Latest reviews by Kanyi

(2017)
"Challenging half marathon, runs through downtown DC and some DC neighborhoods..."
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

1. As a half marathon in March, the Washington DC half marathon it is a perfect race for many of those who live in snowy and cold areas. A March race forces you/one to keep training through the winter months.
2. If you are doing the 50 half marathons in 50 states challenge, this is probably one of the only two half marathons held in Washington DC proper that you can use to cross the District of Columbia off your list.
3. The capital city is a must-visit for out-of-towners and residents alike. It is one of the more picturesque races you shall run in. You get to start in downtown DC and run through the streets and see the monuments while running. You also get to run through some DC neighborhoods and then finish close to the DC Armory, close to the soccer stadium.
4. As a large city, accommodation, transport to and from the city and other amenities are available. It is an expensive city to stay, travel and dine in, so be warned.
5. As a rock 'n' roll event, they have musical entertainment at various places during the race itself and there is entertainment at the finish line tent.

The Expo.

1. If you can, drop your bags in the hotel room/host's house before coming to the expo. The expo is quite exhausting if you bring in your heavy luggage. There is also security at the entrance that checks the bags and the security lines are long.
2. Don't try to come late on Friday evening. (The last day) Get your bib/bag as early as possible. The lines were impossibly long on Friday evening and traffic towards the DC armory and parking was a nightmare!
3. If you are raising money via St Jude's and made a pledge, you pick your bib from a separate St Jude's booth. As I was passing by, I saw a runner who hadn't fully paid up their contribution pledge and they wouldn't release their bib until all the pledges were paid off.

Getting to the expo.
The expo is held on two days, Thursday and Friday. I went to the expo on Friday, March 10, 2017. You can get to the expo in quite a number of ways; driving (and looking for parking, very rare and expensive in DC) taxi/über/lyft or using the Metro Bus/subway system. Use travel apps (google maps, maps on Apple/Android) to map out your route for Thursday and Friday (but not Saturday as the metro operates differently on race day) if using the DC metro or bus system. Buy a smart card and load it with $20-25 (more if you'll do more traveling) if you are just going to the expo, hotel room/home, starting line next day and from the finish line back to your hotel/home. It's easier than fumbling for cash and in some stations, you might not be able to get in with cash and without the card. It simplifies your life. It's easier to use the metro subway but you can also use the bus.

The metro subway stop is 'Stadium Armory Station' and the metro train is the 'M' Blue/Orange/Silver train. If you decide to take the bus, I took bus #96 from Union Station and bus # 97 from the Armory, which buses bring you within 3 minutes of the entrance to the armory. The exit is 'Stadium Armory Station', junction of 19th St and Capitol Street stop. The stop is a big stop. From Union Station, take the buses to 'Capitol Heights' station and from 'Station/Armory Station' take the bus to Union Station. The DC subway uses a system where you pay at the end of the ride at the subway exit.

This is the largest expo I have ever been part of. It is held in the DC Armory, the size of a football field or two! The expo is quite organized. This is where you get reminded that the Rock 'n' Roll is a for profit organization. Insurance companies, car companies, athletic apparel companies, sports nutrition, food vendors, you name it, all vendors are represented. Some people take offense to this type of commercialism but it doesn't faze me one bit. The positive side is that you can purchase all your running gear and refueling nutritional products here.

Picking up the marathon bib and goodie bag.

All half marathon bibs and goodie bags have to be picked up on Thursday and Friday as there is no Saturday race day pickup. You go downstairs and pick up the bib number. Bring your ID and your signed completion sheet that was sent to your final confirmation email a few days before the race. Once you check your bib number, pick up the bib and pins and pick up the clear marathon bag and choice of t-shirt size. You can change your corral placement while there. Once you are done with the bib and t-shirt pickup from downstairs, you then go up the steps and get to the expo proper.

Getting to the marathon on Saturday morning

*Make sure that, if possible, you have a running pouch/belt/armband that can accommodate your Metro card/Smartcard, hotel/car keys, credit/debit card, money and your ID, unless you are willing to risk putting those important documents/items in your clear goodie bag and check it in. This is because, after the race, you'll need your ID to get your free/complimentary beer at the finish line. You'll also need a place to store your various cards to use when going to the start line (metro card) and so forth.

⁃ Public transportation. Luckily, this year, 2017, the half marathon was staring at 8.30 am after the Metro subway system started running at 7.00 am. Metro Buses were all detoured and you couldn't use the buses at all. The DC metro subway is probably the only way to get to the start (it was 14th and Constitution avenue) 'Federal Triangle' stop on the DC Metro. The roads are closed and uber/lyft/taxis are unable to even get to your location to pick you up and take you to 14th and Constitution avenue. Most people were catching the metro that Saturday morning.

(If you are a full marathoner, the full marathon starts at 7.00 am and this year, unlike previous years, the metro didn't start operations till 7.00 am, due to some maintenance work I think. Therefore, book a hotel close to 14th and Constitution Avenue and/or be prepared to do a lot of walking. Wake up early!)

Checkpoint, dressing, clear bag and corral

⁃ There was quite a bit of security and there was police presence all over but there was no official checkpoint and no scanning of participants. The UPS trucks were a block away from the starting point on Madison Drive where the clear bags are stored. Once you get to the UPS trucks, your last name initial will determine which truck your bag will be placed in by the UPS staff. You just need to tear off one of the tags from the bib to the goodie bag for identification/location purposes. There was a row of porta Johns close to the start point and there were no long waiting lines as I had feared and seen in last year's race. This was probably the year of exception. If you plan to run this race, come early if you are the kind of people who use porta Johns a lot or need to use it before the race, as it is a major race with a multitude of people and there will be long lines. Please bring/carry your own tissue paper just in case. Some bananas were on the way after the UPS Truck goodie bag drop off points towards the start line for those who may like to load up on their carbs and potassium.
⁃ Dress up warmly for the time before the marathon. It was about 25 degrees in 2017 and the temperatures never went above freezing for the entire race. Use old clothing, an old hoodie/sweatshirt and pants that you can discard on the roadside while running. They donate discarded clothing to charity. On the course, I saw expensive brand name 'new' or slightly used clothing discarded and I felt bad for the people who had discarded the newish clothes. I think the generally agreed upon 'Dress up for the race and add 10-20 degrees' applies here. Of course, different years have different weather.

⁃ Corrals. During registration, the runner chooses a corral based on their estimated finish time. (You can change your corral at the expo.) This enables there to be spacing as it is a huge event with an estimated 16,000 plus half marathon runners. If you are trying to chase a time or don't want to be held behind by slower runners, you can be at the very front of your coral. As you run the race, you'll realize that being at the front of the coral might not really matter as the runners space themselves and you can pass slower runners easily

The start upto the 13.1...

The race started on time and the announcements were clear and concise. Due to the large amount of runners, depending on what coral you are placed, you might not start racing for a minute or two as they space up the runners.

