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Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon verses Philly Marathon Weekend: Run Both Or Sit One Out

Typically 8 weeks separate the Rock’n’Roll Philly ½ Marathon and Philly Marathon weekend but with the Pope in town this year Competitor Group was forced to find a new date to host the Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon and now only 20 days separate two of Philly’s best fall road races, the Philadelphia Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon and Philadelphia ½ Marathon.

Historically the 8 weeks that separated the two races made the Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon a perfect tune-up race for the Philly Marathon, but now with only 20 days separating the two you may want to think twice about signing for both.

Deciding on whether to run both or sit one out should largely depend on your goal. Both races are extremely well run, offer excellent perks and cover the best parts of Philly so skipping one is a tough decision.

If your goal is to run a personal best time in the ½ Marathon your choose is clear, do the Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon. You won’t find a faster ½ Marathon course with the depth of finishers in the U.S. And now with it being held in late October it’s almost certain the conditions will be perfect for fast running. Aim so that you peak for the Rock'n'Roll 1/2 and use the Philly 1/2 Marathon as another shot at a fast 1/2 Marathon time.

If running the Philly Marathon is your goal then I would strongly advise sitting the Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon out this year, especially if this is your first marathon or your gunning for a personal best marathon time.

Here are three reasons why:

1) You’re missing key quality-training time too close to the marathon. Typically, weeks 7 to 1 are the most important weeks to get in quality training leading up to any race, especially with the marathon or ½ marathon. During this crucial window it’s important to focus your training on race-specific work, meaning the majority of your workouts should closely mimic the physiological demands of the race you’re training for. So for the marathon, long runs, longer tempo work and running on fatigued legs.

By racing the Rock’n’Roll ½ marathon 20 days out from the Philly Marathon you’ll be sacrificing anywhere from 5 to 12 plus days of marathon-specific training in this crucial window due to preparing, tapering and recovering from the Rock’n’Roll ½ Marathon, including a key long run (highlighted below).

2) You’re missing (or altering) the ideal long run window. Racing 3 weeks out from a marathon really messes with your long run training. The best time to do your longest run is anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks out from your goal marathon, with 3 weeks being ideal for most runners. Take a look at any marathon-training plan and I bet the longest run falls within this window and most 3 weeks out.

The problem is Rock’n’Roll ½ marathon is exactly 3 weeks out from the Philly Marathon, meaning you either need to do your longest run 4 weeks or 2 weeks out. You maybe thinking, “Ok, no big deal I’ll just do it 4 weeks out and then run the Rock’n’Roll,” however this still poses a problem.

Typically, if you do your longest run 4 weeks out, you’d still want to do one of your longest runs 3 weeks out. Nope, cannot do this either and having a month separate your longest run from the goal marathon is not ideal. Get the idea here? Getting in the proper long runs within the optimal 4 to 2 week window is tough if you’re planning on racing the Rock’n’Roll.

3) There’s the risk of injury. This is a no-brainer to me; especially after all you’ve invested into marathon training. Imagine your marathon training has been going perfectly. You’re fit and ready to nail the Philly Marathon. It totally makes sense to try and run a fast ½ marathon while you’re feeling so fit. But what if then bam, you injury yourself during the race and all that marathon training goes down the tube. Even the slightest injury, one that causes you to miss 7 days of training will negatively impact your marathon performance. The two races are too close together to allow any error. Marathon training is extremely time consuming, don’t risk wasting all the time you’ve invested on a race that’s not your number one goal.

Let me clarify that I’m not saying it’s not possible to do both the Rock’n’Roll and Philly Marathon because it certainly is. It really boils down to what your ultimate goal is. What I am saying is it’s not ideal if the marathon is your number one goal. You’re best focusing on one goal and training specifically for that goal.

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