Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Lisa McCurdy
7 min readJan 16, 2020


In November, I ran my second 26.2 at the Philadelphia Marathon! After my first, the Marine Corps Marathon in 2016, I was pretty sure I’d never take on another “full” again. I still much more enjoy 10-milers and half marathons, and I’m always up for a solid 5-miler or 5K, but for some reason, a year to the day after completing MCM, I felt the urge and signed up for Philly.

I then proceeded to ignore the fact that I had done this and put off training until the late Spring…

I panicked, hired a coach, considered stepping back to the half marathon, battled a hip problem, then a knee problem, then a hip/glute problem…I ran a few half marathons as training, put in WAY too many miles on our local bike path, and finally, somehow made it to Philly for race weekend with my wits (mostly) about me and a fully functional set of legs.

I want to pause here to recommend Stretch Run Coaching who helped me get to the start line in Philly. Kelly is a TOUGH coach — but she’s effective. She puts together some really hard workouts and the mileage volume was no joke, but considering the result in Philly (read on…), I know she was the right choice as my coach!

My friends Jess, Brian, and Derrick ran the marathon as well, along with a number of other members of our tribes from November Project Newport and Providence. The nature of the course in Philly means there’s a little overlap/out and back in two sections, and I was so excited that I was able to see Brian along the way (he’s quite fast!). Jess and I ran together for a majority of the race, which was incredible.

My parents also came to Philly (unfortunately, my husband had to work the weekend). We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Downtown, and the location could not have been better. It’d be an easy place to stay with two couples or two single runners, as there’s a pullout bed in the living room of the one-bedroom suites — for those on a budget!

The expo for the Philadelphia Marathon was incredibly well-organized. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, just went to a few select booths and of course did shirt and bib pick-up! Meb and Des Linden were both there doing talks and taking selfies, but we just missed the chance — though I did meet Meb last year at the BAA 10K (and got a high five from Des this year in Philly, again, more later!)

After the expo, we spent some time walking around the downtown Philly area — my parents were both born outside of Philly and spent time in the city in the 70’s and 80’s. I did a short 2.5-mile shakeout run on a bike path along the river (can’t wait to go back and run on that someday!). We then went for an early dinner at Crybaby Pasta, which was excellent. Then, it was early to bed in order to get up bright and early and make it to the start!

The hotel location meant we didn’t have to get up super early to get to the start line — it’s about 10 minutes walking, including security. The weather was downright AWFUL. It had been raining all night, so the starting area was a muddy disaster, and it was very cold. My sweet dad walked Jess and I to the start line so that we could stay under an umbrella, and I wore plastic bags on my shoes that I took off right before we started. I’m glad I did to stay warm, but my shoes were soaked through by mile 1.

One of the great things about the Philly course is that there are a number of easily-accessible spectator points. The course ran right by our hotel to start, so I saw my parents there; then again at mile 6ish, mile 14, and the finish. There were plenty of water stops — not enough toilets in my opinion, but we made it to mile 14 until it was Defcon 1 — and the course was a great balance of enough space to run without feeling like you were running alone.

The weather was not ideal, but by the time we hit mile 5 until about mile 16, it actually was alright. There were periods of sun, clouds, light sprinkles, and everything was fine. Until it wasn’t. More or less from then on if it wasn’t raining sideways, it was coming down hard. It snowed at one point. I was SO cold. I didn’t wear gloves and I was OK until about mile 21 when I started to lose the feeling in my hands — and my shirt was so wet that pulling my sleeves down didn’t help at all, either. I had swapped my hat out for a dry one at mile 14, and I’m glad I did. I had stashed an extra shirt, shoes, and socks with my mom but never had the chance to make the swap — everything would have been so soaked anyway, it didn’t matter.

Jess and I ran together until the turnaround in Manayunk (mile 20). I can honestly say that I could not have had the result that I ended up with had I not run with her — she was battling a knee injury that sidelined her training in a major way, and the fact that she hung on and still was able to finish in a really solid marathon time is truly amazing. She’s a badass!

The finish of the Philly marathon is right in front of the Art Museum, which is such an iconic spot. Unfortunately, that also means the mile 26 mark is at the bottom of a large hill, but at that point, you are so ready to be done, it doesn’t really matter. As I came down the finish chute, my parents were in the bleachers with a whole host of newly-made spectator friends, all chanting “Lisa! Lisa!” and I was SO thrilled to see them. I crossed the finish line and burst into tears (I do this a lot — it’s so raw!), grabbed my medal and proceeded to try to find my parents which was next to impossible because they had to cross the racecourse (our error). I quickly changed into a dry shirt and jacket and hobbled back to the hotel, where I discovered that, because my legs were numb, I had dropped my phone somewhere along the way. Again, Dad to the rescue! Fortunately, someone had turned it into the lost and found and he was able to grab it from them. Phew!

Overall, my finish time was 4:49 and change, which was an insane 1 hour, 3 minute PR over my first marathon time. This shows 2 things: 1, how much of a disaster MCM was for me and 2, that the training I did for Philly paid off. As I said above, I am also fully confident that I would not have been able to race the way I did without Jess’s company. We ran very consistently for the first 20 miles together at a comfortable pace, which I think set me up for success in the last 10K.

Recovery-wise, I showered (discovered a massive chaffed spot — YEOWCH!) and stretched, then we went to TGI Fridays where I tried to eat a Quesadilla but it didn’t sit well, but I did put back a MASSIVE beer. Then, wandered over to Love City Brewing where we had a little November Project get together — lasted approximately 45 minutes there until I felt like I was going to pass out, then went and got take-out sushi, Facetimed my husband and passed out on the couch until I woke up and did actually go to bed. We drove home the next morning, and I’m very thankful that I didn’t have to drive because I was pooped!

Overall, it was a great marathon. I was impressed with the management and the organization, and I really enjoyed the course — it was a good balance of flat with a few rollers thrown in, but nothing crazy. The crowd support, despite the rain, was excellent. I probably will never do it again; I just don’t want to do any marathon more than once. Though, I may go back and run the half marathon, which is the day before, at the end of 2020 depending on our family schedule. A lot of folks from our local Pub Run group will be running both distances that weekend, so regardless it will be a really fun weekend!

What’s next? Well, this time, I crossed the finish line already knowing that I had joined the Boston Public Library Marathon Team for the 2020 Boston Marathon — so after a few days off, I went out for an easy 2 miles, and Boston Marathon training officially kicked off. More on that soon! For now, I’m just proud to look at my two marathon medals as I work to build my motivation for #3!



Lisa McCurdy

Writer, Runner, Traveler.