The start of the race from the National Museum of American History takes you towards the Washington Monument onto Rawlings park. On Mile 2, you are past the Reflecting pool and you can see the Lincoln memorial. You then hug and run parallel to the Potomac River past the JFK Center for Performing Arts. You then get to mile 3 for an out and back close to the Watergate complex. After mile 4, you are in the Rock Creek Parkway. Once you approach mile 5, there is a steep hill on Rock Creek Parkway that will sap quite a bit of your energy and slow you down. From mile 6 to 8, you start approaching the DC neighborhoods and on mile 8 you are in Columbia Heights. The crowds get larger here and they provide the emotional boost, much needed after the mile 5 hill. After Mile 8, you make a left and run parallel to the MacMillan Reservoir on 4th St NW and mile 9 takes you to Bryant St NW where you make a right onto the Bloomingdale section of DC on Mile 10 on N Capitol St NW. The Capitol building is Far away but in view. It's a long straight stretch, the final stretch where you can gauge your running and determine if your pace is working well. Mile 11 brings you to the Noma section of DC close to the Washington Union station and then you head off to Lincoln park for mile 12. The Robert Kennedy Stadium (DC United soccer stadium) is in sight at mile 13. The finish is close to the DC armory, a familiar sight, where the expo was held the day/s before the marathon.

Treats After The half marathon...

Once past the finish line, there is an official photographer who takes a post run picture of you. A volunteer hands you a finisher medal. Ask one of them to take a picture of you if you have been running with your smartphone and you do not have anyone close to the finish line, just like I did. As you keep walking from the finish line, you are offered bottled water, Gatorade and chocolate milk for rehydration. There are bananas and pretzels too.

It's then time to collect your marathon clear bag from the UPS trucks. They place the bags under your last name and bib number so the bags are easy to retrieve.
⁃ There is also a place where they give you a free alcoholic beer. You need ID and be over 21 to enter the enclosed place. They are very strict about the ID. No ID no entry!
⁃ There is a lot of entertainment at the finish line with featured bands playing live music.
⁃ Leaving for home/hotel is easy. Since you were at the expo the day or two before, you shall use the same Metro station to go back to your respective hotel. Use the smartcard if possible. The metro is crowded but you'll be in the company of other runners so there will not be any awkwardness. There are regular trains so the wait is not as bad.

The Race Photos

The race photos were processed by marathonphoto. The race photos were ready on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, after about 5 days which was impressive. The photos are pricey and budget wise are not for the faint hearted but the memories are well worth it. The photos capture you at various stages of the race and at the finish line.

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(2016)
"Challenging But Awesome Half Marathon! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

⁃ Waconia is about 37 miles, 37-45 minutes away from Minneapolis. I attended the race because the Minneapolis ORTHO marathon scheduled for June, 5, 2016 was cancelled and I decided to make the best of a bad situation. This year's race was held on Saturday, June 4th 2016.
⁃ There is a relay, 5K, 10 miler and half marathon. I ran the half. This review is for the half-marathon.
⁃ Their emails prior to the race are very detailed and list everything and all information you would need to register for, arrive to and run the race. They have a 'virtual event bag' that has all the information necessary.
⁃ There is packet pickup on Friday, the day before the race if you can make it. If picking up the packet on race day, arrive early as lines are long, especially if you are running the relay, which begins at 7.30 am. You get a t-shirt and a running belt of some sort. The t-shirt is very good quality and looks like it has moisture wicking ability. When I went to pick up my shirt Saturday morning just before the race, they didn't have my size at that particular pick-up location. They asked me to hang on to my tear off ticket till the end of the race and see if they could locate my size. If they couldn't find my size, they told me that they would mail my shirt to me. At the end of the race, they had my size, which was excellent.
⁃ There is no public transportation to Waconia that I could see/identify. So, you have to drive there or take a cab/uber/lyft.
⁃ There is quite a bit of vehicle traffic on race day if you are driving from far away. Give yourself a bit of time. I arrived at about 7.20 am and was able to get my bib at about 7.40 am. I had a friend drop me off and they went to look for street parking. If you are driving alone, come earlier as parking is hard to come by. You might be forced to park closer to the 'city center' in Waconia. Not too far from the start line though but enough to get you nervous just before start time.
⁃ The lines were long but moved quickly. The lines to the porta johns were long but you can never have enough porta johns at a race start line. Come early if you are nervous about lines.
⁃ The bibs and their numbers are given in order of arrival, first come first served basis. They have no names on them.
⁃ It's a timed race and the bibs have chips in them.
⁃ The bibs have tear-away tags for race shirt, bag drop off, 1 meal ticket and 2 drink tickets. The 'meal' after the race consisted of a hamburger and pulled pork sandwich. Very good. The 'drink' was either a can of soda or beer. The beer was 'tap beer' but not bad tasting at all.
⁃ The announcer did a splendid job! His instructions were very precise and all people knew where they were supposed to be.
⁃ This race is part of the 'Minnesota running series' and if you run all 4 races, you get to 'win' a running jacket.
⁃ The half begins at 8.00 am. It began promptly. The relay starts at 7.30 am, the 10 miler starts at 7.45 am, so they stagger the races well enough so that runners of different races are not congested. The race crowd is optimum.
⁃ The half begins at Spruce street and snakes it's way along W Main Street before going to Burandt Blvd and Minnesota 5 For 3 miles before coming back to the start line. After that, the race basically runs around lake Waconia.
There is a small hill on mile 5 but on mile 9, the hills are kind of steep. They will slow down but the most elite runner a little bit so just be aware. It's not a flat course but it's challenging in a good way.
⁃ they do have Gatorade and water on mile 3, 5, 10 and 12 I think. Enough to hydrate you if you don't want to carry a water/ fluid bottle. The paper cups are more than enough and a lot of water stations were manned by volunteers and the local high school football team.
⁃ After mile 4, you run on a dirt trail (not asphalt or concrete) for a while. Not a big deal but you run single file, unless you want to run in the grass. On a rainy day (thank goodness it started drizzling later on) you might need water proof running shoes like goretex shoes or Zoot Solana ACR shoes. I always carry 'waterproof' shoes just in case.
⁃ The crowds along the way are awesome. The locals and others cheer you on pretty much on all mile markers and in most areas of the race. The weather also allowed for many spectators and fans. Look out for encouraging and cheeky hand signs!
⁃ It's a very scenic route as you are running around a scenic lake. For locals, it might seem ordinary but for someone from out of state, the lake views are outstanding! After mile 6, you get off the paved road and run on a 'dirt' road until mile 8 or so. Beautiful houses and if it rains, you may need better waterproof shoes. The 'dirt trail' was firm and not watery at all. No feeling of discomfort while running at all.
⁃ Once you get to the finish line, you have a finisher medal given to you for your respective race. The finisher's medal is very good quality and is also engraved at the back.
⁃ They have bananas, granola bars and water for runners at the finish line. They had a lot of refreshments that never ran out, especially for slower runners who always seem to have refreshments run out for them.
⁃ They send you your finish times via email. You can also view the results for all the runners in the race.
⁃ After the finish line, runners walk downhill for like 0.4 to 0.5 miles to Lola's Lakehouse. Just outside the restaurant is where you pick up your hamburger or pulled pork sandwich and two drinks by redeeming your tear-off tickets. It's a relatively huge restaurant at the lakefront that lends its name to the race. Perfect ambience and a place you would bring your family on race-day or any other day.
⁃ It's a highly recommended race for anyone wanting to experience a well organized race. Small enough to be well organized and have fewer chinks but large enough to have many runners and cheering squads to encourage you during the race.
⁃ For those from out of town/state and fans of Prince, his Paisley Park studios are in Chanhassen, which is on your way to Minneapolis from Waconia.
⁃ If you are doing the 50 half marathons in 50 states, this would be a perfect half-marathon to check off the state of Minnesota. I spoke to a few runners who were using it as a preparation run for the grandmas marathon in Duluth, MN on June 18th, 2016.

