Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Where, oh where, do I start with a recap of the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half marathon, which took place on Sunday, September 15 this year?!
My family and I were going to hike up to Philly the Friday before the race to attend the race expo; however, the day before, I messaged the organization on Facebook to see if there was any way that I could opt for a race-day packet pick-up. Lo and behold, they said no problem! I was wicked impressed by A) their very prompt response B) that they didn’t say no and C) that they even helped me decide how to get there on race day (walk from my hotel).
Their Facebook page was extremely helpful leading up to the race—with information, pictures, videos, and general excitement—and even after the race with 2020 race registration information. They also provided details about how to obtain race photos via FinisherPix.
Since we didn’t have to go into Philly before the race, I was able to attend a Girl Scout apple-picking event on Saturday morning with the Angry—wait!—I guess she’s the Angry First Grader (AFG) now, sheesh. We had a blast, and it was nice to walk around the orchard for a bit. The downside was that I wasn’t able to meet up with any of my fellow BibRave Pros that were attending the race. I’m sorry, guys!
After we got home from apple picking, we loaded our bags in the car and drove the hour and a half to Philly to reach the Bellevue Hotel at 200 S. Broad Street. Since we booked our hotel room insanely last minute, we were only able to secure a king bed. We brought an inflatable mattress for the AFG, hoping for the best. (She tends to have trouble going to sleep at night, but once she’s asleep, she usually sleeps like a rock.) Thankfully, Hubs to the rescue, because he set up a little fort for her in the corner.
As we checked in, the front-desk rep, Steve, said with a wide smile that we had been upgraded. He also said that I should run the race for him, which I proudly said I would. He was so nice, and check-in was flawless. Oh, did I mention that we got an awesome UPGRADE?! Our room was magnificent! It was spacious, had its own bar and balcony, had a huge-screen TV, and even had one of those white embossed robes in the closet. It also conveniently had a ton of USB charger spots. If you’re anything like me, you need to charge your cell phone, Garmin, and Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless headphones the night before a race!
Since we got into Philly around dinner time, our next question after we settled into our hotel room was of course where to have a pre-race dinner. We (I was) were exhausted and hungry, and there was a The Cheesecake Factory mere yards from the hotel, so we decided on that. I went for the gusto and got a Macaroni and Cheese Burger. Heaven in a bun, I tell ya! I need to learn to not eat such “heavy” foods the night before a race, but this was just too good to pass up.
We rolled our(full)selves back to the hotel and got in bed around 9 p.m. While that’s normally very early for me, I knew I had to get up around 5:45 a.m. the next morning and tried to make the best of it. I woke up a few times to check the time on my cell phone (because I’m always nervous that my alarm will malfunction or something equally as ridiculous).
Race Day Morning
On Sunday morning, I shut my alarm off just before 5:45 and tried to get out of bed as quietly as I could. My plan was originally to get dressed and sneak out of the room before Hubs and the AFG woke up so that they could sleep in a little bit and meet me at the finish line. Oh the best laid plans—right?! No sooner had I made it into the bathroom than the AFG walked in and said she had to go to the bathroom. At that point, I could tell she was wide awake and not going back to sleep. Hubs could sense it too, so we decided to all get ready quickly and walk to the start line, which was about a mile away from the hotel. We ended up leaving the hotel room at an impressive time of 6:07 a.m.
In retrospect, I’m glad that they did walk with me, because I’m not sure that I would have made it on my own, and I was a little nervous to walk the Philly streets that early by myself. I was a C-R-A-B during that walk—filled with pre-race jitters and who knows what. I apologize profusely to Hubs. Thank you for dealing with my crazy!
The walk itself was half pretty, half eye-opening. The pretty parts were walking past statues and water fountains. The eye-opening part was the fact that the homeless population seemed to be so prominent in the area. I used to work around Market Street back in the day, and I don’t remember it being quite so noticeable.
We walked through Love Park, which of course is iconic. It was all a little bit of a blur, because I was so nervous about finding the Solutions tent where I was to pick up my bib and to find my corral. I had never been in a large enough race where I was assigned a corral, but my experience at this race was stellar! We had to stop to ask where the Solutions tent was, but once we found it, it literally took me less than a minute to get my bib. The line was short, the volunteers were fabulous, and everything went very smoothly. The only thing I was disappointed about was that since I got my bib on race day, I didn’t get the race shirt or anything else that came in the bag that runners received at the expo. Bummer!
I was in Corral 15, which was one of the lat corrals. Thankfully, they were all very well marked, so we found it quite easily. We made a porta-potty stop before heading over to the corral. The line moved quickly, and we didn’t have to wait very long. The AFG wanted to be in ALL.THE.PICTURES, so you can see how well the corral was marked in the picture on the right.
The announcer notified all runners to be in their respective corrals no later than 7:15 a.m., so I kissed Hubs and the AFG good bye. I felt bad, because there wasn’t a ton to do in the area so early in the morning, plus the AFG was already losing steam from getting up so late. They ended up walking back to the hotel to stay there until it was time to walk the thirty-ish minutes back to meet me at the finish line.
I had posted a start-line picture on Facebook, and my friend Chrissy (who I knew was going to be at the race) said that she was in the corral behind me! We met up for a quick picture and to catch up for a few minutes. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half had been her first half marathon back in 2012. She confirmed my suspicions that since we were both in later corrals, we wouldn’t actually start the race until fifteen minutes or so after the race officially started at 7:30 a.m.
