I registered for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon and then booked my hotel room at the Marriott Courtyard downtown. It was a great location, a compromise in distance between the race start/finish line and the historic Independence Mall area. It was just an easy 2-block walk to the convention center and just a block away from the Reading Terminal Mall with it's iconic and historic food market. Oh, my! I could not wait!
Originally my flight was scheduled to leave Houston at 10:30 AM on Friday, which would get me into Philly early afternoon with plenty of time to get my race packet and maybe do a bit of sightseeing before dinner. But as always seems to happen when I book my airfare too far ahead of the trip, the itinerary changed and my flight was now scheduled for a 1:00 PM departure. Yikes! This was going to be cutting it very close. It's a 3 hour flight, and then there's that time zone change, plus the cab ride from the airport in evening rush hour traffic. The race expo closes at 7:00 PM, so not a lot of wiggle room in case of flight delays or traffic problems.
|Philadelphia City Hall, right across the street from the hotel|
And sure enough, though the flight was on time, even a bit early, the traffic getting from the airport to downtown was a parking lot on the freeway. The cabbie got off the freeway at the next exit and made his way to the downtown area on all surface streets. I didn't mind.....at least we were moving. And it was actually scenic and interesting, riding through some older row house neighborhoods with their little corner grocery markets and storefront businesses.
He got me to my hotel just a little after 6 PM and I'd already checked in to the hotel using the Marriott app on my phone, so I could quickly get my room key, get up to my room to drop my bags, and then boogie on over to the convention center to get my race packet and even do a bit of browsing before it closed. I really don't like cutting things that close, but sometimes life is out of our control.
Back at the hotel, I grabbed a mediocre sandwich and beer at the hotel restaurant for a very late dinner, then bought a container of strawberries and a cappuccino at the Starbucks in the hotel to bring back to my room. I laid out my running things for the 5K the next morning, set my smartphone alarm, and sprawled on the bed to watch TV. I was tired, more tired than I realized, and the bed felt wonderful.
|Philosophical Society Hall|
|Commodore Barry, founder of the U.S. Navy|
It was a beautiful morning and an easy 1/2 mile walk and I arrived at the National Constitution Center at 9:30 AM, just as they opened. I bought my ticket and then browsed the displays and gift shop a bit while I waited for the 10 AM performance in their theater. It was an interesting one-man monologue with visual effects, recounting the history leading up to the Bill of Rights and the constitution.
That done, I walked down the Mall toward the visitor center to get my entrance ticket for Independence Hall. They're free, but are controlled, with timed tours given by the National Park Service. My ticket was for 12:15, so I had an hour to kill. On the way to Independence Hall is the pavilion that holds the liberty bell. I thought I might see that, until I saw the long line snaking through a Disney-like maze and then spilling out on the sidewalk for another 50 yards. No thanks!
I wandered the few small blocks that surround the mall and Independence Hall and took photos of some of the really old and historic buildings, like Library Hall and Philosophical Hall. But it was still too early for the Independence hall guided tour, so I headed back to the Visitor center where there was a little snack bar and got myself a snack of popcorn and a bottle of water and sat for a bit to kill time.
|Back of Independence Hall|
The Independence Hall ticket said to arrive 1/2 hour before, so I got over there at 11:45. They were just letting the 11:45 group into the hall, and staging the 12:00 group into the cordoned off area. The park ranger noted the small handful of us who were there early for our 12:15 tour, and when it got closer to 12:00, and he had room for a few more folks, he let us in.
|The judicial room with judge bench and jury box|
We were ushered into a room adjacent to the hall itself, and given a lecture about the history of the building. We were then herded out that building and into the main Hall. On the right, was the judicial hall, and the guide told us about the history of this room, events that happened here, and about the furnishings (none original but all of that era) and decor (some original). Then we moved across the main center hall to "the room," the room where history was made and our nation was born! It was very inspiring to actually be in the room. The lecture was very interesting and informative, with lots of detail and interesting tidbits.
|This is it! The room where our founding fathers hammered out a new nation|
The tour finished, and with hunger overtaking my desire to perhaps see more museums in this Mall area, I started back toward my hotel, stopping at a Subway shop to pick up a sandwich to bring back to my room.
That afternoon I decided to walk back over to the convention center and take another spin through the race expo, buy one of the long-sleeve Brooks shirts in the official RnR merchandise area and spend a little more time browsing the vendors.