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(2016)
"Very Steep Hills! Not For The Faint Hearted!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

The various reasons to run the Washington DC Rock & Roll marathon.
1. As a marathon in March, it is a perfect race for many of those (like myself) who live in the snowy Northeast, Midwest and Northwest respectively. A March race forces you/one to keep training through the winter months instead of hibernating, keeping you well trained and toned throughout the year, meaning that when majority of the races in Spring start, you shall be ahead of those who didn't train through the winter. It was a relatively cool 50 degrees on average in 2016 but it was below freezing some years before so just beware.
2. If you are doing the 50 marathons in 50 states challenge, this is probably one of the only two marathons held in Washington DC proper (The other is the Bikila memorial marathon in September) that you can use to cross the District of Columbia off your list if that's your wish! You can also pay for a 3 city 'Global Tour pass' which enables you to run for 3 races in any rock 'n' roll event worldwide and the 'unlimited' global tour pass which allows you to run in any of the rock 'n' roll races worldwide. This may be a money saver in the 50 marathons in 50 states challenge instead of paying for individual fees for individual city races.
3. The capital city is a must-visit for out-of-towners and residents alike. A runner could take advantage of this marathon to visit the White House and the many monuments and historical sites.
4. As a large city, accommodation, transport to and from the city and other amenities are available. It is an expensive city to stay, travel and dine in, so be warned.
5. It is one of the more picturesque races you shall run in. You get to start in downtown DC and run through the streets and see the monuments while running. You also get to run through some DC neighborhoods and then finish close to the DC Armory, close to the soccer stadium.
6. As a rock 'n' roll event, they have musical entertainment at various places during the race itself and there is entertainment at the finish line tent.
7. They offer a finisher jacket in addition to a finisher medal, which is quite nice.

Reasons not to run the Washington DC Rock & Roll Marathon.
1. This is the only major reason I could think of. It's a very hilly race! Its the hilliest race I have ever run! You need to see and run those hills to experience it. This race caters for the half-marathoners. Full marathoners are an afterthought. This is definitely an ironman worthy run if that's your type of thing. The hills from mile 16 and 22 are Everest steep! It's not the ideal race to try and get a PR (personal record) or BQ (Boston Qualifier) as your finishing time shall be significantly slower than your other finishing times. There is another race in Washington DC (Bikila memorial marathon) that is held in September which may be less hilly.
2. Full marathoners and half marathoners start at the same time, slightly contesting the start line. I don't mind running with half marathoners, some people do. However, the corrals solve this problem somewhat.

The Expo.

⁃ If you can, (and are traveling from out of state/town) drop your bags in the hotel room/host's house before coming to the expo. The expo is quite exhausting if you bring in your heavy luggage. (Like I did) There is also security at the entrance that checks the bags and the security lines are long.
⁃ Don't try to come late on Friday evening. (The last day) Get your bib as early as possible. The lines were impossibly long on Friday evening and traffic towards the DC armory and parking was a nightmare!
⁃ If you are raising money via St Jude's and made a pledge, you pick your bib from a separate St Jude's booth. As I was passing by, I saw a runner who hadn't fully paid up their contribution pledge and they wouldn't release their bib until all the pledges were paid off.

Getting to the expo.
The expo is held on two days, Thursday and Friday. I went to the expo on Friday, March 11, 2016. You can get to the expo in quite a number of ways; driving (and looking for parking, very rare and expensive in DC) taxi/über/lyft or using the Metro Bus/subway system. Use travel apps (google maps, maps on Apple/Android) to map out your route for Thursday and Friday (but not Saturday as the metro operates differently on race day) if using the DC metro or bus system. Buy a smart card and load it with $20-25 (more if you'll do more traveling) if you are just going to the expo, hotel room/home, starting line next day and from the finish line back to your hotel/home. It's easier than fumbling for cash and in some stations, you might not be able to get in with cash and without the card. It simplifies your life. It's easier to use the metro subway but you can also use the bus. I took bus #96 from Union Station and bus # 97 from the Armory, which buses bring you within 3 minutes of the entrance to the armory. The exit is 'Stadium Armory Station', junction of 19th St and Capitol Street stop. The stop is a big stop. From Union Station, take the buses to 'Capitol Heights' station and from 'Station/Armory Station' take the bus to Union Station. The DC subway uses a system where you pay at the end of the ride at the subway exit.

This is the largest expo I have ever been part of. It is held in the DC Armory, the size of a football field or two! The expo is quite organized. This is where you get reminded that the Rock 'n' Roll is a for profit organization. Insurance companies, car companies, athletic apparel companies, sports nutrition, food vendors, you name it, all vendors are represented. Some people take offense to this type of commercialism but it doesn't faze me one bit. The positive side is that you can purchase all your running gear and refueling nutritional products here.

All full marathon bibs and goodie bags have to be picked up on Thursday and Friday as there is no Saturday race day pickup. There are friendly staff members ready to direct you to the spot you want to go to.

The goodie bag. Picking up the marathon bib and bag is really easy. You go downstairs and pick up the bib number. Bring your ID and your signed completion sheet that was sent to your final confirmation email a few days before the race. Once you check your bib number, pick up the bib and pins and pick up the clear marathon bag that already has your t-shirt in there. You can change your corral placement while there. The t-shirt was an official Brooks t-shirt which could be used in your regular training runs as it is moisture wicking. The bag has quite a number of fliers/pamphlets and a few tiny sachet samples. Once you are done with the bib and t-shirt pickup from downstairs, you then go up the steps and get to the expo proper.

Getting to the marathon on Saturday morning

*Make sure that, if possible, you have a running pouch/belt/armband that can accommodate your Metro card/Smartcard, hotel/car keys, credit/debit card, money and your ID. This is because, after the race, you'll need your ID to get your free/complimentary beer at the finish line. You'll also need a place to store your various cards to use when going to the start line (metro card) and so forth.

⁃ Public transportation. The DC metro is probably the quickest way to get to the start (it was 14th and Constitution avenue) 'Federal Triangle' stop on the DC Metro. Most people were catching the metro that Saturday morning. There may have been a change of schedule to have the metro trains run earlier than usual in response to the race.
⁃ catching a cab/uber/lyft or driving to the start line is very tricky. Make sure you start your journey way before time. Many streets close to the start and finish line are closed and security is on full alert at the start and finish lines. You may have to walk farther than usual if this is your preferred mode of transportation.

Checkpoint, dressing, clear bag and corral

⁃ Security in DC is quite beefed up on this day. The police are everywhere, a reassuring thought especially after the Boston marathon terrorist attack. By 6.00 am when I got there, the security points were already opened and the security staff were only allowing the clear bags and checking them. Once past the checking point, you will have to walk a bit far, more than a block away/half mile to the UPS trucks where the bags are stored. Some bananas were on the way for those who may like to load up on their carbs and potassium. Once you get to the UPS trucks, your last name initial will determine which truck your bag will be placed in by the UPS staff. You just need to tear off one of the tags from the bib to the goodie bag for identification/location purposes. There was a row of porta Johns close to the start point but as in all major races with a multitude of people, there will be long lines, so come early if you are the kind of people who use porta Johns a lot or need to use it before the race. Please bring/carry your own tissue paper just in case.
⁃ Dress up warmly for the time before the marathon. It was about 40-50 degrees in 2016. Use old clothing, an old hoodie/sweatshirt and pants that you can discard on the roadside while running. They donate discarded clothing to charity. On the course, I saw expensive brand name 'new' or slightly used clothing discarded and I felt bad for the people who had discarded the newish clothes. I think the generally agreed upon 'Dress up for the race and add 10-20 degrees' applies here. The temperatures in 2016 never went above 50, which made for perfect running weather!

