Philadelphia Half Marathon (1:25.00)

For the last seven months, I’ve raced a lot.

I’ve raced 41 times to be exact.

I haven’t had a race I’m disappointed in…until last Sunday.  On paper, I should be happy with the race.  I ran a 1:25 which is 45 seconds faster than RnR last month.  It was a harder course and a harder and more windy day.

So why am I not?

I know myself well that I could have given my PR a shot last weekend.  Philadelphia was a big race, and I don’t feel satisfied with it. I have taken races out too fast and paid the price before but not in a while. It was an unfamiliar and painful feeling.

To begin, I was given a spot in the gold corral.  A corral where athletes such as my personal friends Kris L and Colleen were running full marathons.  A place where super fast people like Katie E, Greta S, Laura A were running halves…and then me awkward standing there confused and fangirling.  All my fast friends in one spot…is this real life?

The gold corral was where women started separately and in front of the first corral.  That is not something I had done before. To be honest, a corral spot I earned two years ago and a place that intimated me. I could have just gone one corral back and I didn’t.  Maybe I just like to be these elite women’s fangirl.  At the start I proclaimed I would be the gold corral caboose…I got a chuckle out of these high caliber elites at least!

After a delay due to an accident, the race was off.  Since the half and full started together, I watched the 2:43 sign pacer fly by me. Being with such fast women, I found myself running my first mile in 6:04.  For those keeping track, that is faster than most of the first miles in 5ks I run.  I thought to myself…oh $hit this is going to be a bad time.

During the second mile, I attempted to dial back the pace. I knew there was no way I could run back to back 19 minute 5ks.  I located a runderwear sister, Greta, who was using the race as a tuneup for her next marathon.  She ultimately kept the same pace and dropped me like I was standing still.  During the second mile, many men from the first corral began passing me.  Throughout the race, I was just consistently passed.  People continuously running by you is an extremely demotivating feeling. That is pretty much the theme of the entire race.  I kept pressing on and the second and third mile were relatively blurry.

Thank you Erica for the photo!
Thank you, Erica, for the photo!

I hit mile 2 in 6:11 and 3 in 6:09.  After plugging in my Garmin, I ran the first 5k in 18:59.  Considering I recently broke 19 again last month in a 5k, I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking.  It set me up for a bad last 10 miles.

During the fourth mile, I saw a lot of friends and despite it being against the wind I ran a 6:27.  Mile 5 was spent focusing on getting to the halfway point.  Typically I feel better after the halfway and can lay down the hammer.  I ran mile 5 in 6:21.  My watch consistently beeped about .05 ahead of the mile markers and eventually .1 and .15.  I didn’t run the tangents well I suppose.

I hit the 10k in 39:21 which is about 15 seconds slower than my official 10k PR.  If you are looking for a sunshine and butterflies race report, here would probably be the best place to exit.  As I headed into mile 7, I could feel my pace slowing and my legs becoming more and more heavy.  Unless it’s a marathon, I’m not normally an OMG I wish this race was over type of person…but at the end of mile 7 I felt that way.

"You like wide eyed in that photo" me: "It think the term is looking rough"
“You like wide-eyed in that photo.”
me: “I think the term is looking rough.”

Mile 8 was my slowest mile as we climbed a large hill with the wind in our face.  My coworker, Lora, had given advice that the Drexel Hill was the worst.  She did not fail; it was the worst mile I’ve run in a while.  Only to be passed by mile 15 at NYCM.  Not only was it a giant hill but the wind was going into your face.

After we climbed to the top, I was immediately greeted by several coworkers on bikes (Thanks, Julie, Shawn, Ralph and Geraldine).  It was honestly the highlight of my race.  Little did they know, I had gone deep into a negative thought zone and seeing them lifted my spirits.  It’s hard to be sad seeing your friends.  After departing and heading towards the finish, I hit mile 10 in 1:04.  There was a nice downhill there which I greeted with open arms.

The next three miles alternated from feeling terrible, to getting passed by everyone, to staring longingly at Philadelphia in the distance.  During most half marathons, I find myself the strongest at the last 5k.  I raced differently and thus this race was different.  I felt tired and over it.

When I hit mile 11, I thought only 2 miles to go.  Only…that’s still an effing long way to go…I live in NJ, only 2 miles can mean half an hour.  At least we had a tailwind, and I ran mile 12 in 6:18.

