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The Ultimate Philadelphia Marathon Overview (2010 Edition)

17 November

(image by The U.S. Army)

This weekend marks the 17th running of the Philadelphia Marathon, the final installment of the US fall marathon classics. The Philly Marathon is not as popular as some of the other big marathons, but that means you get a world-class race in a great city without all the craziness and crowds! Fall in Philadelphia is spectacular and running past the Rocky Monument and along the Schuylkill River is just a treat. The course is moderately hard and will keep you honest — you can go fast but you’ll have to be smart! Let’s get the inside scoop!

Race Weekend Logistics
You have to know where you are staying and where to go. Your best bet for all your transportation and logistical guidance is the official marathon website here: Not going to be online? Download an print the official race guide before you forget! If it’s personal planning and checklists you need, don’t forget to download our Race Planner worksheet to make the most of your pre-race planning…it really helps!

Spectator Information
In a unique twist, race organizers have created special “cheer zones” along the course to help organize support for the runners. Learn more and find your cheer zone here. Spectators and fans can sign up to get text updates on the race here (standard text message rates apply). Like most marathons, Philly has a full slate of weekend activities (here) and has even created a “Fan Pass” to get folks out to explore Greater Philly thanks to some generous discounts. Get the full visitor skinny on the City of Brotherly Love here.

Race Expo
Don’t forget the expo, one of the high points of any major marathon. Information is online here.

Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hall D
12th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107-2299

Friday, November 19 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, November 20 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Race Information
There’s not as much information on the web about Philly as there are about other races. We did our best — here are some of the best links you can use to get ready.

Running on Race Week
Your race week training can afford to be simple as the race is pretty darn flat — no real terrain to get super scared of! Here is a quick sample schedule:


      : Off / Yoga / Core


      : 45 minute run, including 4 to 6 repeats of 1 minute at 5k pace. Recovery as much as needed.


      : 6-mile run, with 2 x 10 minutes at goal marathon pace on rolling terrain.


      : 45 minute run, including 4 to 6 repeats of 1 minute at 5k pace. Recover as much as needed.


      : OFF


      : Short jog of 20 to 30 minutes, include 3 x 1 minute fast with plenty of recovery. Be safe in the city!


    : Race Day!

Pacing Your Race
While the course profile looks intimidating (see image below), know that all of the serious climbing is done by mile 9 — the rest of your day is full of gentle rollers. That said, running any marathon can present it’s own set of challenges. In other words, don’t think you’ve crossed that finish line with a PR just yet!

  • Dealing With the Crowds: Do your part by seeding yourself exactly at or slightly faster than your anticipated pace. Ask those around you what their goal times are so you can get a sense of where you are. Getting stuck behind some power walkers is not the way you want to start your day.
  • Start Smart: Run slower than your goal pace for up to six miles…goal is about 20 to 30 seconds slower per mile on average. Don’t start dashing around and freaking out; use the early miles to build up your speed and remain in control of your day. Starting to chase a time at mile one makes for an incredibly long day…it’s an effort that few can sustain.
  • Focus through Halfway: The after mile 6, you’ll want to dial the pace down to a sustained effort just faster than your goal avg pace (by about 5 to 10 seconds per mile). You are adding focus and diligence as much as effort; this should be comfortable for you until it eventually grows to be quite difficult. Note that this syncs perfectly with the Philly Course, as things get pretty challenging between miles 6 and 9.
  • Be Ready to Work: It’s not all downhill from mile 9! In fact the rest of the course is pretty rolling as well and will take some focus to make sure your goal finish time doesn’t drift out of reach.

Philly Marathon Nuances
The following is based on our reading and understanding of the course, and drawn from several resources. Take what works for you and leave the rest for everyone else. If you have any final tips, please share them in the comments below!

  • The First Six Miles Must Be Smart: It’s always tempting to let the legs open up in the early miles of your big race, and the fans filling this decidedly urban portion of the course will have you jacked up and ready to go. Let all the jackrabbits go, knowing that you have some quality work coming in the form of a few hills.
  • Early Hills: These turns up to the Zoo are pretty, but the only breath taking experience you’ll have is if you’ve gone too hard in those early miles. The biggest single climb is about 100ft over a mile, so can expect some slowing down here (say 10 to 15 seconds slower for that mile split).
  • Mid-Point: Don’t worry about the hills, as you’ll have the descent of mile 12 to make up plenty of that extra time. Not to mention the boost of running by the starting line. At this point you should be slightly behind your goal finishing time — up to about a minute or 90 seconds is okay.
  • The River Miles: At this point you’ll have found your stride and should be ticking off some quick miles. You’ll start to tighten up towards the turnaround point, but use the way out to note all the landmarks for your journey back home. The return trip is literally the same route in reverse, but you probably won’t recognize half of it! The upside is that there will be lots of runners sharing the road — and the pain — until you cross the line!

Got More Tips or Questions?
Please share them with the Marathon Nation community via the comments below or on our Facebook page. If you’re racing Philly and see a Marathon Nation shirt be sure to say hi…everyone on the Team is super friendly!

Best of luck to everyone this weekend at Marine Corps and beyond. Have fun, be safe and go FAST!

~ Patrick


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