⁃ Corrals. During registration, the runner chooses a corral based on their estimated finish time. (You can change your corral at the expo. This enables there to be spacing as it is a huge event with an estimated 20,000 plus runners. If you are trying to chase a time or don't want to be held behind by slower runners, you can be at the very front of your coral. As you run the race, you'll realize that being at the front of the coral might not really matter as I'll explain in a moment...

The start upto the 13.1...

The race started on time and the announcements were clear and concise. Due to the large amount of runners, depending on what coral you are placed, you might not start racing for several minutes as they space up the runners. They don't enforce the no earphones/headphones rule. I don't think that it is an issue anymore, used to be an issue in some races a few years ago...

The start of the race from the National Museum of American History takes you towards the Washington Monument onto Rawlings park. On Mile 2, you are past the Reflecting pool and you can see the Lincoln memorial. You then cross the Potomac River on the Arlington Memorial Bridge as you get to mile 3 for an out and back. Mile 4 finds you on the Watergate complex past the JFK Center for performing arts. Once you approach mile 5, there is a steep hill on Rock Creek Parkway that will sap quite a bit of your energy and slow you down. From mile 6 to 8, you start approaching the DC neighborhoods and on mile 8 you are in Columbia Heights. The crowds get larger here and they provide the emotional boost, much needed after the mile 5 hill. Mile 8 and 9 takes you past Pleasant Plains and Mile 10 brings you back to downtown DC, with the Capitol Building in front of your view way ahead. It's a long straight stretch where you can gauge your running and determine if your pace is working well. Mile 11 brings you close to the Washington Union station and then you head off to Lincoln park for mile 12.

The 13.1 to the 22 mile

Mile 13 takes you towards the State Capitol building. Mile 14 finds you close to Folger park. The scenic route is over for now and you enter the more gritty roads of the marathon with fewer crowds. Mile 15 brings you to the Nationals Park before taking you to another out and back for mile 16 and 17. This place has some industrial look to it and you do meet runners who are ahead of you and runners who are behind you. Both a source of heartache and solace.

After mile 17, you cross the Anacostia River to go to the Anacostia park after mile 18. Get ready for the toughest part of the marathon, a dream killer, where your PR and BQ dreams come to die! The hills are so steep many runners simply choose to walk up the hills! Once you are done running (or walking) up the hills, you then come to another in and out at mile 20, close to the river into the park. I don't get why they make these hills part of the marathon route. Maybe they want to give the marathon a 'tough' image, being that the marathon was formerly the National marathon and was associated with the military. You will find quite a number of military banners and a lot of support for the military by spectators.

Mile 22 to Mile 26.2

Mile 22 to the finish line is an absolute test of strength, both physical and psychological, after the punishing hills. Mile 23 cuts through the Fort Dupont park and as you approach mile 24, you approach the Greenway neighborhood. A straight stretch takes you to mile 25 where you run a circle and now approach the Anacostia River towards the finish line. The crowds are larger here after running through the various parks and once past the river, the Robert Kennedy Stadium (DC United soccer stadium) is in sight at mile 26. The finish is close to the DC armory, a familiar sight, where the expo was held the day/s before the marathon.

Treats After The Marathon...

Once past the finish line, there is an official photographer who takes a post run picture of you. A volunteer hands you a finisher medal. Ask one of them to take a picture of you if you have been running with your smartphone and you do not have anyone close to the finish line, just like I did. As you keep walking from the finish line, you are offered bottled water, Gatorade and chocolate milk for rehydration. There are bananas and pretzels too.

It's then time to collect your marathon clear bag from the UPS trucks. They place the bags under your last name and bib number so the bags are easy to retrieve.
⁃ once you pick up your goodie bag, you then go back to the main tent to pick up your marathon finisher jacket. You are allowed to wear a sample one before picking your jacket but for some reason, they don't allow you to exchange the jacket once you have picked it up. You have to tear off a tab from your bib to get the jacket.
⁃ There is also a place where they give you a free alcoholic beer. You need ID and be over 21 to enter the enclosed place. They are very strict about the ID. No ID no entry!
⁃ There is a lot of entertainment at the finish line with featured bands playing live music.
⁃ Leaving for home/hotel is easy. Since you were at the expo the day or two before, you shall use the same station to go back to your respective hotel. Use the smartcard if possible. The metro is crowded but you'll be in the company of other runners so there will not be any awkwardness. There are regular trains so the wait is not as bad.

The Race Photos

The race photos were processed by marathonphoto. The race photos were ready after about 3-4 days which was very impressive. The photos are pricey and budget wise are not for the faint hearted but the memories are well worth it. The photos capture you at various stages of the race and at the finish line.

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(2016)
"Mostly Flat Race, Sea Level. Big City Race But Small Country Feel To It."
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

⁃ Please note. (as explained to me by a local) The fact that the race starts in Charleston and ends in North Charleston is due to (mainly) the city of Charleston asking for their police and medical personnel to be paid for the time they spend on marathon activities. (As opposed to the personnel of North Charleston providing the services for free, so I heard!) Some people complain about the fact that the marathon doesn't pass through the exotic streets of downtown Charleston (a bland, unexciting race) but this is entirely not the organizers' fault. Big City, big city politics. Many city marathons run through 'rough, depopulated and desolate' stretches and a seasoned (meaning having run more than one!) marathoner would know that by now. I also have this uncanny feeling that the bourgeoisie don't want you running in their neighborhoods and they probably have a say in marathon routes. Can't please everyone! In any case, all marathons have stages where they'll have 'filler roads' that are not ordinarily used by traffic or have light traffic to reduce congestion when a race of such magnitude is going on. 'You are not in Boston anymore!'
⁃ I watched the video of the entire 26.2 mile course that was on their website (and YouTube I think) From the video, I could tell that the route was not taking you through the scenic downtown Charleston that they show on brochures but I was mentally ready for that. Watch the video to get an idea of the race and where the runners pass through so that you may make the decision as to whether the race is 'scenic' enough for you...
⁃ Bring along sunglasses (for the first 3 miles and more, as you race next to the water and the sun shining brightly on your face) and shoes with good cushioning. Some parts of the race have a pebble like feel to them (for the full marathon) and I was thankful for the good sole cushioning. If you usually don't run with, or accustomed to minimalist shoes, this is not the race to do it.

