Race: Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Distance: 16.0 km (10 miles)
Date/Start Time: 3 May 2015, 8:00am
Distance Travelled to Compete: 11.6 km (7.2 miles)
Weather conditions: Started high 50s and gradually rose into the 80s by post-race.
Course conditions: The course is mostly downhill leading into Girard and Fairmount but increases slightly and then another drop after City Hall. Starts at Olney/Broad and Somerville Streets and the Albert Einstein Hospital and finishes at Broad and Farragut Streets, at the Navy Yard.
Preview: My experience in 2012 was mostly negative with the registration process and the crowd control. However, as this is my last year living in Philly, this is also the last opportunity I will have to run Broad Street and with everyone I knew running it. Since 2012, the crowd has swelled to excess of 40,000 people, which has made the pre-race and post-race conditions very difficult.
Better late than never! Between life, work-related travel and illness, I’ve been off the grid a bit, but once I’m recovered, things will be back to normal on the blog and hopefully on the pavement! That said, long overdue…
Registration was done by lottery. I registered on February 1st and was notified on the 17th that I had gotten in. Seamless and easy and at $43 per person, it’s not a horribly priced race at all. I had found out by email and once it was confirmed, zing, I worked Broad Street into my training plan and saved the date. Only thing I know many runners had their gripes about was the seemingly incessant emails from or regarding their advertisers. There were several quips on Facebook about this
Unlike the 2012 expo, this year’s expo was hosted at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For those not living in the city, parking, as usual, is a bit of a problem. Most people who work in the city attempt to make a dash during work hours otherwise, it’s a jaunt in traffic. This year though the race gave runners the option to ship their packet to them for an extra fee which per the feedback on Facebook, a number of people took advantage of.
Expo doors were open on Friday from 11am to 7pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm. I had gone first thing on Friday and I was greeted with THIS queue:
Thankfully the queue moved quickly and before I knew it kit and bib pickup was quite seamless. An array of food and race vendors were present which I had taken the time to check out. The expo was quite expansive though for a race of 41000 runners, I would have expected more food vendors or products to try out. Maybe that was me. But otherwise, the expo was well laid out.
For me, highlights included the Temple station, being a proud MBA grad from last year I just had to take a snap:
And of course before I forget, the race shirt:
I wasn’t as fond of this year’s design as I was 2012, largely because this year’s shirt was white (blah) and the 2012 shirt was blue. Also the City Hall silhouette…well it was appropriate but sort of meh.
One major change with this race was the shift in start time to 8am (instead of 8:30am as in past years) because of the TV coverage. Instead of leaving at 6:45am, this go, it was at least half an hour earlier. I think I boarded the subway at around 6:15am.
In spite of taking the express train from Center City, it still took us north of 30 minutes, almost 40 minutes to reach Olney. Once we filed out and up from the subway station, our next order of business was to find the schoolbuses to check in our bags.
Then we checked in our bags, they gave us a tag on our bib and the corresponding tag for our bus number and luggage number both on our wrist and on the bag itself.
It was then I started warming up as the crowds started to increase. People were just everywhere strewn at Einstein Hospital.
And in just half an hour, the pre-game crowd control was yet another reminder of why I sat out the last few years of this race. Too tight, and too many runners in the wrong corrals. This was probably the part of Broad Street that I hated the most. Unfortunately in our corrals we were sandwiched like sardines and unable to move, watched in some disgust as runners of any speed unable to make it into their corrals found themselves pouring in the Somerville Avenue, getting right behind the green corral, which unfortunately happened to be the corral right before mine.
This proved to be an issue largely because of the long start time (we didn’t leave the start line until 8:40am!!!) a concern of mine was the sunlight and the resulting heat – the weather was expected to rise into the high 70s.
Eventually we were off – and I would find that very soon, I would be overtaking everyone well on the way to a respectable time.
Mile 1: Olney That Rocky theme song. Admittedly being bored (and worse) with Philly, the song only grates my ears, forget being inspirational. But I guess having done so many Philly races, I’ve just never found the song to pump me up. Not like some of the rally songs that have done so at many of my non-Philly races. Once we were off, I veered to the sharp left overtaking people well heading to the Temple School of Medicine, the site of my graduate school final project. So many memories from last year with my MBA project group, quite fitting that I would have one more trip by the building that ultimately was the place of conclusion for my graduate school experience.
I paced myself normally, just wanted to finish in one piece and knowing about the heat, didn’t want to kill myself too early.
The road dipped slightly before a slight incline – no issues here. Passed a DJ and a drummer group. It was awesome getting to see North Philly residents cheering us on, a neighbourhood or two that I never had been through in several years now.
Mile 2: Tioga Another uphill and a downhill. And pretty soon, I caught sight of a runner that had fallen down and collapsed, surrounded by other runners directing us away from the fray and a medic trying to revive him. Oh goodness. Seeing that would always give me the chills, and I said a silent prayer for him. I would later hear that medics saved this person’s life, but I feared that despite my good health, that such a thing could happen to me despite all the precautions I would take. The second mile I attempted to stay in the shade of many buildings as by 9am the sun started beating down on the route. Ugh.
