Sunday, September 27, 2015

What it's like to run in Popeadelphia

I don't know about the cities of New York and Washington, DC, but if you live in the Philadelphia area, all anybody has talked about for the last few months has been the Pope.


The talk has revolved less around the honor of a Papal visit, or the World Meeting of Families, or potentially going to see him in the city, and more around the disruption his visit would cause, particularly with traffic.


Most people decided to treat it like a blizzard and hole up in their houses for the weekend. Some even escaped for the weekend, heading out of town until the dust settled.  Me?  I decided I couldn't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I had 18 miles scheduled for today, and rather than run my usual boring routes, I decided to run right from my house into Philly and back.  So I grabbed a bottle of water, threw some gels in my pocket, and headed west out of my front door.

It should be noted that I am the world's worst running blogger in that I hate running with my phone, so I have no pictures of myself from today's jaunt.  You'll have to settle for random pictures I found in Google Images.

The first few miles were business as usual, but as I neared the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, the main artery leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge, it became completely deserted.  It was like running through my own episode of The Walking Dead (minus the hordes of zombies).

As I rounded a bend and approached the bridge, there was a large blockade of police cars.  A Homeland Security officer stepped out of one and directed me to tolls ahead that were admitting pedestrians.  The Red Cross was there handing out free bottles of water, and more officers were checking bags.

When he saw I didn't have a bag with me, one of the officers yelled, "keep going, man!  Don't slow down!"

"Yes sir, officer!"

Half of the bridge was shut down to allow for emergency and police vehicles, while the other half was open to foot and bicycle traffic.  There were thousands of people on the bridge this afternoon.


At mile 6.5 I reached the end of the bridge and began meandering around Center City.  The entire area was like some weird militarized pedestrian playground.  People walked around in matching Pope shirts.  Others stood in the middle of the street to take selfies.  Bikers, runners and walkers all shared the space with police officers, Homeland Security Officers, the National Guard, Humvees, vans and police cars.  Temporary chain link fences, steel guard rails and concrete road barriers were erected everywhere.

I ran around the streets with no particular plan, just wanting to soak in the atmosphere of pope enthusiasts and the novelty of car-free streets everywhere I turned.  At about mile 11, I finally headed back towards the bridge and over to Jersey.

It was without a doubt one of the most unique long runs I've ever had.

Also, I didn't see the Pope.


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