The various reasons to run the Charleston marathon.
1. ALL The proceeds from the marathon are used to fund the arts in Charleston public schools, a very noble and selfless cause especially in these days of non-existent funding for the arts and dying art forms in the USA.
2. As a marathon in January, it is a perfect race for many of those (like myself) who live in the snowy Northeast, Midwest and Northwest respectively. A January race forces you/one to keep training through the winter months instead of hibernating, keeping you well trained and toned throughout the year, meaning that when majority of the races in Spring start, you shall be ahead of those who didn't train through the winter. It was a balmy 60 degrees in 2016 but it was below freezing some years before so just beware.
3. It is a relatively inexpensive race to register for and Charleston is a relative inexpensive city to visit. For the winter months, most marathons are mostly in the warm states of Florida, California and Texas. If you are traveling from far away, the races in Florida and California are more expensive to register for and the flight, accommodation and rental car fees are higher than those found in Charleston for the most part. If you are racing on a budget, keep this in mind. A man of modest means like me jumped at the opportunity. Book early for reasonable deals.
4. If you are doing the 50 marathons in 50 states challenge, this is the perfect marathon to cross the state of South Carolina aka South Cackalacky off your list!
5. At sea level, ideal running weather and a relatively flat course, this is the perfect race to PR and BQ in.
6. They have a 60 mile bike race for cyclists on the Sunday after the main running road races on Saturday, which is a unique and additional attraction.
7. They allow bib transfers (for a fee) and same-day early morning race registration! I have never come across a race that does this. In case you get injured, a loved one or family friend can run in your spot! You can jet in/drive in and sign up for the race that day! Amazing!
8. It's a big city race with a small country feeling to it. You need to be there to experience it.
9. It's held on the Martin Luther King Jr weekend, so, since the Monday after the race is a holiday, (assuming you have Monday off) you have the extra day to recuperate, tour Charleston or volunteer on the actual Monday in events in Charleston. A win win in my opinion.

Traveling to Charleston

⁃ Travel arrangements are very personal and differ from one person to the next. For the out-of-towners, if flying into Charleston, the Charleston International Airport is the main airport and they have car rental services right beside the main airport buildings which you have to walk to. (When it's raining, it's not pleasant, so be aware) I purchased a vacation package from Priceline which covered airfare, car rental and hotel accommodations. This is the cheapest way to do it. (I think)
⁃ There is Amtrak, especially for us folks from the NorthEast and Greyhound for those who use buses.
⁃ Alternatively, if using public transportation is your thing, or you watch your carbon footprint, after you get to Charleston, there is a public transit bus that will get you from the airport to Burke High school. You can get the information from google maps or Apple Maps and see the schedules for the buses. There are a couple of hotels about half a mile from the start line and many runners had booked these hotels due to the ease of walking from the hotels, to the expo or the start line respectively. These hotels are the Charleston Marriott, downtown Charleston Comfort Inn and Hilton Garden Inn respectively.
⁃ I had carried a couple of GU gels (about 5) and salt stick capsules through security and there was no problem. You can get your gels from the expo or if you use GNC products, there is a GNC store in Charleston in case you don't want to deal with airport security throwing away your prized gels and protein shakes!

The Expo

⁃ The expo was small but very well organized. Everything was within reach. It was held at Burke High school in Charleston (on Friday, January 15 2016, the day before the marathon) which is where the marathon starts. There were various vendors at the expo, mainly local. Some of the vendors included Community coffee, local Apples, Talbot juice, cheese, grocery store, xrcel energy drink and common fit personal trainers. The previous year's running gear was on sale at a discount just in case you misplaced yours or just needed a souvenir. I saw individual vendors selling Running buddy pouches, GU gels, body glide, shoe inserts, running gear and so on. If you don't have cash, all have card readers for your debit/credit card purchases.
⁃ They had a local band doing cover songs!
⁃ They have a pre-race dinner between 5-8pm on Friday, which caters for both herbivores and carnivores. It's priced reasonably at $10 (or $7 online prior to the date)

The Marathon

Mile 1 to mile 13.1

⁃ All runners (half and full marathoners) start at the same time so the start is crowded. At the start, they have pacers who carry placards up in the air showing you expected finish times, from 3.30-3.45 full marathon finish time with 15 minute time increments till 5.00 or 5.30, for both the half and the full. The placards are visibly high and hard to miss. The pacers have pacer t-shirts on them. (Kudos to those pacers for carrying those placards for 26.2 miles!) They have no corrals like the bigger races so if running fast or keeping ahead of the pack is your thing, then keep to the front. The first 3-5 miles are a bit crowded but I don't think there is a big city marathon where you shall avoid a crowded beginning. Mile 1 starts from Burke High School and curves through Lockwood drive and Murray Boulevard, with the waterfront on the right. After mile 3, the race runs from the White Point gardens through the city of Charleston on King Street before inching its way forward towards North Charleston. As the race approaches North Charleston, there are industrial areas that would probably put off someone out to enjoy scenic views while running the race. No big deal here.
⁃ From mile 6-8, you pass through some North Charleston neighborhoods. Not all houses here have a white picket fence but a marathon should take you round neighborhoods that don't have million dollar houses. There are thousands of runners and there is nothing to be 'afraid' of when running through some of these neighborhoods. Very friendly people who are cheering you on I might add.
⁃ As the runners approach mile 8 or 9, there is a slight incline on Viaduct Street, not really steep. Once you are past the incline and bridge, the half marathoners run straight and the full marathoners keep left on their way to the Marina and the Federal facility. This might be discouraging to some runners as one sees elite runners running back to the 'main course' to join the rest of the runners while you have quite a bit to go. Never mind, there are slower runners than you and that might act as a 'motivation' to let you know that you are not doing too badly. The energy gels are to be found on mile 10 and there are water stations. I learned from runners to create a v-shaped wedge/funnel on the paper cup that contains the Gatorade or water to have the water go into your mouth perfectly with no spills! You have no idea how handy this tip is. You can always tell I have just completed a race by my Gatorade stained clothes! There are places that had a puddle of water on your way to (and back from) the marina and runners' shoes did get wet. It had however rained the day before.

Mile 13.1 to 26.2
⁃ This is where the fun and agony begins! This is a very desolate race at this point and its devoid of the mainly huge crowds you would find in, say, the Philadelphia (insert mega city here) marathon. The only people you'll see are your fellow runners, volunteers manning water stations and police and medical personnel. Once you are past the marina and Federal facility, you trudge on to N Hobson Avenue, close to Hunley Observation Laboratories. You shall be running through mostly industrial buildings and there shall be a couple of rail tracks that you shall have to run over. The rail tracks are not raised and it's no big deal. On mile 18, you shall get onto Buist Avenue where you shall meet runners faster than you running opposite you 3 or so miles before the finish line. You'll hit Park Circle before coming to the Academic Magnet High School on mile 20 and go round the school as you go back to the residential neighborhoods. As you approach mile 25, the scenery changes and you are exposed to a beautiful water view on Riverfront park. The stretch is about half a mile long and you are back to Noisette Blvd as you head towards N Charleston High School for the finish.

The Finish. Post run refreshments and entertainment.