The announcer was an absolute riot—she had so much energy, and I don’t know how she had a voice left after even ten minutes of announcing the corral starts. She did a great job to fire up the crowd and announce when each corral would start the race. Even though the race is rather large, the corrals weren’t wicked crowded, which I really liked. At one point, the announcer asked who was doing the Remix Challenge, and a woman in front of me cheered and raised her hand. I give her so much credit for running a 5K before this half. Humana used to hold the 5K on a Saturday and the half on a Sunday, but for this particular race, all distances raced on Sunday this year.
But the absolute best part of being in my corral was that I got to see THE Des Linden sprinting toward the finish line! I was so excited and in awe that I didn’t think to snap a picture or take a video. I literally got goose bumps and immediately texted Hubs and the other BibRave Pros at the race.
During the Race
Once our corral crossed the start line, it was go time! I first started listening to the Marathon Training Academy (MTA) podcast episode about marathon fueling. It was an interesting episode, and I know for certain I take the whole “carb-loading” concept overboard and also maybe fuel too much during my races. For this race, I had recently purchased a variety pack of Gu gels and posted about it on social media.
The resounding answer to my, “So what Gu should I use at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly half?” question that I posed was surprisingly the Lemonade flavor! I ended up packing the Cold Brew Coffee, Lemonade, and Pineapple flavors. I ended up taking the Cold Brew Coffee around Mile 4 and the Lemonade around Mile 8. I didn’t think I needed a third gel around Mile 12, so I saved the Pineapple for another day. I have to say that I think I need to find another fuel that isn’t so sweet. I’m a Gu-lovah for life, but lately, my palate has changed, because all sweet gels are not appealing to me. I was honestly hoping that the Cold Brew Coffee brew would be almost bitter, but it wasn’t. And I had the same hope for the Lemonade, but it was still a bit too sweet for my taste.
I did encounter some difficulties along the way, most of which were unavoidable:
- After the MTA episode was done, I just wasn’t feeling any other podcasts. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t concentrate. Instead, I ran with music for most of the race, which is very unusual for me. I had a handful of songs on a particular playlist that I just kept on shuffle. I tried to stay in the moment and not let negative thoughts crowd my brain, but it was tough to stay positive with the sun and humidity.
- Oh, did I mention the weather?! It was humid. And hot. And humid. Bleh. I now remember why I prefer to race in the fall and winter months!
- I also had a wardrobe malfunction of sorts where my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro started leaking. As in, the entire front and side of my shirt was soaked less than a few miles into the race. At one point I had to stop running completely, pull off to the side, and undo the tube that goes on the hydration bladder so that the leaking would stop. That meant I couldn’t drink from it though, which was a pain. I don’t mind stopping at water stops, but when I’m thirsty during a race, there’s nothing worse than not seeing a water stop in sight. I ended up taking multiple cups of water at each stop, and even some sports drink that I didn’t particularly enjoy.
- Most of the liquids offered on course were luke warm. I don’t have a solution for this, and I know it’s nearly impossible to offer cold water, but I started almost feeling nauseous at one point. It’s probably my own fault, because I’m sure I drank way more water that I actually needed.
- May I vent? Have runners never heard of keeping their gel packets after they take them instead of throwing trash on the ground?! I always keep my “empties” and save them until I can get to a trash can. Seriously, runners. Please pick up after yourselves!
- My Garmin was possessed in spots, because at times my pace appeared to be very slow. I think it’s because the GPS signal was weak (?) at times. It was a little disconcerting though to look down and see a pace that is slower than my normal walking pace! It was also a few tenths of a mile off in distance, so my Garmin would beep at me that I completed a mile before I actually hit the mile marker on course.
I will say that this race has some very good qualities:
- Overall the course was flat. There were some slight uphills, but none ever seemed like actual hills. According to my Garmin, the elevation gain was 338 feet, and the elevation loss was 332 feet.
- The volunteers were amazing and motivational. Everyone was friendly, accommodating, and cheerful. I made sure to yell out a “thank you!” to everyone I came in contact with.
- The aid stations and porta-potties were plentiful. Even though it felt like mentally they were very far apart, the course was well stocked. I thought about using a porta-potty a few times during the race, but I was able to hold off until after I finished.
- I loved the soft pretzels and COLD chocolate milk at the finish!
You can tell by my time splits that I was ready to finish this race toward the end. My 5K time was about average for me if I’m not racing the distance. I can plod along at an 11-something pace fairly easily most days. Around Miles 11–12 was when I just wanted the race to end, and the last mile or so was nearly my fastest of the entire race except for the beginning! I tend to be able to muster up some energy to sprint to the sweet, sweet finish line.
Sadly, Hubs and the AFG did not see me cross the finish line, because I erroneously told them that the start line was the same as the finish line. Whoops!
After I crossed the finish line, I got my medal and went over to the finish-line picture area where professional photographers from FinisherPix were taking people’s pictures. I got a picture and then proceeded toward the food area. If you’ve read my race reviews in the past, you know I’m a sucker for a good soft pretzel. Philly did not disappoint! The AFG snagged one from me, but I was able to grab another, along with a family picture together and an ice-cold chocolate milk. Yum!
The Hubs is the MAN, because he brought my OOFOS Ooahh Project Pink Sports Sandals for me to slip into immediately after the race. Oofos will donate 3% of sales to the breast cancer research team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston!
That wraps up another half for me! I would highly recommend this race, but particularly if September would cooperate and be just a smidge cooler than it was this year.
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