Participating in the Broad Street Run has always been on our "Philly bucket list", and this year we actually registered for it. To our great surprise, our name was picked in the lottery (such a popular race that they have to limit it to 40,000 runners), and then we were faced with the realization that we actually had to run a 10 mile race in only a few short months. *gulp* Not being a runner by nature or inclination, we managed to squeeze in time to train and can proudly boast to running the ENTIRE 10 miles (with only one quick pause for a photo-op with City Hall). Of course we will not be sharing how long it took to actually finish the race, but we can tell you that our time definitely reflects more of the Tortoise's "slow and steady" running philosophy. All in all we had a great time, and once we could walk normally again, we began to think optimistically (stupidly?) of doing it all again. In case you are thinking about attempting to "beat Broad Street", we have some thoughts, tips, and reflections from our own personal experience to share.
Get There Early:
We decided to be the race dork and show up embarrassingly early to the Broad Street Run as it was our first time, but we're so glad that we did. Not only did it mean that we got to sit down on the north bound subway ride and go to the bathroom TWICE before the race, but as it was POURING COLD RAIN, we also got to stake out one of the few dryer spots around the start of the race to chill until we got into our corral. Similarly to how mothers look forward to child birth just because they are tired of waiting, we also had time to get bored enough to actually look forward to running 10 miles.
Wear Throw Away Clothes:
We read in many tips to bring clothes to wear over your race attire that you won't mind leaving behind at the beginning of the race or sometime during it. This was especially important this year as it was POURING COLD RAIN on us. We wore a giant hoodie we had picked up for a couple of bucks from Goodwill the day before, and it kept us warm and dry while standing and waiting for the race to start. (We also went with the must-have accessory of the day: a thin rain poncho). We left our hoodie on the side of the corral (clothing left behind is picked up and donated to local homeless shelters), but most people apparently just stripped down right where they were. We were definitely not expecting the piles of clothing that we had to step over to get to the starting line. We're not sure if those in the corrals in front of us actually ran the race or were just raptured.
The beginning of the Broad Street Run is super exciting. You're running downhill in a mass of people as far as your eye can see either direction down the road, there's spectators cheering on all sides of you, and everyone is going quickly from the burst of adrenaline. We definitely had to fight to keep the pace that we had trained doing and consoled ourselves as we were passed on all sides by the thought of passing these same people later after they had burnt out their energy by giving too much too soon. With this type of distance it's better to speed up later than have to slow down toward the end (and those last three miles got brutal).
If Possible, Be a Man:
Running the Broad Street Run seems to be a heck of a lot easier for men for the simple fact that they don't need a toilet to pee. Due to race jitters or badly timed bathroom runs, a large chunk of racers had to make pit stops along the way at the port-o-johns lined up in various places along the route. In actuality you only had to wait in line for a quick potty break if you were female or a more self-conscious male. We couldn't help but notice that in every empty lot we passed there were always a handful of male runners making their mark on the wall before rejoining the race as fast as they could. Male runners also have the benefit of being able to wear obscenely short shorts that no one seems to bat an eye at (but be warned men, you better have the speed to back up those little pieces of mesh - the shorter the shorts, the faster we expect you to be).
Have a Good Playlist:
Yes, TECHNICALLY you are not allowed to wear headphones during the Broad Street Run, but unless you are thinking you might be disqualified from placing (we were not the least bit worried about it), no one cares if you wear them. Whatever motivates you to go the distance is what you should be listening to whether that's a specific list you trained with, an audiobook, or nature sounds. It doesn't matter if it's not what someone else would prefer - YOU are the only one who can get yourself to the finish line. As for ourselves, we had originally put together a general playlist, but wound up downloading this the night before and just listened to it on repeat for pretty much the entire race. Whatever works, right?
When You Get to the End, Keep Moving:
Once we finally crossed over the blessed finish line after running 10 miles, we were encouraged to continue moving and pick up various items all while trying to be a grown up about the fact that we almost literally could not walk or breathe. So we staggered forward like a big mob of zombie race participants and somehow found ourselves out in the open Navy Yard with a heat blanket, our medal, a bottle of water, a soggy soft pretzel, and our bag of race goodies and snacks. It had been POURING COLD RAIN the entire time, but now we could actually feel it. So rather than stand still and contemplate our exhilarated misery, we just kept moving - to the parking lot, to the shuttle buses, to our cars, to the subways, to our showers, to our beds, to a warm meal, to congratulatory hugs and cheers. If you just keep moving, you'll get to some place better than just exhaustion and confusion.
Enjoy the Display of Humanity:
It's moments like participating in the Broad Street Run that really make you proud to be a human being. You're there with 39,999 other people waiting, waiting, waiting and then running, running, running all together like a giant river of arms and legs, smiles and cheers (and since the year we decided to run IT POURED COLD BUCKETS OF RAIN THE ENTIRE TIME, we were literally a river). For some people running 10 miles is a breeze, but for most of the participants this takes varying degrees of actual effort. No matter how difficult or painful it got (and where we racing, you better believe the runners were feeling it toward the end there), everyone around us was not just focused on getting themselves to the finish but also on bringing all of their fellow race participants with them. "Keep going!" "We can make it!" "Don't stop now!" "We'll do this together!" all being shouted and bandied about by complete strangers.
And runners weren't the only ones keeping each other going. Lined on either side of Broad Street were people who were up early that morning (standing in the POURING RAIN for hours) for no other reason than to cheer on thousands and thousands and thousands of people that they didn't know and will most likely never see again. But we definitely saw them - all of them. From the boys with the banging pots and pans and the ladies with their big foam fingers and morning coffee to proud family members with witty signs and the loads of musicians playing to keep us going. We appreciated all the high fives, the smiles, the shouts of encouragement, and especially the basic fact that you really didn't have to be there that morning and decided to show up anyway.
The Broad Street Run is a race that we think everyone who can attempt it should attempt it. It wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. We will never forget the time we had the amazing experience of joining 39,999 other people crazy enough to run 10 miles (in the COLD, POURING RAIN) for no other reason except that they could.
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