⁃ once you have hobbled to the finish line, your name is announced and a finisher's medal hang on your neck. The finisher's medal was an attractive medal that featured the art theme of the marathon itself, which was unique. The marathon t-shirt was also emblazoned with the same art. If you run with a smartphone like I do, ask the nice volunteers to take a pic of you at the finish line if you don't have someone (family/friend) to take it for you. This is for memories' sake.
⁃ There is an array of hydration options at the water station. There is water, Gatorade, beet juice, Coke and other types of soda, (never seen soda on offer after a race before) muffins, bananas, apples and so on. Once you are past the water stations, there are various tents with various refreshments. They include a delicious small bowl of shrimp grits, beer on tap (Samuel Adams cold frost and a grape flavor) and orange juice and champagne, redeemable from the stubs that are on your race bib. They also have peanuts on offer, both original non-flavored and chili flavored, which I enjoyed taking out of their shells.
⁃ One attractive theme of the races is the entertainment on offer at the finish line. There were various bands that were playing and these bands were very good, playing everything from country music, R&B, hip hop, country and pop music. Many were playing cover songs and I am sure some were playing original songs. There was also some bouncing castle thing for the kids that involved Velcro tape and kids jumping into the bouncing castle and sticking themselves on it!
⁃ There were various tents with sponsors of the race and most were manned to provide information about the products on offer.
⁃ There were announcements by the master of ceremonies announcing the 3rd place finishers, runners up and winners in the 5K, half marathon and marathon. Various winners in the various age group categories were also announced. The mayor of North Charleston was also present and participating.
⁃ They had places to shower at the school at the finish line and also at the start line. You can put your bath accessories in your race bag, which you can use to shower either at the start or finish line high school showers respectively.
⁃ There was a shuttle service (school buses) that was ferrying runners from the finish line (in North Charleston) to the start line at Burke High school in Charleston. It was very efficient and ran every 30 minutes or so. There were no waiting lines.
⁃ Remember the bags that you left at the start line in the UHaul trailer? They bring the bags to the finish line. I made the mistake of getting onto the bus thinking I was going to find the items at the start line and had to take the same shuttle back to the finish line to retrieve the items.
⁃ Some restaurants and eateries have discounts for runners on Saturday evening. You have to find out from the race organizers or social media.

Chip times and the running Apps and smartwatches comparisons
⁃ Amazingly, the chip times were being broadcast in real time to your (the runner's) email account. They showed the chip times at the 11.8 mile mark, 20 mile mark and 26.2 mile finish line mark. Maybe this may stop a potential future race bandit? Hopefully!
⁃ There were also loudspeakers that were broadcasting the amount of time one had spent on the road. This was helpful for those with no gadgets to tell time. However, many people looked like they had some sort of stop watch/smartwatch or were running with their phones on their armbands. (With running apps running most likely)

⁃ I primarily use Runkeeper from my phone and I have a Fitbit. Runkeeper showed the total distance to be 26.79 miles (showed my Philadelphia marathon distance to be 26.70 and Delaware 26.47) I also use the Walkjogrun app just in case the Runkeeper app crashes and it showed a total of 26.67 miles (26.47 in Philadelphia and 26.30 in Delaware) Two separate runners with Garmin had 26.47 and 26.42 respectively.

Race Photographs

⁃ Big races have expensive photographs! That's just the way it is. I used to believe that paying $25 for ONE digital photograph was outrageous, but I have realized that these are once in a lifetime opportunities and I need to memorialize them somehow. They claim that, even when they bring the prices down, people don't pay for the pics, so they charge a lot to cover for all the 'lost' pics that people won't buy. They also argue that camera equipment is pricey, they have to hire numerous cameramen/women and sift through the pics (using software of course) to match the pics to you. The choice is yours. I have made the painful decision to add $25 to my race budget as I feel that the finish line photo is very important to me. If you have a person positioned at the finish line, then maybe you don't need the official finish line photo.
⁃ Marathonphoto was the company that was taking the pictures. I saw an active lady taking pictures at the start line for anyone interested. I may be wrong (I ran the full marathon) but I saw none of the photographers on the way. They had photographers strategically lined up at the finish line and all my photos seemed to be from the finish line. They had one photographer who was positioned perfectly and he/she captured the finish line banner and the finish time. That picture was perfect I have to admit! Maybe that's why the photographs were ready and released so quickly! (race day was on the 16th, Saturday and the photos were ready on Tuesday 19th, 3 days after. The Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE marathon photos took a week before they were ready) I know photography is hard business but they should have at least had a photographer at the scenic 24-25 mile marker close to the water at Riverfront park where the bridge I-526 was in the foreground. A waterfront photo would have looked marvelous! They also needed photographers when runners ran through the streets of Charleston. If you compare photographs of the Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE marathon (the 2 I have run so far) you do see that there were various photographers at various points in the course. Bunching up a few photographers at the finish line and taking many similar photos just means that there are less desirable photos to buy, which means less sales.

I would run it again!

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(2015)
"Well Organized Race, Few Hills, Overall Great Experience."
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

⁃ The Expo. The expo is quite organized. It's at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, at 11th and Arch street, which is close to City Hall and the Reading Terminal market. It's held on the Friday and Saturday before the races. (8K, 1/2 and full marathon) Since the 8K is on Saturday, you have to pick up the 8K bibs on Friday as there is no race day pickup. All 1/2 and full marathon bibs and goodie bags have to be picked up on Saturday as there is no Sunday race day pickup. Street parking can be hard to find but I believe garage parking is available in nearby garages. The El Subway (Market Frankford blue line) runs 2-3 blocks away on Market street. (get off at 11th and Market either way) If you are using the Orange (Broad Street) Line, there is a free interchange at City Hall) and the Convention Center is easily accessible via public transportation via local SEPTA buses or the subway.
If you have been to the Convention Center before, especially for the Auto Show or Flower show, the marathon expo does not feel as overwhelming and everything is on one floor and within easy reach. You can actually be in and out of there in 10-15 minutes, depending on crowds and your interest in checking out the merchandise on offer. There are friendly staff members ready to direct you to the spot you want to go to.

The goodie bag. Picking up the marathon bib and bag is really easy. Once you check your bib number, pick up the bib and pins and pick up the clear marathon bag that already has your t-shirt in there. You can change your corral color while there but the staff just used color sharpies to do it. Nothing fancy. The Tshirt size in the bag was right. The bag has a few fliers/pamphlets. At least for the full marathon, there was a small tube of Tom's toothpaste, Advil, A can of beet juice, a flier welcoming you to free engraving of your finisher medal at Dick's Sporting Goods (the one at King of Prussia, PA) plus $10 off $50 purchase. The engraving was between 2 pm and 6 pm the Sunday afternoon of the marathon and the following Monday, day after the marathon from 5.30 pm to 9 pm. I went on Monday evening and it took 1 hour of waiting. Full marathon finishers could have at most 7 characters plus the finish time engraved. Half marathoners I think had only their initials and times engraved. That was a nice feature which I liked, a personalized medal! There were also invitations to various races via fliers in the goodie bag, for example the Philadelphia Love Run half marathon, the Brooklyn (I think) half, the Philadelphia hot chocolate half and the Kentucky derby half and full marathons. There was a speaking podium where various speakers were listed to speak at certain times both on Friday and Saturday. There were quite a few vendors there. Goretex was the main 'vendor' with a big booth that had their Goretex shoes, as it is the marathon main sponsor. The two brands I saw were Brooks and Asics. You could test run the shoes there but the vendor assistants wrote a card with your preferred shoe name and size. They don't sell the shoes there as stocking the shoes there would be cumbersome. They have a small puddle of water where you can test the shoes for their waterproof worthiness and I did. They also have a 'photo booth' where you could take a picture with the Franklin Parkway and Goretex logo in the background. Other vendors included Sellers of shoes (I saw mostly Nike and Brooks) running gear (shorts, shirts, gloves, hats, thermal winter hats, socks, nighttime reflective tape etc) and GU brand gels. Surprisingly, the official 'Boom' gels that were on offer at the actual marathon course were not on sale. Also, a company called Roosports had an attractive pouch which clamps, via magnets, to your running shorts and can firmly hold a cellphone,keys, gels, cash and cards and other few small items. I bought one on impulse after I had sworn to go in and out of the expo without purchasing anything. It looks cumbersome if you are going to be retrieving stuff from it during the run as it hangs on the band of your running shorts. Another worthy vendor was Janji, which sold running shorts, shirts and pants whose sale supports various charities worldwide, for example, Peru, Ethiopia, Kenya and Haiti. I purchased a pair of shorts. They didn't have my size but the founder, a nice guy called David, took my information and promised to ship it for the price he was selling the items at the expo with free shipping. Couldn't have asked for a better deal.

