Philadelphia Marathon Race Report – Scott’s Story

Scott sent me his race report a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you all. This was his first marathon and even more impressive than the fact he finished was that he did it barefoot! Scott tried running years back, but often found himself sidelined with injuries. When he took up the sport of triathlon a few years ago, he decided to forgo shoes in hopes that he would have better luck staying healthy – it has worked! The only injury to date was some tweaks in his knee and it turned out they were, ironically, due to his clip-in bike shoes being misaligned. He runs year round with no shoes, only occasionally donning minimal ones for especially nasty weather or courses (like prickly gravel). Here is how his first bout with 26.2 went…
The night before I had to do a job (ed note: worry not, he is not a Mafioso hit man,  just a professional photographer!), so I got into my hotel at about 11pm (which was earlier than I expected), and got about 6 hours of sleep. I was happy to get that much!  Next morning I got going and stopped at a Wawa around 5:30a  where I got a muffin, banana and tea, plus water.   I didn’t have much of an appetite but I forced the food down then drove into the city (about a 25min drive). I got to the parking lot at 6am and it was full so I had to find another, and by the time I parked and got walking to the start it was about 6:30. Temps were in the mid-30s, low 40s, so it was cold! I had to meet GD to get my race bib (he and Kashi picked it up the day before for me) and also had to use the bathroom. I got on the bathroom line and realized there might be a problem – it took 30 min to get to the front of the line and it was now 7am – start time!  GD and I got our signals crossed as to where to meet and by this point he had checked his bag with his phone in it.  I went looking for the info tent to see if I could do something about the bib…needless to say I was starting to get pretty stressed.  The info guy said they couldn’t help me, and I had a race bag which I couldn’t drop without my bib so I started to panic – I just tried to put aside my anger at missing GD  and keep the race as my focus.  I went to the bag trucks and luckily they had a spare tag someone had left behind so I used that to drop my bag and just figured I’d run without a bib and time myself…I was pretty pissed!  I got into a corral and finally saw GD waiting by the start line with arms raised and my bib in his hands, hoping I would spot him. That was a big relief – I went from hate to love in like one second.  So overall not a great way to start, but a start nonetheless.
I carried 5 gus, 4 chomps, plus had my shoes tied around my waist (ed note:  Scott had never run this course, so he brought the shoes in case the road got rough).  The first couple of miles were slow because of the volume of people, and it was a good basic warmup.  By the 3rd or 4th mile I found a comfortable pace, and it became apparent that it  would be around 10 min/mile, not 9:30.  I was okay with that as long as I could finish barefoot, so I just settled in and made sure to keep eating regularly and keep things smooth.  The road surfaces were pretty good, so I wasn’t having any  trouble, and there were only a couple of patches in the race that were a little rough on my feet (around mile 11-12, and for a couple of miles in the back half around 17).  There were a few hills around 8-10, and they went well. I think that work on the bike may have helped and I found I could climb while maintaining my pace. I just watched my HR, which never really got to be a problem as  it was pretty steady throughout the race.   The downhills were a little harder on my feet, I think just because of the angle of extension, but nothing to worry about.
Mile 13 and the half- marathoners split off so things opened up.  I still wasn’t using headphones/music because I wanted to save them for the hard part!  I stopped briefly to wrap some tape on my big toe – my push-off callous was a little sore from a rock I hit at mile 2, so just wanted to make sure it didn’t get any worse. The tape seemed to help for the rest of the run.  I also made a quick pit stop in the bushes, which I think meant I was hydrating well.  At about 2:45 I was starting to feel the burn a little, but still had a lot left in me – held off on music to about 3 or 3:15, and then went to my playlist…it was a big advantage to have music!  It definitely gave me an extra mental boost, and kept my mind off the suffering of the last miles.  I had a little cup of beer at mile 18 (can’t pass that up!) but other than that I was hitting water at every stop (ed. note: the awesome people of Manayunk give out beer, this wasn’t at an official water stop, lol).
A little suffering kicked in around 19 and then in the early 20s…nothing like those last 8 miles of the 1/2 Ironman tri last year, but definitely some general tiredness/pain and impulses to stop, which of course I ignored.  Mentally getting to the last hour felt good and I was pretty sure I was going to come in at around 4:20.  At that point I just kept thinking I can do anything for 1 hour, and then as I got closer that I could always finish a 5K, then 2 miles, etc.  Feet were a bit sore but nothing really worrying.  I got to the last mile and picked it up, and then really pushed the last 1/2 mile at a fast pace (much of that was uphill). I came sprinting in to the finish – that fast pace actually felt a lot better on my legs than keeping up the steady pace of the last 25 miles.
My average pace was exactly 10:00 min/ mile, and I think I did a good job of keeping my it consistent through the race.  Afterwards I walked the chute and then sat down (not easy!) for a bit. I had my jacket and hat but my teeth were chattering – I will definitely take a space blanket next time.  Being out there in high 40/low 50 for 5 hours chilled me, especially since my clothes were a little damp from sweating. I’ve found Smartwool to be generally good for wicking and drying, but this was the first time it sort of failed on me. It stayed a little damp after the race and wasn’t warming me enough.  Maybe try a synthetic next time?  Or just have warm dry clothes to change into!
I was definitely waddling after the race – my feet were sore, legs hurt, it was hard to walk.  We went and got sandwiches and then drove back to Cape May (about 2 hrs).  Over the next two days I went from waddling, to crippled, to limping. By the third day I was sore but walking, and did a swim which always seems to help.  I did a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, which also was good (although I felt pretty slow!  I didn’t time it but probably 9:30 min miles).
Overall I think it went well despite the trouble at the start, and I was proud of myself to do the whole thing barefoot.  Got a lot of “Oh My Gods!!!” and “Where are your shoes?!?” from people. I only saw two other barefooters the whole race – that was kind of surprising considering it seems to be getting more popular.  In any case it worked, and I was happy with my time even though it wasn’t a 9:30 pace…next year I’ll go for a sub-4!  Got to get down to mid 3s if I’m ever going to get to Kona : )
Not too bad for running 26.2! I've seen worse after a day walking around in the summer!

Not too bad for running 26.2! I’ve seen worse on people after a day walking around in the summer!

Well done, Scott!! His dedication to triathlons and his long-term goal of making it to the World Championships of Ironman at Kona make training with Scott a real pleasure. We have spent many dinners plotting strategy and talking race goals and it was very satisfying to see him check off another item of his endurance sport to-do list! He hopes to one day do an ultramarathon as well, and I hope to be right there with him! Not to mention the trip to Hawaii that I look forward to when I cheer him on at that IM 🙂
Any questions for Scott?


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5 responses to “Philadelphia Marathon Race Report – Scott’s Story

  1. Linda Kisiel

    Scott, do your feet develop calusses or does the skin get tougher while running barefoot? You did an amazing job with your first marathon. I’m very proud of you.

  2. Kate Atkins

    Dang. I run barefoot on the beach in the summer but haven’t quite mustered the guts to do it in the road in Philly – not even for 2 miles let alone 26.2. Way to go, Scott!

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