Monthly Archives: November 2013

Race Report: Philadelphia (Half) Marathon, November 17

by Paul Thompson

Last weekend I started the Philly Marathon with Mo’ath Alkawaldeh. Mo completed his in a little over 2:37, a great debut. I meanwhile DNF. Or more precisely I took ‘advantage’ of the option to bail out at half way. This option, open to all marathon entrants, gets you timed and scored as though you had started the half that’s run simultaneously.


Mo and I just before the start.

My game plan all along had been to pace Mo through half way. Approaching 13 miles the course does the splits – turn left for another 13 miles or turn right for a 100 metre dash across the finish line. As I turned right course officials, spotting my marathon bib, gestured me to turn left. I almost had to run over them. I had mixed feelings crossing the line. I felt relieved not to be in Mo’s shoes with 13 miles left. I felt great for having logged 1:13:20 after weeks of battling sciatica. But I felt a bit of a fraud with the marathon bib – a job half complete. Was it a DNF? And, soon after crossing the line just ahead of me, Eric Shafer turned to announce he was a masters runner. That left me in second place for the masters, a one second deficit costing me $500.

Mo followed his first half 1:17 with a solid 1:20 second half. Mo and I used to train together when he lived in New York. Keen to run a fast debut marathon in the 2:30s he flew to New York from Jordan to stay with us for the week leading up to the race. We drove to Philly where we stayed, with Mo’s friend Osama Al Qattan (who PR’ed with 3:26) at a hotel in the city’s suburbs.

I had offered to pace Mo to half way at around 2:30 pace. We set out at 5:45 pace but after 2 miles he was a few seconds adrift. I felt ‘up for it’, my sciatica lost without trace. Pre race he suggested I race it. So I did. My pace making days were over before they even started.

As 6 miles approached, in the spectator packed Downtown area, I decided to step on the gas and, hopefully, do enough to take first masters and the $500 prize. My 10k split of 35:23 (5:41 average) compared with 5:30 average for the latter 11k which took in the two hills in West Philly.


Racing to the finish

Philly is a great race. Some 23,000 ran the half and full combined. The course was pretty fast and varied – city center, riverside, park ‘an all. Spectators came out in their thousands to bellow their support. In the Drexel University area this extended to students completing a marathon night of revelry with beers on the sidewalk.

Mo and I enjoyed elite entry status. This meant we had the ‘luxury’ of hanging out in the elite tent pre- and post-race.  And a designated restroom with no line. The elite tent gave us the opportunity to study the pre- and post-race routine of real elite athletes.


Chatting to some Kenyans post race

One standout was the heightened security, a legacy of the Boston bombing. This extended to clear only baggage and restrictions on spectator access. But what was clear was that New York and Philly have overcome the restrictions and put on even better marathons than before.


UPS vans ready to take the clear bags to the finish area


NYC Marathon 2013: From the Sidelines

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

I watched my first New York City Marathon in 1989 as a graduate student. I had just run a marathon (my first and last, so far at least!) the year before in Singapore so I knew what it felt like to cover 26.2 miles. Since then I’ve watched marathons in London and Boston and eight more New York City Marathons. Call me biased but New York is still my favorite.  Every year I’m blown away by the international flavor of this race and the wonderful support from New Yorkers.

Last year for the first time in its history the New York City Marathon was cancelled following the public uproar over having a race start in Staten Island which had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Instead runners put their well-trained legs to good use and ran supplies into Staten Island.  So this year’s race was going to be a special one. And the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing made it all the more poignant. This was a comeback for New York and the global community of runners.

The runners combined those who didn’t get to run last year with the many who had qualified for the 2013 marathon. 50,750 people representing 109 countries started and 50,304 finished, setting a record for the largest number of finishers in a marathon.

The day before the marathon  I downloaded the INGNYCM app and started adding the people I was  going to track. I was struck by how they were from so many different countries – Italy, France, New Zealand, Israel, United Kingdom, even the United States! When we first came to New York, nine years ago, it was Paul’s Warren Street teammates who I would be out there supporting.  This year, although I had a quite a few of them on my list, I realized that I seem to have also acquired my own friends who run marathons!


Nick, a Kiwi, who is one of my morning running mates on his way to finishing his first marathon.

Paul has often been away on the day of the New York City Marathon but I enjoy the camaraderie of cheering on the runners with Paul’s teammates 20131105-191906.jpgtypically around 99th Street on 1st Avenue. However, this year I had been invited to a marathon brunch by a friend, Marguerita, who has an apartment offering a bird’s eye view of runners around mile 21.  I decided that the best plan, given the range of runners I was trying to catch, would be to carbo load in between supporting my runner friends. I was joined by Kelly, my Rockies running partner, and her i9 year old son, who was an enthusiastic cheerleader.

I love watching the front runners come by. They speed by with an effortless fluidity I can only dream of. I’ve seen many of them race in different cities over the years but watching them on my home turf is best. We saw the first three women come by, with Buzunesh Deba at that point still holding on to a comfortable lead. Priscah Jeptoo was then in third place but just two miles later, as they entered Central Park, she surged past a tiring Deba and went on to win the women’s title. By the time the men came by Geoffrey Mutai had just broken out of the pack and was running with Stanley Biwott.  Shortly after he passed us Mutai broke away and went on to win his second New York City Marathon title.


Buzunesh Deba in the lead at mile 21

The fastest runner among those I was tracking was Carlo Agostinetto, a Warren Street runner, who finished the race in 2:43:43. And this is coming off the back of a 100K race in late September. I saw him at mile 22 looking strong and steady.  Several other Warren Street runners were pacers for 3:00, 3:05 and 3:10 hopefuls. I managed  to spot Charlie leading his pack of runners, flag in hand.


Charley leading his group to their 3:10 finish.

Over the morning – in between coffee and champagne and a lot of carbohydrates – I managed to catch some of my friends but missed others.  It takes a lot of concentration and precision timing (without the INGNYMC App I would have missed just about everyone!) to spot someone among a crowd of runners. It was heart-warming that our cheers and shouts seemed to give some of them a boost. I know from my recent half marathon experience how much a friendly face and hearing a familiar voice can help at a low point. Paul meantime had to do his cheering while watching on his laptop in a Geneva, Switzerland hotel room.


Kimberly spotting us in the crowd.

The New York marathon is an emotional experience for both supporters and runners. We had runners high five us and others wave as we shouted their name. And one British runner veered off course to give Harry his Crystal Palace water bottle having recognized that Harry, sporting a Crystal Palace sweatshirt, was a fellow fan. Over the day I witnessed moments of jubilation, agony, sheer grit but most of all the ability of the human spirit to keep going even when the body is done. Every finisher will never forget the great sense of achievement.


Two Crystal Palace fans meet in Harlem.