That random Gatorade energy and tailwind quickly faded, and my last mile was rough.  My watch beeped mile 13, but I saw the 13th-mile marker way in the distance.  I knew I had at least a quarter of a mile to go.  I saw the half and marathon breakaway section.  Half marathoners went one way, and the marathoners went the other.  To be honest, I don’t know if I could have made it another mile let alone 13.1.

During the last quarter of a mile, several women outkicked me. It truly felt as if the finish line was not coming any closer. I crossed the line in 1:25. Immediately I came close to tripping over a woman who just stopped.  The last thing I needed was to have a miserable race and end up back in the ER for more stitches.

Finally ending...
Finally ending…

I began walking into the shoot where I walked into a local upstate runner, Dan, who lifted my spirits. It was good just to talk to a few runners and brush the race off. Was I upset? Sure, but at the end of the day it’s just running. Talking to people directly in the finishers shoot made me feel a lot better.

We waited and cheered the full marathon on where my father in law finished her first full. He finished smiling all the way!  He looked in a lot better condition than I did post race.

Post race with my husband and father in law
Post race with my husband and father in law


The first half of my race was a 41:30 and the second half was 43:30. I took out the race too quickly. If I had raced smarter, I wouldn’t have faded but it’s all part of running. If every race went well, we would all be at the Olympic trials next year. I finished the race injury free, and I am progressing with races. I know I am getting closer to my half PR of 1:23.23.  I wish I had raced in smarter, but there is no sense to dwell on it.  There are many more spring half marathons.

Questions for you:
Have you taken a race out too quickly?

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  1. That race was tough. I know the race had to start late and I understand that completely but it didn’t help anyone for us to stand there together in the freezing wind for an extra 15 minutes (after already being there for ten) Everyone was cold and anxious probably explaining why we all went out like lightening and paid for it later. I’m sorry you had a bad day but you are still the champ in my book.

    1. I was glad it started late so I could take in more fangirling of you fast people (I kid). I agree though and hopefully the next race will be a little bit better weather wise.

  2. I’m sorry the race didn’t go as expected. I thinhk you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph though….you finished injury free, and you are progressing overall.

    1. Didn’t mean to hit send with a misspelling and all! I am happy for you and the progress you’ve been making – focus on that, not just one rough race 🙂

  3. I think it’s awesome that you started in the elite corral – you earned the opportunity, take it. I heard from a lot of people that it was a rough day out there, I hope you have another, better, half soon.

  4. Every race teaches us something. This race wasn’t meant for your PR. Rather it was meant as a reminder to run your own race. Keep after it, your PR will fall soon and you will thank Philly for helping make that happen.
    I’ve went out too fast many times. Sometimes it so hard to slow down your leg turnover when it feels so easy. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a lesson, but not one to dwell on! It’ll be the subtle reminder to run within yourself.

  5. 1:25 is an AMAZING half time. You have been doing great at your 5k effort this summer and Fall, and I imagine it’s hard to switch gears like that between the 2 race distances without a little hiccup. Plus you got to start in a running-celebrity corral and be there for your FIL’s first full marathon. It’s a bummer it didn’t go like you expected but at least you still have good memories from it and can learn from the experience. Way to go Hollie!

  6. Sorry to hear that you didn’t get the race that you wanted, Hollie, but you’re totally right about it not being possible for every race to be all sunshine and rainbows. We need the bad experiences to learn from, and the most important thing is that you’re constantly progressing… so I still say congrats on the great time 🙂

  7. I think the fact that you were able to hold it together as well as you did is a testament to your current (amazing) fitness level. I would have gone out just as fast if I were in the Gold corral! It must have been really exciting to start that far up front. 🙂

  8. After reading your post a couple days ago where you mentioned a sub-19 first 5k, I thought this race report was going to be a lot worse! I know it’s frustrating to not run as well as you know you can (oh boy, do I ever!), but I think it’s really cool that a poorly executed race for you is a 2 minute positive split.

    And this isn’t meant *at all* to be a “don’t complain– be thankful for what you have!” comment because those are super annoying. By all means, be frustrated you didn’t run the race you could have run. But give yourself some credit, too, that you are typically a smart enough racer that this race was poorly executed for you. I’ve read a lot of blogs where people have been running for years and still struggle with pacing so much that a poorly executed race for you would be them finally holding back at the beginning!

  9. I’m sorry to hear that your race didn’t go how you wanted, but that makes it even more exciting that you still saw progress and ran faster. You’re going to nail your PR in the spring! I also love how it always looks like you’re flying in your race pictures 🙂

  10. First off congrats on a race completed and injury free, and congrats to your FIL on his first marathon. The pics of him and you and Tim are great and it’s good y’all got to share that experience together.