Getting to the marathon on Sunday morning

⁃ Public transportation. I am a regular user of public transportation and I was worried about how to get there, as roads to the Philadelphia Museum of Art had been closed for the marathon. The marathon website is scant on details and the SEPTA local transport website just lists the routes affected, not the actual detours. So, I called the SEPTA customer service number +1 (215) 580-7800 and the friendly representative gave me the actual detours. Essentially, the best bus to take would be the SEPTA bus 33, which runs through 15th street and JFK Blvd, next to City Hall which is a subway stop for both the Orange Broad Street Line and the Blue Market Frankford Line. The 33 bus is the one for 23rd and Venango and is clearly labeled at the front and side. The bus passes by 15th and JFK at 4.15 am, 4.49 am and 5.29 am. I boarded the 5.29 bus. I was relieved to meet a few marathoners on the bus and made new friends. I was there early but I was too afraid of getting to the race too late. Request the bus driver to drop you at 20th and vine, as the bus goes on 20th street onwards during the detour. You can also take the 38 bus as per the SEPTA representative but call to get the exact detour. This is an excellent stop as the marathon checkin point is close to the Museum steps at N 25th street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where the security checkpoint was. It's 0.7 miles or so (maybe less) and takes 10 to 14 minutes to walk to the checkpoint. Way better than walking from 15th and JFK or 30th street station.
⁃ By car. I actually saw cars drive on Pennsylvania Avenue and if you have someone dropping you, you can ask them to drop you right at the check point if you come early enough. A cab may drop you there if you arrive before 6 am. There is absolutely no parking anywhere nearby and I would recommend taking a cab there or walking instead of looking for parking. Too risky especially on such an important day.

Checkpoint, dressing, clearbag and corral

⁃ By 5.40 ish when I got there, the security points were already opened and the security staff were only allowing the clear bags and checking them. There were a few portable toilets at the beginning of the checkpoint but obviously, there were long lines that got longer as the race start time got closer. There was a row of potty Johns on the right of the green corral placement but these had longer lines as the start time got closer. The trick is to get there early and use the portable toilets before the lines start, before 6 am. Please bring/carry your own tissue paper. There was tissue paper but if it runs out in the Potta John, you might be in a bind!This shall sound funny, awkward or even inappropriate but, I heard a runner fret that they had wiped off their anti-chafe balm when they used the bathroom! So, wipe with care! Once checked, they tagged the clear bag with a yellow paper to show that the bag had been checked. Since I came early, it was a quick checkin. The lines built up as the race start got closer.
⁃ Dress up warmly for the time before the marathon. It was about 50 degrees but it was chillier than usual for some as a slight wind was blowing. Use old clothing, an old hoodie/sweatshirt and pants that you can discard on the left (I think) while running. They donate discarded clothing to charity. On the course, I saw expensive brand name 'new' or slightly used clothing discarded and I felt bad for the people who had discarded the newish clothes. I think the generally agreed upon 'Dress up for the race and add 10-20 degrees' applies here. Even if it felt like it was in the 30s, most people were dressed like they were running in 40 or 50 degree weather. Have a regular running shirt and shorts, unless the temperatures dip too low. The temperatures in 2015 never went above 48-50, which made for perfect running weather!
⁃ There were UPS trucks that were at the green corral placement area which were used to hold the clear bags for the runners. What I did is bring the clear bag and at about 6.30 am, removed my hoodie and sweatpants and put them in the clearbag. The bib they gave you at the expo has a tag that you tear out that has your bib number. This tag is what you attach to your clearbag and give it to the UPS attendants. They store them by last name and are very easy to retrieve after the race.
⁃ Corrals. During registration, the runner chooses a color coded corral based on their estimated finish time. (You can change your corral at the expo where the staff just marks your bib with the corresponding color of the corral you wish to change to.) This enables there to be spacing as it is a huge event with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 runners. If you are trying to chase a time or don't want to be held behind by slower runners, you can be at the very front of your coral. As you run the race, you'll realize that being at the front of the coral might not really matter as I'll explain in a moment...

The start upto the 13.1...

The race started 3 minutes late due to a traffic accident. No big deal. Due to the large amount of runners, depending on what coral you are placed, you might not start racing for several minutes as they space up the runners. They don't enforce the no earphones/headphones rule, which I liked. I run with music. Some hate running with music. Your call.

The start of the race from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway leads you towards the Ben Franklin bridge as you pass the Constitution center and the Liberty Bell. If you are not elite, you shall be in a swarm of humanity as the half marathoners and the full marathoners are all running at the same time. I was worried about bumping into people but if you were honest about your corral placement, the runners shall mostly be running at your pace. In fact, for the first 3 miles, I ran below my pace, which is what running experts advise you to do. If you are feeling constrained, fear not as the slightly long stretch on Colombus Blvd on Penn's Landing allows you to catch up on lost time if that is your goal. The Delaware River is to your left.
⁃ once you are past Colombus Blvd, you start gliding towards South Philadelphia via Washington street. The first water station is here and there is a bit of bumping here. The Gatorade cups come first, followed by water and then there is the last group of volunteers who hand over Gatorade cups for those who missed the Gatorade. Very well thought out. The Gatorade here tastes like real Gatorade, unlike the watered down version I have had the displeasure of swigging at another (cough Wilmington, Delaware, cough) marathon The streets there are a bit narrow but the supporters are loud and off the chain. Some hand out small Gatorade bottles and cleenex tissues. I took a cleenex tissue as I had a slight cold and running nose. The race then veers into the Downey's pub section on South Street as you ready yourself to get to Chestnut street. Chestnut street is where you can really catch up if the huge running crowd held you back as the stretch goes upto University city on 31st and Chestnut. The cheering crowds are huge in Chestnut street. Don't run too fast here despite the temptation to. Don't be discouraged by the sea of runners in front of you. There is an even larger crowd behind you.
⁃ Once you go to Chestnut past the Post Office and close to 30th street station, you make a left and go towards the Philadelphia Zoo. The route has a slight gradient but not too crazy. Once you get to the Zoo, you shall then begin the first serious hill of the marathon. For those who have run the Wilmington DE marathon, it is similar to the hill one encounters on miles 16-18. You know that terrible hill. The Philadelphia one is not as steep but it is deceptive. It's slightly longer. Save your energy here. Don't run too fast. I practiced running hills and this helped me on that hill.
⁃ Downhill. Once you have gone up the hill after the Philadelphia zoo, you shall run on some flat ground before running towards the Schuylkill River. There is a long downhill run which goes beneath the I-76. I wish I had trained to run long downhills. I didn't really know how to run this and kept going with the flow. So, if you are reading this before the marathon run, please practice on how to run downhill, not only uphill. Once you are done with the downhill, you shall run towards the river where the course makes a u turn and turns sharply towards the Museum of Art. Here, you shall come face to face with people who are in front of you. If you are running the full marathon, worry not as many of those runners are running the half. At least, convince yourself of that. The Schuylkill River run with the Boat Row houses on your left is beautiful and the road is wide. For fans of rowing, this is where the famous regattas are held. More regattas and boat races are held at the Boathouse Row than any other city in the Nation. You can adjust your pace here as well. The end for the half marathon is coming up as you come close to the Museum of Art and if you are running the full marathon, you might be tempted to run with the half marathoners who are giving their last kick for the finish. Don't fret, you have another 13 miles to go. When you approach the 13.1 mark, the half marathoners keep to the right and the full marathoners keep to the left and the signs are clear. I had mentally prepared myself for that and it did not bother me that some people were finishing and I was not halfway done. There is a huge cheering crowd here.

