In the Cinco de Mayos of years gone by there’s been sombreros, brightly colored flags, margaritas and Mexican beer.
This year? Running! (Followed by margaritas/beer for some. I just wanted food, which probably comes as no surprise.)
The Blue Cross Broad Street Run takes place in Philadelphia, PA and is a 10 mile race that has been held on the first Sunday of May since 1980. Unlike many other races, it’s a point to point race and most of the run is downhill (but don’t be fooled like I was, there are a couple of uphill points!).
The sports complexes in Philly are all near the end point of the race (the Navy Yard) and were open for parking. We, along with many other of the 40,000 runners, made our way there bright and early, Sunday morning.
Runners were able to ride the SEPTA, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Broad Street line free of charge the morning of the race. There was someone at the turnstile checking bibs, which was the “ticket” onto the train. She’s got a ticket to ride. Okay, I’ll stop singing now.
It was a bit chilly early on so most of us were wearing throw away gear that would then be donated once we warmed up and discarded them to the side. The guy checking our bibs jokingly said, “I feel like I’m on Runners Gone Wild and you’re all flashing me!”
That’s us: wild and crazy runners! Sidenote: the shirt that I decided to chuck was my swim team shirt. From when I was eleven. Yes, it was time to let that one go.
The train dropped runners off directly by the corrals, which was quite convenient. Most of our group headed off to a different corrals so my partner in running, Moe, and I said our goodbyes, good lucks, and good races.
Getting there early, we decided to suss out the porta-potty lines and found it to be long. And winding. We decided to skip it and find ones on the course.
Moe and I situated ourselves in the last corral, which was the BEST corral. Because pink is the best color (besides purple and turquoise).
Broad Street is a notoriously fast course, with the course record being 45 minutes. My goal was to finish around two hours, which I thought was an achievable and likely goal. This was, by far, the largest race I’d ever participated in and I’m not a huge fan of crowds so I was a bit nervous. The nerves proved to be unnecessary as the corral I was in was comfortable and roomy.
With a field of 40,000 runners, the wait time to get to the start was expansive. In that time I stepped on a discarded GU Chomp (ew!), tripped over people’s throw away clothes, and tried to peer over a sea of people to catch a glimpse of the starting line.
I prayed for a good, safe race for myself and my fellow runners. The Philadelphia police presence was reassuring and visible throughout the entire race.
With the events at the Boston Marathon still being so fresh in everyone’s minds, Philadelphia saluted Boston by providing every runner with a heart sticker that said “From Philly to Boston with Love” which all of the runners wore.
The race organizers also encouraged the runners to wear red socks as a loving shout out to our friends to the north, as well. Red socks for the Red Sox. We ordered ours from ProCompression.
Crossing the start line, we all chimed in to “Sweet Caroline”. I was a little teary as we started off (and I wasn’t the only one). Races are always a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me but this one, especially so, as it was my first after the Boston Marathon bombings. Never once did I consider not running but I suppose there will now always be a “what if” that niggles at the back of my mind; that was never there before a couple of weeks ago.
The clock read 49 minutes when we finally crossed the start line. This time I actually remembered to press start on my Garmin and we were off!
When we first looked at this map we thought that instead of water stations, maybe they’d have Dunkin’ Donuts stations. Alas, those were cheering zones.
And not soon after we were off, we were stopping at the first row of porta-potties that we saw. There was a short line, only about five people deep and while we had to wait a couple of minutes, it was worth tacking on the time at the start. Every other stop we saw for porta-potties had a line of at least twenty people (every time we saw that, Moe and I would pat ourselves on the backs).
The crowd support along Broad Street was, in a word, incredible. There were no “quiet” areas; no places that lacked the cheering and enthusiasm of people. It was so motivating. A few people that stood out were the children at Temple University Children’s Medical Center, who were wrapped in blankets and had their nurses outside with them, cheering for the runners. All the emotions! I swear, I cried more on this race than any other.
There were also many children along the route, and can I just say that they were very excellent high fivers. Enthusiastic and hands outstretched, I zigzagged from side to side to make sure I could get as many as possible (while being aware of the runners around me).
So, let me tell you a little bit about Philadelphia City Hall. It’s right smack in the middle of Broad Street! It marked the halfway point and as you circle around, you then wind up on the other side of Broad Street. This area was thick with people cheering. Can I say it again? Incredible!
I ate my GU as I walked through the water station. I decided that if I was going to be walking at any point during the race, I was going to walk with purpose. Chest out (no problem there), shoulders back, head high, smiling. And fast. I ran much of the time but during those walking breaks, I did so with speed and confidence. It felt great!
Along with the children (and their equally amazing adults), cheer squads, churches, bands – there were people with signs! I love me some race signage. I mean, really. These are incredible! There were also official high five stations, worst parade ever signs, and dudes in sombreros giving motivation (with beers in hand). Oh, and a giant IHOP pancake. I love a race where everyone is out to have a good time, especially the spectators.
By mile 8, I was wishing for another GU. Or a banana. Or fresh legs. Something. But at that point, I knew there was only two miles left. As opposed to the usual 5 I’m used to with half marathons. That thought perked me up and spurred me on.
The Navy Yard sign was just ahead and I knew that from there, I had a quarter mile left. I was very grateful that my trainer’s wife, Sarah, let me know that the sign didn’t indicate the end of the race! I did pick up the pace a bit when I saw the sign and from there, steadily increased through the finish line.
Finishing the race with high fives from military made my heart swell and my eyes tear a bit. Again! I received my medal from a volunteer and then Moe and I were able to track down food. After getting food and water (which was blissfully cold!), we found Vic and my husband, who were waiting at our predetermined meeting point.
The cost of the Broad Street Run is low and the positive perks make it one of high demand. The most difficult part was exiting the parking lot after the race, which took both patience and perseverance (next year, we’re bringing a picnic along!). 2013 was the first time they did a lottery process for people to take part.
I was thrilled that I was able to run this year, it’s been on my bucket list since I first heard about it. I’m already crossing my fingers that I get to take part in next year’s race.
What’s the largest race you’ve every participated in? What’s number one on your race bucket list?
Edited to add: Here’s a link to Vic’s recap too!