Then it was time to get back to the hotel, modify what I'd laid out for the 5K race with things I'd need for the half marathon, and start hydrating. Late that afternoon I walked down to Maggiano's to order take-out dinner - meatball lasagna - and again returned to my room, and ate my dinner in front of the TV.
Race day morning!! The smartphone alarm worked this time....yay! But I awoke about 1/2 earlier and used that time to eat my breakfast of Cheerios and strawberries, sip some water and check my emails before getting up.
The walk to the start line, though long, was pleasant as I joined the throng of other runners heading in the same direction. This particular race series uses a protracted system of corrals and waves so I knew that the race would have started even before I got to my assigned corral. I was about halfway to the start line when the first corral of runners zoomed past me in the other direction. I took my time getting there, found a bank of portapotties with no line and took advantage, then worked my way down the line of corrals to duck into one that was three or four corrals ahead of my assigned corral. This far back no one cares, and I knew this race attracts a lot of slower walkers, so I wanted to be ahead of them.
|At the start line area, waiting to go|
Behind me I could see the iconic Museum of Art with its bank of steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone in the film "Rocky." Our finish line will be right in front of those steps....cool!
The race route was absolutely one of the best in the entire Rock 'n' Roll race series, second only to maybe Vancouver or Montreal. It ran down through the downtown area, past the gorgeous City Hall, then around Logan Square with its gorgeous Swann Memorial fountain then past the front of the Museum of Art. A few miles further and we turned right up a hill and past the old and spooky former Eastern Pennsylvania Penitentiary before retracing our steps back to Kelly Drive along the Schuykill River.
|Race route, data captured with my Garmin GPS watch.|
We ran right along the river, past rows of rowing club boat houses, past scullers out on the river until we got to mile 9, when we crossed the river on an old iron trestle bridge and then headed back toward downtown on the other side of the river.
Every mile was beautiful and scenic, especially the miles along the edge of the river! We had a nice cloud cover the whole way, giving us pleasant temps, though the humidity was very high. Every mile there was an energetic group of volunteers manning the water and sport drink station. The support was among the best of any RnR race I've ever done.
|Close up of race route and finisher area|
As we neared downtown, could see the skyline, we could also see the massive back side of the Museum of Art on the other side of the river. It was a welcome site, because it meant I was getting close to the finish line.
Finish line!! I collected my finisher medal and passed through the finish chute, grabbing a bag of chips, a bottle of chocolate milk, and bottle of water along the way. Then I walked through the pretty park in front of the museum and found a curb to sit on, where I relaxed, ate my chips and chugged some water. Then I eased myself back up and walked back to the hotel. Sadly, the Starbucks espresso machine was down for maintenance (had I known, I would have taken a slight detour to get to the Starbucks on Market St). I returned to my room, drank my chocolate milk and nibbled on a granola bar.
I had plans to join a friend for dinner later, but short-term I needed to find some food. So I showered and dressed and then walked the short distance to the Reading Terminal Mall, which is a giant indoor food market in the style of so many that are typical in the north and northwest. Aisle after aisle of baked goods, meats, cheeses, fish, sandwich counters. As soon as I stepped inside I came up on an oyster bar and immediately sat down and ordered a dozen mixed oysters on the half shell. Four different varieties from different regions along the east coast, and each tasted just a little different. So good and definitely hit the spot!
As I wandered the aisles, I came upon Old City Coffee and had the best macchiato I've ever had this side of the Atlantic. It was perfection! Served in a little paper cup, and with rich creamy coffee foam clinging to sides of the cup as I finished it. Oh my!! I picked up a salami on rye at a deli counter and then some sweets at a bakery counter - some macarones, whoopie pies, and a cupcake - and then brought it all back to my room. I ate the sandwich and the cupcake and saved the whoopie pies to bring with me to dinner with my friend that night.
|Dinner with a friend after the race|
My friend picked me up at the hotel and brought me to a pho noodle shop, a food I was definitely craving post-race. He is from Southeast Asia and I knew he'd know exactly where to bring me for a simple, family-oriented place with extensive menu and great food. It was perfect! And it was a very pleasant way to spend my last evening in Philly.
The next morning I packed my things and checked out, then took a cab to the airport for my flight home. It was a great trip with a very memorable half marathon and a chance to spend a little more time in this historic city.