The 13.1 to the 22 mile

Once you keep left as a full marathoner (or keep right and finish the half marathon, congratulations!) the running crowd thins out and the guys close to you are the ones you shall be racing for the rest of the journey. You are now running towards Manayunk, where marathon dreams (go to) die. From Mile 13, you shall now be running on the famous Boathouse Row, on East River Drive (and later on, Kelly Drive), but the Houses now shall be close to you to your left. This is a flat stretch and not too daunting. After running past Boathouse Row, you shall run towards a steel bridge around mile 17 and run towards the Schuylkill and then make a u turn towards the bridge. Here, you shall meet runners who are slightly faster than you as you run towards the river and runners slightly slower than you as you run away from the river towards the bridge. Once past the bridge, you are now running the straight stretch towards Manayunk on Main Street. The crowds here are loud, just like the South Philly crowd and you shall probably shall be struggling at this point and you need the encouragement. As you run towards Manayunk, depending on how fast you are, you shall see the elites running towards the Museum of Art steps for the finish line. Don't be discouraged. Keep running. Mile 18-22 is where you run into Manayunk and back. Stay focused as you shall be meeting faster runners running back to the Museum steps towards the finish line. The Manayunk run back and forth has a slight gradient, slightly downhill as you go towards Manayunk and slightly uphill as you go away from Manayunk towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art finish . However, the gradient is not too bad. This is the stretch where people (me included) shall start getting affected by hamstrings, shin splints and other injuries that slow one down. (I started cramping at mile 17 at the bridge despite doing research everyday and taking salt pills, gu gels, pickle juice, mustard and beet juice! On my long runs, I was actually running without cramping. I'll keep on trying and hoping for a miracle!) Say a silent prayer for an injury free rest of the journey and keep on running. At Manayunk, they actually have people handing you shots of beer in plastic cups! My stomach is too sensitive for anything during runs but how I wish I could have taken a shot of Budweiser or whatever beer they were offering! Once you run past Manayunk (to and fro), you shall begin slightly ascending towards the finish line.

Mile 22 to Mile 26.2

At this point, unless you are an elite runner and extremely talented, you shall be struggling to keep one foot past the other. Your Boston Qualifier hopes torn to shreds, you are wondering whether you are even going to finish, let alone PR! You start questioning whether you should just have done the half or even told anyone you are running the marathon! The mile markers remind you of how few miles you have left but how far those miles are, depending on how much you have left in the tank. The carb loading you did at night seems not to work, the GU gels and salt sticks are failing you. Fear not, the finish line is near. The thin crowd does a good job cheering and cheeky notice boards remind you that the Philadelphia Eagles game is at 1 pm (Go Eagles, FlyEaglesFly), or LeBron James would have cramped by now (shall I make it for the beginning of the game? Maybe! I did cramp, just like LeBron but luckily, I kept on moving as the cramp was not fatal) These are the worst and slowest miles! 4 miles of sheer agony! At this point, many shall fall by the wayside, holding their hamstrings and calves and quads that have let them down. If you are injured like I was, people who don't cramp shall begin to pass you and there is nothing you can do about it. At this point, I was hobbling like Long John Silver but at least, I was moving. The crowds shall be sympathetic and shall cheer you on.
Once you are past the hill, you shall start descending to the finish line. The crowds shall get louder and the Philadelphia mayor (Mayor Nutter in 2015) shall be standing at the finish line to give you a high five! The men's marathon winner was also there, giving people high fives, looking fresh and raring to run another 26.2 miles...

Treats After The Marathon...

Once past the finish line, there is a photographer who takes a post run picture of you nag him (or her) hard enough. If you decide to have him take a photo, look for it in the lost and found section of the photographers' website. Volunteers give you a silver/aluminum official marathon cover/blanket to shield you from the elements. Ask one of them to take a picture of you if you have been running with your phone and you do not have anyone close to the finish line, just like I did. As you keep walking from the finish line, you are offered bottled water and/or Gatorade for rehydration. The following treats (very impressive array, can't complain at all) are on offer in a Macy's paper tote bag;
⁃ Lundberg Rice chips (organic, wheat free and gluten free) in different flavors.
⁃ V8 juice, different flavors. Not the thick, tomato paste kind, the watery kind.
⁃ Philadelphia pretzels.
⁃ Ardmore apple juice
⁃ Peanut butter from Peanut Butter & co, NY. Best tasting peanut butter I have ever tasted. The Food channel is/was right!
⁃ Hot chicken broth soup. (Can't remember the brand but it was a reputable brand) This was very clever and thoughtful of them. There might be more treats that I may have omitted/forgotten.
Once you load up your treats in the tote bag, it's time to collect your marathon clear bag from the UPS trucks. They place the bags under your last name and bib number so the bags are easy to retrieve. They misplaced mine for a minute but that's because of my last minute bag placement. Everyone else around me got their bag promptly.
⁃ There are massage stations past the UPS trucks but my feet, which had cramped and begged me to stop running from mile 21, seemed to have stopped their pain and I could walk without limping two minutes after finishing! I skipped the massage stations.

The Race Photos

The race photos were processed by Island Photography from New York. This is a major, big city race and therefore the race photos cannot be free. The race photos were ready after about 7-10 days which was very impressive. The photos are pricey and budget wise are not for the faint hearted! From $129.99-$179.99 for a commemorative plaque plus digital photos to $69 for a thumb drive with all the digital photos, $80 for all digital photos, to $29.99 for one digital photo! The chicken or egg argument with the prices of the photos shall never end. Most runners feel that the pictures are just too pricey and the prices cannot be justified, especially for those running numerous races during the year which involve travel and accommodation. Many now feel that they just need one 'social media' digital photo to post to their favorite or numerous social media account/s and don't need a barrage of photos. The photographers have a different view. They cite the high costs of preparation for the race, equipment and costs of sorting photographs speedily after the race to present them as soon as possible. They also claim that different photographers have tried to sell the photographs at lower prices but people still didn't buy them anyway. So, they charge high prices for those who shall pay top dollar for their photos. There are those who shall have an attachment to a race, a milestone and shall pay top dollar for photos. I bit the bullet and got the $29.95 digital photo. For those who want the cheapest option, an actual physical photo is $19.95, plus $4.50 for shipping, total $24.45, about $25 and then you can scan it and digitize it.

*I know this is a lot of info but I wrote this in the hope that all the questions I was asking in my mind before the marathon have been answered here. See you in the next marathon and good luck! I have also lived in Philadelphia and the suburbs and I have a bit of knowledge of the city, hence my lengthy note.

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