Sunday, September 17, 2006

2006 Philadelphia Distance Run - Part Three


Right about the 10-mile mark, my logical brain [which had been pouting for about and hour] woke up …

“Hey … wait a minute … wherever we are … is closer to the finish … than we’re used to being …”

“Yes,” the engine room told the pilot, “we only have three miles to go … versus the five you were anticipating, at this point.” [In truth, there was only a one mile difference between the Classic route and the 2006 route, but the feet knew that they had to keep Bobble-Head in the game or they wouldn’t finish at all]

“How are you feeling?” He asked, knowing that everyone would lie to him any way.

“We’re good. Fire it up.”


There are landmarks that, hopefully, the people in charge of this event never change. They’ve monkeyed with the start; they’ve monkeyed with the finish. But as long as the “Philadelphia Half-Marathon [Soon to Be Rock’N Roll’ed, I’m sure.] goes, they have to keep: The Parkway, City Hall, and the Fairmount Loop. Within “The Loop” are such physical landmarks as the Spring Street Bridge, Strawberry Mansion on the West, over Falls Bridge to Kelly Drive. Many participants are bike- or tri-geeks and recognize “Lemon Hill” as a critical point in the Philadelphia Cycling Championship [or whatever it’s called these days].

Equally important - although, never as critical to the outcome - is “the Rock Tunnel.”

After going under maybe a dozen nameless shapeless bridges, Kelly Drive takes you under a legitimate tunnel. Carved into a finger of granite poised to poke the Schuylkill in the ribs, the Tunnel provides both a car ride through and a run/bike path round. When given a chance, it is an awesome echo chamber. I had raced through there in the past, with many a Rebel Yell. Apparently, only those who intended to finish the Distance Run under 2 hour will scream … I passed through the legendary Rock Tunnel in silence.

After the Rock Tunnel came the Girard Street Bridge; essentially the end of Fairmount Park and [for those who had any speed left] the run up to the Finish.

After ‘blowing a gasket’ in the middle 5 miles, I‘d held it together pretty well over the past two, and now considered making a charge over the final mile. It was basically up and over the hill behind the Art Museum; something I’d reviewed since, well, forever, really …. I had always told anyone who asked, “You know the steps Rocky up? Well, the steps in the BACK of the museum are worse!!!! They’re shorter and steeper!!!” I knew about this part of the course, and had both feared and revered it for years.

So much so, that when I lost my breath, as saw my bride walk down the aisle in 1992, my best man, Tommy Fung asked, “ What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”

“The hill behind the Art Museum.”

“And you had to run 12 miles to get there. This should be easy; you’re standing still”

He is my sensei.


One word kept repeating itself through my head: “Crunch!” This baffled me since I really felt no discomfort. My hips, thighs and calves had stopped hurting; I could sense no blisters developing; I might even keep all my toenails.

Then I realized what “Crunch!” meant.

I had backed off enough between mile 7 and 10, that I probably had enough gas left – even without the agita producing Amino Crap and GU [which never showed up] – for another five miles … only ONE of which I needed now. After Annabelle and I did Broad Street [rather conservatively] I was fine to run 3 miles that following Wednesday.

“Crunch” meant that nothing hurt yet, we were going to make sure that something did … and for days to come.

My head went up, the arms went down, and the feet went over and over. It hurt, but I found something of a kick.

My final mile was in the 8’s.

Unfortunately, my arm crossed my number, so this is all we’ll ever see.

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