This is not a foot blog.
When I was in college there was this guy who lived across the quad from me that everybody called Dave the Deadhead -- he liked the Grateful Dead. A lot. He was an unusual character who'd occasionally do things like bring every piece of furniture out of his apartment and set it up in the middle of the lawn -- carpets, lamps, sofas, the TV and sit there playing the guitar and baking like a pie in the sun -- he was that sort of eccentric.
He once told me that he'd taken LSD at a Grateful Dead concert and freaked out because there were too many people around him. Someone tried to calm him down by having him sit down on the ground and when he did he said "That's when I noticed -- THERE WERE TWICE AS MANY LEGS!"
Occasionally, when I'm in a crowd I'll think back to that story. I'd never thought before about looking at a crowd from it's shoes, but it's evident when you're at a giant race and you stop looking at people as faces and start looking at them as shoes, it's evident that there's something different about this crowd.
At the start.
This was my third time running Broad Street, Philadelphia's signature 10 mile run and this time was different.
In 2013 I struggled to finish in 1:52:42 and I passed out after I crossed the finish line, and then again about 40 minutes later, that's how much it took out of me.
The second year I knocked almost half an hour off my time and didn't faint, that's what a year of running did in the interim. This time I had loftier goals I was in the purple corral this year, right up in front with the fast kids.
Panorama from the purple corral.
You may clickenzee to embiggen.
There are 40,000 people who run Broad Street and starting them off properly so they don't run one another down is a science. Runners are "seeded" by their projected finish times. In theory, nobody passes anybody in the race, your bib number is your projected finishing position. The people in the slowest corrals might not start until half an hour before the fastest runners have taken off, (and it's possible that some people might not start until after the winner has actually crossed the finish line ten miles away.) That's theory though, it doesn't always work like that. Some people get lost and wander into a faster corral, others have no idea how long it will take them to finish and just guess, and still others pick faster corrals because they don't like waiting around. Depending on where you start out, your first three miles might be little but shouting "excuse me!" as you squeeze through optimistically seeded runners. It's a big complaint. But all that only really matters if you're trying to get, or beat, a specific time. If you're just out there to have fun, what's time matter? You're there.
I've found that the better I get at running, the more important it is for me to do it well, but at the same time, I don't want to get so serious that I stop having fun.
One of my friends missed his Boston Marathon finishing time by eight seconds and told me it was the most staggering defeat of his running career, that the failure consumed him for a year, maybe even more.
I get annoyed when people put themselves in the wrong corral and start walking in the first three miles, but I don't want to get to the point where I'm crushed by not making a time. This is exactly why I will never be a really good runner. (This was underscored for me at last year's Philadelphia Half Marathon where two guys in front of me were saying that they didn't stop to urinate, they just ... went. I realized then that I lacked sufficient dedication to be really fast.)
All that said, the race started, I started about five minutes behind the first group of runners. Speakers blared the Rocky theme, we went off -- I saw the mayor hi-5ing people and I locked myself in to a 7:55 pace, slightly aggressive. My goal was to do 8:00's, but I was ready to try 7:35 if my body was willing, but I'd promised myself that I'd hold back this time. My mantra was "you cannot bank time" -- usually I go out too fast and burn out somewhere about 3/4 of the way in.
7:55 felt comfortable and I felt amazing -- because just two years before I'd run it in 11 minute miles and passed out after I crossed the finish line and here I was, speeding along and feeling like this was a reasonable pace.
A mile in former Philadelphia Mayor and former Pennsylvania governor (they're the same person) Ed Rendell, hi-5ed me at a water station.
One of the really great things about Broad Street is that there are people cheering the entire ten miles, which really gives you a boost.
trillian_stars surprised me at mile six, just at city hall waving and jumping in the air -- she had a rehseal that day for Don Quixote and I didn't think she was going to be able to see the race, but it got pushed back. Running is a pretty solitary sport and I don't imagine that it's really fun to watch -- you stand somewhere and watch ten thousand people huff and puff past, it must look pretty monotonous so when someone does come out just to watch you, it makes them a pretty special person.
At mile 7 I saw Eric Smith from Geekadelphia who was dressed up like ... gah, the techno band with the helmets ... it's not Aphex Twin ... someone will know in the comments.
Mile 7 was also where it stopped being fun, where 8 minute miles seemed too fast to keep up and I was ready for it to be over. I'd told myself that at mile 7 I was going to speed up and run the last three miles really hard -- this is called "negative splitting" -- when your last miles are faster than your first. It's considered the proper way to race. But at mile 7 I started making deals with myself "it's okay to slow down, you're not going to win."
One thing that running a lot does for you is make you more able to deal with pain. You can suck it up better and afterwards it does seem like the really painful parts evaporate more quickly from your memory.
At this point anyway, the finish was only 5k away and after you've been running for a while, you can put up with anything for 5k. And so you grind on, boats into the night and all that and eventually it's over.
Finished! Clickenzee to see the sweat up close!
I met up with the West Philly Runners and we ate our banannas and our potato chips and whatever else was in the bag of food they give you at the end and I was happy for the journey, moreso than the result, I was happy for the experiences I'd had with these people, the kindnesses they'd shared with me and the comrade.
I owe it all to these guys. Well, most of it anyway.
You may clickenzee to embiggen the West Philly Runners
I hosted the party this year, the house and the back yard filled up with people, we cooked, we talked, we clanked around in our medals.
The medal, she opens the beers!
You may clickenzee to embiggen!
I was going to say a lot more, but theres so much else I haven't done and this is overdue. So I'll just say: I wish sports weren't controlled by jocks. I wish that I'd found some activity I liked doing a long time ago. I think the best solution to a bad habit is a good obsession ... that if losing weight is your goal, you're more likely to fail, because there's nothing to reward you after you've hit your number. Find something that you like doing that fitness is a byproduct of, it makes the rewards both real and sustainable. And also, as always, don't let someone tell you the way you are is wrong. You don't need a six pack or a 28 inch waist, you need to be happy.
Now is the time on Sproketz where we count our toenails
My Broad Street Run total times and paces (miles per minute) for the past three years:
2013: 1:52:42 11:01
2014: 1:24:29 8:26
2015: 1:20:58 8:05
There's nowhere to go next year but 7-something and that's ... scary.
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