Marathon to draw 90,000 runners, fans to Philadelphia



Melanie Preve

The world’s top marathoners will gather in Philadelphia’s streets Sunday, Nov. 23 to lead 30,000 runners through the city of brotherly love. 

The Philadelphia Marathon has been a piece of the city’s history since 1954, with the half marathon added to the race weekend in 2006. The event attracts over 90,000 people to the streets, an aggregate of runners, joggers, enthusiasts and volunteers. 

The marathon course takes runners on a scenic journey through the Olde City, University City, South Philadelphia and Manayunk neighborhoods and incorporates a brief lesson in American history as runners pass Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin’s Burial Place, the National Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell. 

The race, which falls every year on the fourth Sunday in November, is sanctioned by USA Track & Field and serves as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon. 

For a college-aged marathoner, the qualifying times are 3:05:00 and 3:35:00 for men and women, respectively. The course is considered less challenging than other top-ten marathons, and the course record was set back in 2003 by Kenyan Joseph Nderitu, with a time of 2:16:47.  

Each year, Villanovans have appeared at the starting line, at the base of the Rocky steps, just as the daylight breaks, ready to tackle 26.2 or 13.1 miles. 

For throngs of runners high on adrenaline and listening intently for the single gun shot, thousands of feet dressed in neon sneakers pounding on pavement and shameless porta-potty stops are about to become a reality. 

Weeks of training can prove to a runner that he/she is physically ready to tackle the marathon, but being mentally ready is an entirely separate realm of preparation. 

“I have approached training by taking it day by day and week by week so that I can focus on my current workout and not psych myself out with the distance I have to run in the future,” states Villanova senior Kristen Weiler, who is preparing to run her first full marathon. 

Recent Villanova graduate Laura Boisclair completed the marathon last November and recalls the battle with her own mind being the biggest struggle throughout the race, “Telling yourself to keep those legs running and to push through any pain our body may be in takes a great deal of mind power.” 

Anyone who has run even a mile can imagine the physical pain endured by completing 26.2, and if the mental battle is even tougher, why do thousands of runners congregate on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway every November, and in dozens of other cities across the country throughout the year? For many runners, it goes beyond the thrill of the race and the illustrious runner’s high.  

“Two years ago I ran the Philly half and saw all of the people there running the full marathon, and I just knew that I had to come back and do it before I graduated,” Weiler said. And she plans to top off her accomplishment with some food, sleep and large quantities of chocolate milk.

But after training for weeks to the point where no pedicure can save the appearance of your blistered feet, arriving at the end can be overwhelming. 

“The last few miles were a roller coaster of emotions—every part of your body is exhausted, but you also know that you are just 30 or so minutes away from completing a huge accomplishment,” Laura said. “Seeing my family and friends near the finish line brought me so much joy, and crossing that finish line brought tears to my eyes.” 

The bragging rights alone may be reason enough for some runners. If you’re considering stepping up to the starting line of a half or full marathon, Marcus O’Sullivan, Head Coach of the men’s cross country and track & field teams at Villanova, has a few pieces of advice. 

Running marathon mileage isn’t something you just burst out the front door and decide to run one morning. If you’re going to go the distance, make sure you’ve logged enough distance in your training, so your legs are accustomed to the long duration of exertion. 

If you’re picturing yourself as a one-time marathoner, plan to spend about 12 weeks racking up mileage in preparation for the race, and when race day arrives, be prepared to walk a bit if your primary goal is just to finish. 

For those tackling this year’s races, O’Sullivan emphasizes staying hydrated in the days leading up to the race; chugging gallons of water on Saturday is not going to keep your body properly hydrated. And don’t stick to a regimen of solely drinking water. 

Too much water can actually wash important minerals out of your body. Be sure to incorporate drinks with electrolytes to replenish your system.

If you’re ready to put O’Sullivan’s advice into practice, you can start gearing up for the next-half marathon to occupy the streets of Philadelphia. The Love Run returns for its second running in about 18 weeks, on March 29. If cheering is more your style, come out and support this year’s runners on Sunday, starting at 7 a.m.