Mile 3: Allegheny We continued downward. First water station, first Gatorade. With the heat increasing, I had increased my intake of fluid so unsurprisingly took in more water and Gatorade in the water bottle I was carrying on my person. Again, tried to veer as far left as I could to avoid the sun.
Mile 4: Temple University Temple University. More memories. Graduate School Association. More classes on Main Campus, Liacouras Center, the site of graduation and the basketball games I’d attended. Crazy. The band played loudly and cheerleaders egged us on as did a slew of students presumably in their final exams period.
These positive memories helped me keep up the pace well into the midway point.
Mile 5: Fairmount The masses of crowds were picking up and at this point the cheers were becoming even louder. Bands were playing a variety of music as we passed Brown Street, then Fairmount Avenue, then Green Street, then further south. I then saw another water stop. More water, more Gatorade. I looked in vain for people that I recognised but to no avail.
We continued down to City Hall where we made a right around the loop, closer to Suburban Station and then back left towards the Ritz-Carlton, and then continued south.
Mile 6: Theatre District/Rittenhouse This is the part of the course where the crowds are the loudest and it wasn’t any different from 2012. I was tempted to take a selfie of some sorts once I’d passed City Hall but seeing I was well ahead of time for a PR, I decided to let the mood and my body carry me along. Loads of spectators lined the Theatre District and through Fitler Square as well as spectators standing on the dividers. Still no sign of any supporters I knew. One of my friends had mentioned to me she’d be waiting at Washington Avenue, except I missed her as she stood on the far right of the street, and of course I was on the far left. Le sigh.
Miles 7 and 8: South Philadelphia We proceeded deeper in the course, with the crowds staying relatively populated through South Philly. At Federal Street, I ran into one of my friends from City Sports, Nick, who is a rep at 2XU. Saw many people I knew as I gave them all high fives. It was an uplifting feeling compared to 2012 as I tried to get memories of South Philly out of my mind having broken up with an ex. But those memories have since been replaced with much more positive ones.
The deeper we got into South Philly, the crowds began to thicken again…and even worse, so did the heat. Ugh.
Mile 9: Sports Complex By the time we hit Mile 9, my body was beginning to feel the effects of a long spring term, to the point I was talking to myself. Hang in there Charlene, hang in there, I kept telling myself. I wasn’t delirious but mentally I was just happy to be approaching offseason.
But it wasn’t before another unsettling incident. Off to the left, I saw another girl who had fallen and couldn’t get up. A policeman was trying to call for assistance to help. It was another shocking feeling for me that we were all vulnerable and that with all the miles I’ve done in the heat I have been extremely lucky to not have problems of any sort.
We hit FDR Park, and I took in my last few cups of water. At this point, my muscles were quite tight and I knew that any sudden stop and I wouldn’t be able to pick it up again. I kept pace, well on track for a good PR but I knew not to overdo it given the long trek it would be to the post-game party.
Mile 10: Finish at the Navy Yard This was it, the final mile. “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!”
I think I heard this phrase endlessly. The Navy Yard gates, I knew it was still 1/4 mile or so to go, and I made sure that mentally I wasn’t going to mess with my mind into oblivion.
The crowds grew louder and we went through the two underpasses adjacent to the sports complex.
The road was narrowing and then, finally, the grandstand. I saw the finish line, the sponsors’ signs and the finish.
Six minute PR, in the bag.
After the Finish Line
My brutal honest opinion here – the post-race scene was just scary. The first thing I thought seeing all the crowds was just getting the hell out of there. Too many people, most of the people I would know would be at the post-race party held by Philadelphia Runner.
We funneled through the finishers’ chute and through the food tent, relatively in an orderly fashion. Volunteers were everywhere, handing out the medals, and they were distributing bags in the food tent. In the food bag were the typical Philly treats, not my cup of tea for a post-race snack admittedly, but still all gravy nonetheless. Two Tastykake fruit bars, a pair of Goldenberg candy chews, an orange, a banana, a bottle of water, and volunteers were handing out a large pretzel from Philly Pretzel Company.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find a stack of the medals but they were in the middle of the crowd. No signage. The initial volunteers that had given out medals ran out of them so we were left to fend and find the medal rack. That was just brilliant. Not.
I wanted to queue up for the bathroom, but realising the queues were entirely too long, managed to force myself out to the busses where I picked up my bag, swapped shirts (my race shirt was soooooo icky and sweaty) and trudged around to find the exit to the Navy Yard to get on with things and head to the Philadelphia Runner tailgate.
I ran into fellow Philly runner @MalindaAnnHill from @TwinsRun!
After which I settled for a few good grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato pie. I skipped the beer admittedly as I’m not a fan of Yards beer and dehydration was a bit of a problem for me during the race. Not to mention the queue for the beer was stupidly long.
And of course, who can forget the view of the lake.
Overall, I have no complaints about everything BESIDES the pre- and post-race experience. Ultimately though, this is my last year in Philly and most likely my last year being able to do this race. I do hope for the sake of the Philly running community that Broad Street organisers will do what they can to improve the pre- and post-race experience because even if I was still staying in the area, my experience there would really disincline me to participate in future years, even in spite of how affordable the race is. Better signage and organisation of runners in starting corrals would go a very long way.