo ready to be done with this race.  The plan from Kristy was to give the last 6.2 all that I had, but I really didn’t have a lot left.  At miles 18 and 21, I had some struggles with getting my chews out of my pack, so I had to walk to avoid spilling them all over the ground.  I ended up using all of my water, but what I should have done was had water at more of the hydration stations because I was clearly dehydrated from the wind!

Again, Manayunk was cool and I saw Rachael, another City Fit Girl, cheering on the runners.  I’m glad I was able to say hi – I first met her at a Philly Distance Runners Group Run and she’s awesome.  As I was heading past mile 21, I saw a lovely pack of City Fit Girls including Danielle and Rachel.  At that moment I wondered how this marathon would be going if I ran with a group?  Food for thought…

I really felt like I was dragging and I was so tired…my hip was hurting, my digestive system was VERY angry, but I kept going.  As we were heading back to Kelly Drive a van owned by the City pulled on the course…while we were still on it!  It was so rude…eventually, they drove off, but it was just bizarre.

The last few miles were a blur and I was eager to finish, though I just couldn’t push myself to go faster.  After 23 miles, my watch died.  I tried to start it up again but it was no use.  At that point, I didn’t even care.  I looked forward to mile 25 where I would see my family again.  I told them “I’m struggling!!!” as I passed, and I saw City Fit Girls one more time.  Kiera, the co-founder, briefly ran with me and said I was doing great!  She’s always so motivating.


Somehow smiling at mile 25

It seemed that the race would never end, but I knew I wanted to finish in under 5 hours.  Regrettably, I did take a couple of walk breaks that had nothing to do with taking my chews…but I felt no shame in the moment.  I just felt sooo slow.  I knew the finish was near but it still didn’t feel close.  Again, the finish line sign wasn’t posted so that threw me off.  Finally, I saw Bret near the finish line and I knew that I was only a few yards away from completing my first marathon.  It was completely unlike what I imagined it would be.

Splits:  11:17, 10:59, 11:12, 10:41, ???, ???, ???

Race Results


Heading to the finish

My official race results are 4:57:28.  I broke 5 hours, which was always my secret goal!  I really wish my watch hadn’t died…it gave me 23.59 miles in 4:20:13.  As I ran the race, my watch was ahead by about 0.4 miles, so I probably would have finished with 26.6.  I think that means that my last 3 miles were in the 12-minute range thanks to those walk breaks…it probably cost me a few minutes, but oh well!

After the Race


I was in a complete daze after the marathon.  My right hip/groin area was in pain but ironically, my knees felt fine thanks to all that foam rolling, I guess!  Bret was there to help me out as I could barely walk due to the pain.  My hands were cold and I could barely use them.  I was a mess, LOL, but not in the way that I expected.  It’s weird to describe!

Finally, once I was able to get picked up on 21st and Spring Garden (since there was no way I could walk back to where we parked), we headed for lunch at Franklin’s in East Falls.  The rest of the family was already there and they applauded when I came in and gave me a bouquet of flowers.  There was even a guy at the bar that congratulated me and bought me a beer!  He ran the half that Saturday so he gave me props!

I feasted on nachos and wings and that beer was glorious.  I truly appreciated all the support that helped me get through the race.  I don’t think it all sunk in yet.  I was just really proud of getting it done.



I enjoyed running the Philadelphia Marathon and I’m glad that it was my first marathon.  I loved the sign I saw that said “You’ll never forget your first time”…so true.  Philly is where my running journey began, so it was only fitting to have my first marathon here.  This race has good crowd support and you get to run through some cool neighborhoods in Philly, but if I’m being honest, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a one-and-done for me.  I think I may have been a little bit too familiar with the course, so it didn’t have the awe that I enjoy when running in new places.

But with that said, I definitely recommend running it at least once!


  • Not too crowded.  Apparently, there were less than 9,000 finishers.  I like that they split up the marathon from the half.  I don’t think I would have enjoyed seeing even more people heading to the finish while I still had 13 miles to go!
  • Good course.  My understanding is that Philly is a good course to BQ.  It’s pretty flat overall and the hills just help keep things interesting.  It doesn’t have as much of a city feel as the Broad Street Run, but it’s not bad. If we didn’t have the awful wind, the fall foliage would have been really pretty.
  • Plenty of swag.  Sold separately of course.  If you like to shop, you would have loved all the options at the expo!
  • Great volunteers.  They were troopers, especially the little kids out there in the cold and wind!!


  • A bit overpriced.  I think that by the time I registered, I paid $105 since I missed the $85 early bird special.  Considering the quality of the T-Shirt, I’m not sure that I got my money’s worth.
  • Out and back course.  Being a local, the last half is a bore, even though Manayunk helps break the monotony.
  • Fewer spectators.  Those who were out there were AMAZING, but I do think that splitting the half and full did hurt the atmosphere by having fewer people out on the streets.  It didn’t help that I was in the last corral and parts of the course were nearly empty by the time I reached them.
  • Post-race food.  A lot of Philly races just get it wrong when it comes to food, so it’s not a surprise for me at this point.  The chicken broth that I managed to absent-mindedly spill on myself in my post-race fog was okay, but I would have preferred a chocolate milk.

I have so many people to thank on this journey.  It has been such a long ride.  Bret has done so much – I had to make a lot of sacrifices during training, which meant that the weekends were always a bit of a challenge to manage, but we made it work.  He ran with me a few times along the way, but I liked that I didn’t need to lean on him as I had in the past.

I’m really happy with my training and that is all thanks to Coach Kristy.  Would I have loved to finish faster?  Of course.  But minus those last 3 miles, I think I was in a really good place.  It was a great plan and I’m proud to have done so well on my first attempt.

My family really came through for me, they were out there encouraging me and it made all the difference in the world.  I love that my mom was finally able to see me run.

And thanks so much to all of my blog readers!  For those of you who followed my training week after week, I hope I made you proud!  It was so much hard work and so much time and effort, and it was worth it.  I’m grateful that I am able to share my first marathon as a positive experience, and I appreciate all of your advice, well wishes, and positive vibes!

So what’s next for me?  Will I do another marathon?  Time will tell, but for now, I’m working on getting a plan together to maintain my fitness before spring training kicks off in January!  And I still need to schedule that massage!

Have you ever run the Philadelphia Marathon?  If not, would you ever consider it?  

(58) comments

Add Your Reply