A 2018 Philadelphia Marathon recap

Despite a herniated disc that had me practically unable to move for a few days in early September and left me with considerable numbness and pain in my back and upper left leg for most of that month, I never imagined missing this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. That was not an option.

I finished last year’s Philadelphia Marathon in 4:51:22, but I had already run a marathon earlier in 2017 and did not have the disruption in my training schedule I had this year. Before the herniated disc, I was targeting a time of 4:45:00 or better. Based on the training I was able to get in post-injury/recovery (I was only able to get in up to 16 miles twice), I had to shift my goal to simply finishing the race. Honestly, I wasn’t 100-percent certain I wouldn’t aggravate the injury and have to withdraw.

Internally, though, I still wanted that 4:45:00 or better. After feeling pretty strong during my last few shorter training runs (about 6 miles each), I made the tactical error of going out strong the first 10K, pulling back the next 10 miles or so and hoping to have enough in reserve to finish strong. At first, I thought I had made the right decision. My time at the halfway point was only 34 seconds slower than my time last year. But without the 18- or 20-mile training runs under my belt this cycle, I was gassed by mile 17. I wound up walking and running verrrrry slowly the final 9.2 miles, fighting nausea, cramping and tightness.

That said, I still thought if I could get to mile 26 with about 10 minutes left before that 5-hour mark, I could push myself to cover the final 1.2 miles in 10 minutes. However, I wound up missing that by a minute and a half, finishing the marathon with a time of 5:01:29.

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So, on one hand, it’s an accomplishment I was even able to finish after what I went through in September. On the other, regressing to a plus-5:00:00 time on a marathon is extremely disappointing.

I should have realized it was going to be a bad day that morning as I was headed into Philly from South Jersey on a PATCO train. I was in a seat with a door behind me. As the train was nearing the final stop in Center City Philadelphia, I freaked out because I couldn’t find my ski mask, which I planned on wearing during the race (so I could lift up the mask part every now and then to warm my face). I looked under the seat and it wasn’t there. I instinctively went to look behind the seat, forgetting there was a glass partition there. I slammed my head into the partition, but my sunglasses were resting on my head and one of the nose rests/hinges dug right into my forehead before breaking off, resulting in a gash on my head and uneven sunglasses. So I broke the other nose rest off to restore balance to my glasses as my head continued to bleed a bit. The dumbest part of this story? My ski mask was around my neck the whole time; I had simply lowered the hood part after getting on the train. D’oh!

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Another in a long history of head wounds caused by stupidity.

On the plus side, I took part in a “shake-out” run the day before the marathon with 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden and Meb Keflezighi, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and winner of the 2009 New York City and 2014 Boston marathons. They were very accommodating, and chatted and took pictures with everybody who took part in the run…including me!


That was incredibly cool.

Here are a few race photos…


My close encounter with Doctor Who in NYC

Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith

Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith walk by me en route to a filming location in NYC's Central Park.

Note: This was originally published earlier on my podcast blog, Tandem With The Random.

When I heard my favorite television show of all time, “Doctor Who”—the greatest sci-fi series in television history (this is fact…deal with it, Trekkies)—was coming to New York City to film part of the episode that would serve as the finale for the characters of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), I immediately planned to take the train up to NYC and try to catch some of the filming.

In my younger days, I always dreamed about one day living in London and possibly catching some “Doctor Who” filming. Of course, the show went on a 16-year hiatus starting in 1989 (aside from the 1996 FOX/BBC television movie), so I thought that dream was dead. When the BBC finally brought the show back in 2005, I didn’t think it would ever achieve the kind of hip/cool status and worldwide popularity—particularly now in the United States—that would warrant filming in the U.S. But, amazingly, “Doctor Who” is more popular than it has ever been in its nearly 50-year history. And, after coming over to “this side of the pond” in November 2010 to shoot part of series six, the “Doctor Who” cast and crew returned to the U.S.—this time to a city just about 90 minutes away from me by train—for more filming.

I used Twitter and the fantastic (albeit “stalker-ish”) web site, OnLocationVactions.com (OLV) to track when and where they would be filming. After reports of “Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith (The Doctor) and Darvill being seen in NYC earlier this week, the OLV community worked its magic and reported that filming had started near the ice rink in Central Park yesterday morning. I immediately grabbed my work laptop (to continue working on the train) and my camera and rushed to the train station. While I was on the train, I kept thinking it was going to be a complete waste of time, money and energy…that it would be a big, ol’ wild goose chase.

And that’s the way it felt when I arrived at the filming location to find just a handful of crew members and equipment covered in tarps and plastic. I immediately went to OLV on my iPhone and saw that the cast and crew had broken for lunch and would be filming a few more hours in the park.

About 30-40 minutes after I arrived, the cast that was still at the filming location began moving to another area of the park. I, along with a small group of fellow Whovians, followed them. We were about to cross Terrace Drive as we approached Bethesda Fountain from the south, when I looked to my left…coming up the road from that direction were Gillan, Darvill and Smith—Amy, Rory and The Doctor! I said, “Look to your left*,” to the small group that was with me while I frantically searched my bag for my camera (my iPhone was at the ready, but I wanted a true camera for this shot). Fortunately, I found my camera and took a shot of them walking toward me.

*Only true “Doctor Who” fans will get this…but, when it comes to The Doctor, it is always wise to turn left.

But it was the picture above, the second photo I took, that is the real “money” shot for me…I totally lucked into it, but the current stars of my favorite show of all time walked right by me! It made the big, ol’ goose chase totally worth it. A childhood dream had been fulfilled…although I was hoping to see the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), the blue phone box that traverses through time and space. But I can always go use the restroom at the Who-themed Way Station bar in Brooklyn for that (time constraints prevented me from getting there yesterday).

Obviously, I then followed them to the new shooting location on Central Park’s Bow Bridge and watched with several other onlookers as Smith and Gillan filmed a conversation on the bridge, with The Doctor reading out of a book to Amy Pond. It appeared they were trying to find something the book was telling them should be there. Following that, the crew filmed a scene of The Doctor running across the bridge (see video below). Actually, the video seen here is of the second take of the run…Smith had a bit of difficulty stopping on the first take and seemed to be limping slightly after running into some of the crew and onlookers. But he looked OK enough on the second take.

That’s all I’ll say about the shoot. There was something else that took place during filming that may or may not play a crucial part in the final story of Amy and Rory—something I didn’t even think of until one of the girls next to me said she had a theory about what we were seeing. She didn’t expound on that theory, but I immediately came up with some of my own so I am purposely not posting those photos. I will add this, though…from the presence of the book The Doctor was reading and the way Amy was interacting with what he was saying, I think the prevailing storyline of “Amy’s life being a fairy tale” is coming full circle…but will it be a happy ending?

Video: The Doctor runs across Bow Bridge in NYC’s Central Park, 4/11/2012