Friday, May 12, 2017

2017 Broad Street Run Race Report

I last ran the Broad Street Run back in 2007.  It was insanely crowded the entire ten miles and I found it nearly impossible to get a decent pace going.  I swore off the race and usually referred to it as a "shit show" every May when the race rolled around again.

Over the last few years, though, I'd been considering giving it another shot, and I finally pulled the trigger this year.  And I'm so glad I did.  It was an amazing experience.

Let's go back to the beginning.

I woke up at 5am on Sunday, and by 5:30 I was on the road.  Drove into South Philly and parked at the stadiums in-between the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Ballpark. Walked to the nearby subway and was on the train by 6.  It was packed with runners - standing room only.  15 or 20 minutes later we arrived in North Philly.

I checked my bag at gear check and then had a good hour and a half until go time.  I walked around, used the porta potties which still had no lines at this point, ran into Emi and hung out with her for a bit, sat around for a bit people watching, found the secret elite enclave and did a warm up run with them, then got into my corral.

For the uninformed, the Broad Street Run, named for its course down Broad Street in Philadelphia, is now in its 38th year.  With 40,000 participants, it is the largest 10 mile race in the United States, and the 6th largest of any race distance.  When I ran it in 2007, there were only about 17,000 runners, and even then it was obscenely crowded at the start.  Races back then had yet to figure out the wave/corral system, so race starts were always a free-for-all. People placed themselves wherever they wanted and were all sent off at the same time.

Like most big races, Broad Street now seeds runners based on expected finish time (though they have volunteers checking bibs, it is still very easy to sneak into any corral you want), and they send runners off in waves, waiting a few minutes in between each one.  Because of these new measures, the course was a lot roomier this time and never felt crowded.

Having just run Boston three weeks earlier, it felt nice to know I only had ten miles ahead of me as opposed to an entire marathon.  I had no plans to go hard, but you know me.  Once I was out there, I just wanted to run as hard as I could.  I stopped around mile 3 to use a porta potty, which cost me about 30 seconds.  But I was still surprised that I ended up running negative splits.  At the 3 mile mark, my average pace was 7:01.  At the 5 mile mark my average pace fell to 6:55, at the 7 mile mark it fell to 6:52, and I finished the race in 1:07:46 for an average pace of 6:46, good for 869th place.

The course had a lot of great spectating sections, and the aid stations were perfectly placed and expertly manned.  I remember thinking in the last few miles how much room I had, and how uncomfortable I was due to how hard I was running.  My previous 10 mile PR was 1:09 from last fall, but I wasn't wearing a watch this time and wasn't sure what the difference between my gun time and chip time was.  The upshot is that I wasn't sure if I was headed for a PR or not, but I decided to keep my foot on the gas anyway, so to speak, and obviously it ended up paying off.

After finishing, I caught up with a few friends from Who's Up, including Emi, but once again failed to get a picture with her as we immediately lost her after getting our gear from the buses.  Again, I swear she exists.  So here's me with Kim:

After enjoying the finish line festival for about 30 minutes, I made the short walk back to my car, then the short drive back to NJ.

I already have a feeling that I'll be back next year for more.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Joseph Fund 5k: Volunteering

I'm almost ashamed to say that in all of my years of racing, I've never once volunteered at a race.  I've spectated and cheered on runners, both strangers and friends, but I've never signed up to officially volunteer.

So when a fellow runner from Who's Up? e-mailed the group about an upcoming race he was putting on at the Cooper River, I jumped at the chance.   He and Dave Welsh, owner of the Haddonfield Running Company, had spent the last few months working with a group of students at a middle school in Camden to train for a 5k.  Once or twice a week they came to the school to do running drills with the students and coach them through the process of training for a specific race.  The idea was to promote a healthy lifestyle and community through running and goal setting.  Race day (Sunday April 23rd) was to be a celebration of their training and all the hard work they put in.

A lot of people from Who's Up? came out to run the race alongside the students from Camden, but because race day was only 6 days after Boston, I decided to volunteer instead of running.  I also dragged my son, Neale, along with me.

