Editor’s Note: Club member Bruce Yang pulled double duty at the Philadelphia Half-Marathon & Marathon on Nov. 17. He successfully paced the 1:40 half-marathon group with a time of 1:39:46, then doubled back and assisted the 3:15 marathon group for the last five-plus miles. Here is his account of his exploits on race day.
By Bruce Yang
I had a great time at the Philadelphia Marathon as always. It is definitely one of my favorite marathons. I was very happy to see some of the RRR members such as Glenn Coleman, “VT” Voytek Cieszkowski, Ali Renwick, Kim Chalfin and Ayako, in person.
My assignment was to pace the group running 1 hour 40 minutes. I had not had much time to train/run since the Hamilton (Canada) Marathon due to a busy work and family schedule. The only real run I did was on the previous Friday morning at Rockland Lake. I ran 4 miles of the outer loop near the hilly part to get some familiarity of the two major hills that the Philly Half would have. I tried to do my race goal pace of 7:36 per mile. However, I felt sluggish and came back with 33 minutes for the 4-mile run. Despite that I was confident that I could push the last few miles of the half and still finish under the goal time.
Since I was officially pacing the 1:40 group for the half-marathon at Philly, and thinking that I “only” had to pace the half so it would be like a field day, I was looking forward to finish the half and then go back to the hotel to catch up with sleep. Well, on race day morning, the pace team leader asked me to finish pacing the 1:40 half and then turn into a “float” for the second half (the remainder of the full marathon) due to certain pace team logistical reasons. So after finishing pacing the half – which I did successfully in 1:39:46 – I took off my number and then checked on the 3:25 marathon group and ran with that pace leader until mile 17. He was fine, so I dropped back to check on the pace leader for 3:35 and he looked OK, so I did not need to run with him. Then I saw the 3:05 pacer coming back from the other side and ran to check on him and he was OK. (The second half of the Philly marathon is out and back) So I ran in the opposite direction to check on the 3:15 group. When I saw my fellow 3:15 pacer, he had a great 3:15 group but he was having some physical issues so we agreed that I would hold the pace balloon stick and continue with the group and take them in.
I ran with the 3:15 group from mile 21 to the finish line. Many thanks to Kim Chalfin’s husband’s cheering me on at mile 22. I did hear his cheer loud and clear. But I had almost no more energy to even turn my head to look into the crowd due to extreme fatigue. I also think I heard Glenn Coleman and Wojciech “VT” Cieszkowski, and Ali Renwick said hello to me somewhere along the course. But i was so exhausted and I had to focus on hitting the time, so I probably did not have extra energy to greet them like I normally would. I had to put on a full throttle mode to make sure I hit the time for those last 5.2 miles. I was so amazed by the runners in the group. It felt like I was dashing in full force toward the finish line although I was “only” going 7:25 per mile pace. But it felt like I was dashing toward the finish line with the runners. Then I saw (RRR member) Paul Serra and he was finishing strong. I was really amazed by the tenacity that he still had after all those tough and fast miles. Special congratulations to Paul on his spectacular 3:14 performance.
Fortunately, after I crossed the finish line, the 3:15 pacer was not far behind me. Many of the runners in the group embraced and congratulated each other. I was glad that somehow I was able to hold the pace. Originally I was only prepared to run 13.1 miles. Because the team needed me to be there for the second half, I ended up running 10 more miles. It was a miracle that I could even hold that pace since I could not even run that pace at training. I guess when the stakes were high, my adrenaline kicked in.
I want to thank RRR again for all the training and support I got, so I could turn it up a notch when the stakes were high.