Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Philadelphia Broad Street Run May 2009

 Scroll down for pictures and video
The Broad Street run is not only the fastest 10 mile race in the United States it is the largest with close to 27,000 runners.

The course is straight, slightly down hill, and fast. It runs from North Philadelphia (Olney Section) to the Old Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The race logistics with 27,000 runners may seem complex but are actually very simple. The Philadelphia Sports Stadiums are near the finish. What we and most runners do is park in the stadium parking lots and then take the subway to the start.

The city does not charge runners for the subway the city also adds express trains for the high volume of the race. Once we parked we headed to the subway along with the thousands of other runners, it is much like a cattle call just runners heading to the subway instead of cattle headed for slaughter. Thousands of runners into the subway and onto the trains for the 10 mile trip to the starting line. The subways are packed for the 30 minute ride north, wall to wall runners.

We got to the start an hour before the race, met up with my brother in-law Michael. His goal time was 1 hour 25 minutes. I told him I would pace him to make sure he hit his time.

One thing about road races, which always amazes me, no matter how much you pee before you go to a race and no matter how little you drink you still have to pee more while waiting for the race to start. So we got in the lines for the Porto Johns with the thousands of other runners, none of us had to pee at the moment but the lines were at least 30 minutes long and we knew we would have to pee by the time we got to the front of the line.

The crowd was unreal and very organized. For the first time Broad Street was doing a corral and wave start. What this means is the runners are put in corrals based on their past times, like cattle corrals. Then each corral is allowed to start every 5 minutes.

You might think this would mess up your time. To take care of the timing issue each runner has a chip on their shoe. This chip records the time you cross the start line and the time you cross the finish line. This way each runner gets a very accurate time.

The weather was perfect 55 degrees and a light mist. About 20 minutes before the start runners started getting in their corrals. It is a sight watching 27,000 people getting into a queue, which is about a mile long. Michael and I start dead last. We go to the back of the crowd and then waited a good 5 minutes until all the runners have crossed the start line. This year the clock read 25 minutes when we started. Think about this when we crossed the start the lead runners were more then half way done the race.

Another issue that I have seen plague many runners is the ability to tie their running shoes to the correct tightness. I have witness runners tie and then untie their shoes literally 10 times before a race. Michael is one of those runners.

The sight of the start looked like the aftermath of a clothing flea market. Many runners wear old sweet suits to keep warm and then just toss them when the race starts. On our walk to the start we walked by thousands of sweet shirts and sweet pants. One nice thing is the city picks up the clothes and gives them to the homeless shelters.

Our race plan was to go out slow and the pick up the pace after 3 miles.

The first mile starts off with a nice down hill which we ran a little faster then we should of, within 2 minutes we caught the back of the pack. The crowd of runners was fairly thick so we ran up on the sidewalk passing some of the worst sections of Philly. The sidewalk slows you a little, the surface is harder then street so it beats your legs up some, as well as being uneven and having curbs to deal with ever tenth of a mile or so.

Prior I had mentioned the issue of runners having to pee for some reason once the race starts the urge to pee seems to get worse it seems every wall we passed had guys peeing on them. I am sure all the locals loved this. Most of the women use the Porto Johns, but some dod drop there draws and do their business right against a wall.

The first mile marker came up fast and we were ahead of pace for the one hour 25 minute goal. We slowed the second mile some to insure we did not crash. We continued to pass runners at a fairly quick pace I would guess each minute we would pass 500 to 1,000 runners. This is a huge physiological boost when running to be doing the passing rather getting passed.

Mile 2 - 4 went by quickly we passed through Temple University, Philadelphia Catholic High School which had their band playing out front, and we were approaching City Hall with William Penn on top looking down on us.

As we curved around City Hall we took the course wide to insure we did not trip or get caught up with other runners. Once back on Broad Street we picked up the pace a little the crowds were cheering and it was easy to push ourselves. Michael was doing well and I was confident he would make his goal. We were even stopping at each mile marking to take a picture, this had to be adding a few seconds to each mile, but we were still on pace.

Mile 6 and 7 went great a slight down hill still passing people not as quickly as before, I was sure we had caught up to more proficient runners at this point.

A little after passing mile 7 Michael starting getting a cramp in his hamstring, so we slowed the pace down to see if we could work the cramp out he recovered slightly.

As we crossed mile 8 I knew with 2 miles left it would be close to making our goal without having Michael totally cramp up.

The course narrowed at this point forcing the runners to crowd each other. This is not good for Michael and I since our pace needed to be faster then the runners around us, so passing without tripping ourselves or someone else was a chore.

As we started mile 9 we picked up the pace while trying not to cause a crash and trying to keep Michael from cramping.

As we completed our ninth mile I looked at my watch and saw we had to do a 7:30 mile for our last mile if we were to make Michael’s our goal.

I knew both Michael and I we very capable of doing this in good conditions. The rain had picked up, the course got tighter, and we had to pick the pace up. I told Michael to steal the other runner’s energy by tying an imaginary rubber band around the runner in front of him and then as you pass them slingshot yourself forward. This is an effective physiological trick I had learned in high school cross country.

I took off hoping Michael would follow with the runners so tight together it was hard to pass, keep an eye on Michael, and keep our pace. Final with about 400 meters to go Michael’s hamstring fully cramped and he had to slow to almost a walk.

I was not looking back and crossed the finish at 1 hour 26 minutes I thought Michael was right behind me, I had not realized he had cramped.

The finish was packed, think about 27,000 people all ending back in one place. The race volunteers did a great job of keeping the runners moving and not bunching up. I found Michael he was only 1 minute behind me and had done a 1 hour 27 minute race. Not bad considering we had stopped at each mile marker for a picture and he had to deal with cramping the last 3 mile.

All in all the run was a blast, great organization great course and just plan old fun.

I am now heading back to Botswanna and will give you an update on my village once I arrive.



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