Running out of time

Bet you haven’t taken this course yet. Combining the local history found in class Philadelphia neighborhoods with the lunacy found in psychopathology, the Philadelphia Marathon course circles the city from Independence Hall to Fairmount Park

Bet you haven’t taken this course yet.
Combining the local history found in class Philadelphia neighborhoods with the lunacy found in psychopathology, the Philadelphia
Marathon course circles the city from Independence Hall to Fairmount Park through Manayunk and – if you’re not prepared – through the backdoors of an ambulance.

With a starting date and time of Sunday, Nov. 19 at 8 a.m., the annual 26.2-mile race is right around the corner and, unless you have been putting in more mileage than an aviator, it is probably already too late to enter.

However, for those too adventurous to listen to advice, here are some other tips – from building endurance to building a tolerance to energy-gel packets – that will help you through each mile.

But first, enjoy a story from running enthusiast and first-year assistant coach of the men’s and women’s cross country team Todd Witzleben.

During the peak of his training for the 2005 Freescale Austin Marathon, Witzleben, 25, said he logged in 100 to 110 miles a week, an average of about 15 miles a day.

But after running a blistering pace of about 5:19 per mile through 23 miles, Witzleben was sucking wind while trying to barrel through that infamous mental and physical wall.

“The last three miles it hit me,” he said. “It really is as bad as they say.”

Before losing his breath, Witzleben found the race to be easy even past the 20-mile marker.

Even hilarious.

“It’s usually said that people hit a wall after 20 miles, but those first 20 miles were easier than I thought,” Witzleben said.

“I was kind of laughing about it.”

After placing seventh in a 2:21:23, the professional runner spent two months after the race to recover fully.

He was back on his feet after one month.
Novice runners say that the marathon, itself, can often feel longer. In a challenge that requires an unbreakable mindset, the marathon affords a lot of time for a runner to ponder.

Witzleben said there’s a correlation between what someone runs and what runs across ones mind.

“Some people try to dissociate themselves
from the race by thinking about taxes or things outside of the race,” he said.

“The elite runner tries to associate with their body and pay attention to their body to mitigate these factors.”

Along with keeping tabs on your splits – or the pace of each mile – Witzleben recommends keeping tabs on the person ahead.

“When I’m running my race I’ll be going after the guy in front of me and trying to hawk him down,” the 2003 La Salle University graduate said.

“I don’t really think about anything besides running faster.”

Most runners will be thinking about the remaining distance or the distance to the closest water station.

Along with crowds and bands along the way, the course intersperses 12 judiciously placed water stations, as well as two energy-gel spots at the 18- and 22-mile marks.

Witzleben said people underestimate the importance of fueling up at these stations and the practice necessary to pull off chugging on the road.

“You got to get used to food and water during the run,” he said.

“Your stomach can get upset if you haven’t trained your body to digest food or even drink water during the run.”

To prepare for this, Witzleben practiced on a makeshift water station that he would set up at Valley Green, his primary training area.

Witzleben’s biggest recommendation is to reconsider running the marathon until one is “done physically maturing.”

He won’t allow any of his runners to test their might since the trek could impair them not just for the season, but for life.

Cross country senior Dave D’Addario, who said he runs about 60 to 70 miles weekly, plans on running it, just not within the next couple years.

“I think a running career would be incomplete without the marathon – to anybody who is serious about running anyway,” D’Addario, a journalism major, said.

“The marathon is the coup de grace of what every kid wants to do.”

Of more than 9,000 runners to participate
in the 2005 marathon, only 79 were 19 years old or younger. Only 583 were between 20 and 24 years of age.

Yemi Osinubi, 21, a senior philosophy major, was caught in stride at the IBC’s 314-meter indoor track and was asked whether he could fathom running 134 laps, the equivalent distance of a marathon.

“At once? No. All together in like two weeks? Maybe,” he said, “Just not at one time.”

Usually falling somewhere between ‘parallel
parking’ and ‘going to the moon’ on a person’s list of life goals, the marathon falls off the page for leisure runner Osinubi.

“I’ll write a book before I run a marathon,” he said.

“Marathon? Twenty-six-point-two [miles]? – I can’t do that, not at this point yet. But who knows?”

Tim Johnson does. The sophomore human
resources major said his buddy Osinubi – although unbeknownst to him – were training
for the big race.

“We’re going to try to pace ourselves, take it out slow, then we build our way up,” Johnson said.

Don’t take it out too slow. Runners are given five-and-a-half hours to finish the course before traffic resumes.

The latest a person can register for the race is between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the marathon’s official starting and finishing area.

For those who can already foresee the pain, a half-marathon and an 8K race is also offered.

Steve Wood can be reached at

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