    I used to be the queen of starting races too quickly. I call this “Banking Time” and paying it back- with interest. Last year, I was in a training program and when my coach talked about the dangers of going out too fast, he looked straight at me. I PRed my mile in the first mile of a 5K once and we won’t talk about Mile 3- yuck. My margin of slowing down has definitely narrowed, as I’ve learned that it’s more fun to start slowly and pass people later on (I call this Rabbit Hunting).

    With that said, I feel like races like what you described are the hardest NOT to go out too fast. Everyone around you is running fast and it’s hard to just let people pass you in the beginning even if they are elites. Plus this is a large race with a lot of fanfare. For me, it’s easier to go out at a better pace in those without all the fireworks, bells, and whistles to excite me at the line.

  11. I feel like I had a similar experience this weekend. It’s hard when to others, it seems like you ran a really great time, but deep down you’re disappointed in how it went. It’s still been awesome to see you progress and congrats to your father in law!

  12. i dont think ive ever taken a race out too quickly but i definitely get caught up in all the people passing me. i know im not going to win a half marathon but still, seeing people pass you is demotivating. good job getting through the race with a great time! even if you werent really happy with how the overall performance was your training is totally paying off!

  13. I love reading your recaps because you’re honest–you tell it like it is and don’t sugarcoat it. For what it’s worth, I totally would’ve taken the spot in the elite corral too. That’s too good of a fangirling opportunity to turn down! I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t run a tight course in terms of the tangents. It’s tough when your training progress doesn’t translate to “official” race results, but we need to remember it’s a process, and this outing is just a small part of the journey.

  14. Sorry you had a rough race! I’ve definitely had crappy races where I’ve gone out too fast and paid for it in the end. But hey, you really weren’t too far off your PR, so it seems like that probably bodes well for future races! 🙂

  15. You earned the right to be up front Hollie, you ARE fast and you deserved to be up there. You ran faster than a few weeks prior and even on a tougher course and windier conditions- progress is progress. Maybe it didn’t’ turn out the way you exactly wanted or wasn’t the finish you expected but it doesn’t mean you are not moving forward or that a 1:25 all of a sudden means nothing.

  16. Hahahha you said fangirling! Love it. I know this race was not what you wanted. You ARE one of the fast girls which is why you were in the gold corral! You deserve to be there. And, you killed it! I have know doubt that you can shatter that 1:25 next time. You rock!

  17. Racing is hard. Even when you know what you’re doing, it’s hard. I know tomorrow I’m not in shape for a 40 minute 8k and I know I’ll probably try to run a 40 minute 8k and want to die. I think you’re progressing awesomely and there’s a big PR ahead!

  18. I think you ran a gutsy race. I can easily see how one could get carried away with the pace when there are so many amazing runners around you, but please don’t forget that you also deserved to be with them. Your achievements aren’t diminished simply because you’re competing with elites! If you lived in my part of the world, you would place in every race you ran pretty much…I mean, I suppose it would feel like being a big fish in a little pond, but a 1:25 half is enough to win a lot of races local to me.

    I never know what pace to run a half. I hate them because I can’t judge – I never feel as though my starting pace is too fast (apart from at the Great North Run sometimes, but you have to get a fast start to avoid being trampled in the stampede) because it really isn’t. It’s simply unfortunate that I never get to race at my full potential because my nerve impingement kicks off around the 7 mile point and I never recover.

    You didn’t crash and burn at all really! I know you are disappointed, but I do think you’re being a bit too hard on yourself. There’s always another race and I’m sure you’ll be back to smash that PR 🙂

  19. This was a great writeup. I love your honesty so much. Awesome time for ‘normal’ people and given the conditions (which you did not blame . I like how you own your performance and you don’t fingerpoint). Thank you! We learn from almost every race and your PR WILL get crushed .

  20. Sounds like it was a tough race for you and sorry that it didn’t work out as you’d hoped but just take it as another experience, learn from it and you’ll be stronger for it next time. You put in a great effort so even if the time wasn’t everything you hoped it would be, it was a gutsy run and you should be proud of yourself 🙂

  21. I never got a chance to talk with you about how this race went at work the other day. Sorry it wasn’t what you had wanted, but holy moly 1:25 is amazing. Great job pushing through a tough day!

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