Long story short, I wasn't able to drive to the Cooper River, so I had to walk nearly three miles with a thirty pound toddler in tow at 6:30 in the morning to make it there in time.  When we got there, I was put on T-shirt duty.  I set out race shirts on the table, then organized the large box of tech shirts for the Camden students.  Race shirts were not included with registration for this race, so I then handled donations from people who wanted one.

For the rest of the time I stood behind the table directing people to the starting line or answering any questions I could.  After the race I helped fill water for finishers.  Neale helped hand out T-shirts and tried to fill cups with water, but was mostly interested in running around and petting the many dogs that showed up.

It was an amazing day for a race, and between the students, participants in the 5k and participants in the 1 mile fun run, there were about 200 runners out there.  There was a definite sense of pomp and circumstance for the students to celebrate their hard work.

It was great to see this inaugural event go so well, and I hope it becomes a fixture in both Camden and our own running community.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The meaning of Boston

At the risk of overdoing it on the Boston posts, I wanted to write just one last post to sum up my thoughts on race weekend.

A quick recap: I've qualified for Boston three times.  I qualified and registered for the 2012 race but didn't get to go because the new registration rules shut me out.  I finally got to run Boston for the first time in 2015.  The 2017 Boston Marathon was my second, and as I've said many times, my last for a very long time.  I'm happy to go out on such a high note.

This was easily one of the best weekends of my life, and after the shitstorm of the last few months, it couldn't have come at a better time.  Boston came at a time when I needed it most to remind me that yes, life can be good.  That there are things in life worth working towards. That there are things in life worth celebrating.  To put it mildly, I'm so glad I did not drop out of Boston like I considered over the winter.

I went to Boston completely by myself.  I could have spent all weekend feeling sorry for myself that not a single friend or family member was there to support me (my dad had a pacemaker put in 6 days before the race, so we'll give him a pass), but instead I went in with a positive attitude and tried to make the most of it.  I ended up meeting and talking to so many different runners and had the time of my life.  The fact that the race itself was hot and at times miserable and I ran my slowest time in years is immaterial.  The weekend as a whole was just that good.  I used to not understand the kind of person who returns year after year to Disneyworld or Disneyland.  But I get it now.  The Boston Marathon race weekend is magical to runners in the same way that Disney is to others.  One easily feels sucked in and a part of something larger than himself, and that sense of belonging is a powerful emotion.  If anyone thinks sports can't transcend mere athletics into something more beautiful, I dare them to experience the Boston Marathon and continue to believe this.

Boston is one of the most hyped races sporting events events on the planet, but I believe it truly lives up to it.  There is an excitement in the air, a sense of pride from the locals, a feeling of community in a city of millions when everyone has the same thing on the mind.  It is incredible, and incredibly hard to describe in words.

I read somewhere about the process of becoming a volunteer to hand out water on the course.  Volunteers have to attend meetings and watch tutorial videos on the proper way to hold the cups.  Each table has its own team leader that coordinates with higher ups in the race.  They put in a full day's work between setting up, distributing water, and cleaning up. And it is an honor to do so.  Nothing less than perfection is acceptable when it comes to Boston.

I've often thought about which is better: the journey to Boston (a.k.a. the training cycle that allowed me to qualify at Philly in 2015), or Boston itself?  But I realize now it's like comparing apples and oranges.  Both experiences were incredible in their own way.

As incredible as this weekend was, I know that happiness is best when shared.  While I am content to go out on top and leave Boston behind for awhile, one of my greatest goals in life is to someday run this race with my son, Neale.  This depends greatly on his own interest in the sport of running, not to mention ability, but I can think of nothing greater than to share the finish line with him someday.

For now, I'll leave you with this: if you are just starting out in running, and you're wondering if Boston might be a worthwhile goal, I will shout at you a resounding "yes."  If you are wondering if you can make it, if you are wondering if you are physically capable, if you have the heart and the resolve; yes, you do.  Keep at it.  There are so many people who believe in you.  And I can guarantee you: it is worth it.

I'll close by quoting myself from my 2015 race recap:

"Now, I have had the privilege of experiencing many great things in my life, and I can honestly say those four blocks on Boylston rank among the best of my life's memories.  When I grow old and my muscles weaken and my joints creak, and my days of marathoning have long since ended, I will still hearken back to the deafening roar of Boylston Street and remember what it was like to touch greatness."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...