How many miles to Babylon?

No idea how long it takes to get to Babylon, but it took me approximately 13 miles to run in a giant circle this morning, so I’m not the best person to ask for directions. 😉

I ran my first half marathon today and it was exhausting! I haven’t been running as regularly as I used to when I was in high school and part of a team, but I’ve been having a lot of fun doing long races recently and think that I might have found a renewed love for long distance. I don’t expect to be doing too much running next year because the outdoor air quality in Beijing can be so variable and I’ve never gotten used to running indoors on treadmills. I’d like to run another half marathon (or maybe even a full marathon!) sometime in the near future, but I might have to postpone that goal for the next year or so.

I decided to do this particular race on a whim – I had run the Broad Street Run on May 1st and later saw an ad for the ODDyssey Half Marathon on June 12th. The idea bounced around my head for a couple of weeks, before I paid for registration on June 5th and fully committed to running this thing. I didn’t do too much training for either of these races, and had never run such long distances before.  My time for Broad Street (a 10 mile race) was 1:36:32, averaging 9:29 minutes/mile. Today, I expected to run similarly (if not a little bit slower because of the heat), but was really thrilled to be able to cross the finish line in 1:56:17, averaging 8:42 minutes/mile. This morning, I thought that it would be a really ambitious and slightly far-fetched goal to finish in under 2 hours, but I’m glad that I didn’t rule it out entirely before I got to the start line.

2013_Race_Route-page-001.jpgFor friends who might be interested in doing some long-distance running in Philly for next year –there were a couple of differences between these two races, which I’m outlining here (as well as offering some general background info on each run):

  • Crowds: Broad Street is way bigger than the ODDyssey Half-Marathon, which can be both a positive and a negative. More people are cheering which boosts your spirit, but there are more people to dodge!
  • Course: The ODDyssey race is 3.1 miles longer than the Broad Street Run, and covers more diverse terrain. While Broad Street is mostly flat, and runs in a straight line across the city, ODDyssey meanders through different paved sections of Fairmount Park with slight hills and turns.
  • Price: The registration for Broad Street was $45, while ODDyssey cost $99. Though Broad Street is much less expensive, registration is determined by a lottery so it’s not a guarantee that you will be selected to run. ODDyssey is not determined by lottery, so you’re guaranteed a spot in the race for the year you register.
  • Pace: There were pacers for ODDyssey wearing neon yellow shirts, and carrying flags with their designated pace written on it. This made it a lot easier to gauge your speed and helped to differentiate the crowds at the starting line more. Another atypical part of the ODDyssey run that I loved was the ability to get a friend to join you for free during the last 5k of the race. Moral support is great!
  • Weather: This can be pretty variable – so I won’t say that this holds huge significance for all future races. Broad Street this year was cold and stormy, and ODDyssey was super sunny and hot. It was atypically chilly in early May here this year, so it might not be as stark of a difference in the future, but I think it can be expected that races in June will be warmer than those in May. The average Philly summer can be particularly brutal (my summers can normally be summarized as humidity, heat, and hoagiefest) so ODDyssey runners will want to keep in mind that their times may be affected by the extra heat exhaustion.

The Broad Street Run is the largest 10 mile road race in the country. This year, more than 35,000 people ran. Runners were separated into heats so that they could stagger the start, and the heat that I was placed in crossed the start line nearly an hour after the official start of the race. There were so many people everywhere that I ran pretty slowly for the first two miles while the crowd thinned out and I had a chance to set a faster and more comfortable pace. Even though it was crowded, I loved the energy that accompanied such a huge run – the spectators were amazing, and fellow runners were generous and kind (special shout out goes to trash-bag man who gave me a makeshift poncho when he saw how drenched I was getting in the rain when waiting to start). Overall, there was this really infectious energy throughout the run and running down Broad Street through a huge part of Philly was a really remarkable tour of the city – I recommend this race as a bucket list item to anyone in Philly who enjoys running.

The ODDyssey Half-Marathon comes shortly after the Broad Street Run, so if you (unlike me) trained for the Broad Street Run it wouldn’t be hard to continue your training program and increase your mileage over the couple of weeks after the race in order to prep. The race is capped at just a few thousand runners, so their staggered start would only delay runners in the back of the pack by a few minutes.  I loved having pacers, and put myself with the 9:00 mile group for the first two miles before moving ahead to set my pace a little faster.  Overall, I found the ODDyssey race to be pretty laid back – a lot of people came dressed in costume, and there was a free post-race beer garden for 21+ runners sponsored by a local brewery. (The thought of drinking beer on an empty stomach first thing in the morning made me nauseous, so I nursed a chocolate milk instead, but to each their own!)

I think that my favorite part of today’s race had to be the last 5K, where my brother joined me and helped me pick up my pace over the last three miles to the finish line. I’m certain that I would have slowed down a lot without his company and encouragement, so I think that a really big reason I was able to break 2 hours was because of him. 🙂 A lot of love also goes out to my mom, who drove me to the course this morning & waited at the finish line for me. After I finished, the three of us went out for dim sum afterwards for brunch and it was a heavenly post-race meal. I’m sure that I’ll be sore tomorrow, but tonight I’m feeling particularly well-loved and still riding on an endorphin high.

Stay hydrated,

Kristen

p.s. this was one of my bucket list items for my swan song to the city. If you have any other suggestions for places to run before August, or if you want to see some of the other things I’m trying to do before the end of summer, let me know/check out that post!

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