Today, I ran my first race in just about two years — the Philly Broad Street Run. Now that it’s over, and I have time to reflect, I’m finding that I’m filled with a sense of motivation and excitement, but also lots of conflict.
I stopped signing up for races after completing the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon two Septembers ago. Coincidentally, that too was in The City of Brotherly Love, though at the time, I was a Big Apple dweller. There were a number of reasons I decided to stop with the races:
1. The distance was injuring me. Each time I’d train for and run a half marathon, I wound up with a stress fracture, or tendinitis, or some other form of minor (but vexing) pain.
2. New York City races are expensive! Holy Moly, New York Road Runners charges up the well-shaped ass for their events. Seriously, a half marathon could run you (get it?) $75-$125. In all fairness, I imagine that closing off city streets and hiring New York City’s finest doesn’t come cheap. But, like… I gotta eat!
3. The early start times. Races begin notoriously early, cutting into precious weekend sleep. Keep in mind, this is coming from a morning person. I gladly wake up every morning before work to squeeze in a 5 mile run. I’ve really come to treasure that, on weekends, I can wake up slowly, laze around with coffee, and walk out the door at my leisure. This morning, instead, I stumbled out of bed, tossed back a mug of coffee, and forced PB&J crackers down into my stomach. Fuel.
(Editor’s note: The wine was NOT part of my breakfast.)
Generally speaking, all of the reasons I’ve listed above remained points of contention today.
1. Although I don’t believe I injured myself, my hip pain flared (piriformis syndrome; I’m prone) between miles 6 and 7. For all intents and purposes, I should have stopped — and would have, had I not been running a race.
2. While the Broad Street entry fee was reasonable, could I have spent it on new running or hiking gear? I love shopping.
3. While waking up early isn’t the end of the world, 6:00 AM this morning was alarming, especially given that I’ve been going to sleep uncharacteristically late due to my job for the last week. That I went out on Friday and imbibed freely (all the wine) didn’t help. Then, I went to a late dinner on Saturday. That didn’t help either. But, like I said, the last few weeks have been professionally taxing. I needed to be social and go out for me.
In addition to the usual suspects, A couple of other frustrations arose this morning, too.
4. Getting there. Sounds simple, but on race day morning, most of the surrounding city streets are shut down, making it difficult to get around. I have to hand it to the city of Philadelphia. The Septa (i.e. the subway) is free to all runners; trade your tokens in for a bib, folks. That’s awesome. I’ve never experienced that before; it’s a real incentive to take public transportation. The problem? Try imagining 40,000 people going to the same destination on a single subway line. (For you non-Philly folks out there, it’s called the Broad Street Run because it is 100% on Broad Street. Septa’s orange line runs the entire length of Broad Street too. It’s in large part how everybody gets there.)
Let’s just say that the odors wafting from that subway were less than pleasant.
5. No cell service! That is, no texting or calling your friends to meet up. That is, 75 minutes of wandering before the start. That is, no Spotify playlist for the first mile!
OKAY, so I know what you must be thinking. OMGSONEGATIVESUTTHEFUDGEUP.
To that, I’d say that maybe, I’m just not all that in to races. Had I not made a late dinner reservation for Saturday night, taken an Uber to the start, or showed up with a gang of friends, maybe none of this would be true. But really, I’d probably have found other things to complain about. I tend to be dramatic.
With all of that said, I had a great time running the Broad Street Run. Mainly, because I pushed myself more than I have in many, many, many months.
Mainly, because the pain of the push made me feel strangely alive.
Mainly because, in the moments when I couldn’t, I did.
Mainly because, in the moments I doubted, I persevered.
Despite the 70-degree sun blazing overhead, I ran harder than I have in a long, long time for all 10 miles of Broad Street; it felt incredibly rewarding. Miles 1 through 3 flew by. 40,000 runners made for a slightly slow start, and by the time I slipped into a good pace, I realized that I had spent the previous 25 minutes lost in my surroundings, mesmerized by the heads and neon-clad bodies of other runners undulated before me.
Within the first mile, I realized I had made a major rookie error — pinning my race bib onto the front of my long sleeve shirt instead of my tank top. It was intentional. I knew the temperature would climb pretty quickly in the morning, but at the race’s start, it was a mere 50 degrees. I was cold. I thought pushing my sleeves up would be enough, but in less than 10 minutes, I was melting. So, while running, I unpinned and repinned my bib to the proper garment, and tied my shirt around my waist. It was 80’s fab.
Miles 3 through 5.5 were pretty awesome, with City Hall slowly growing before me. Around mile 4, I texted Noah to let him know I was 2 miles away. Ready the high fives!
From 5.5-6, things got really exciting.
Around City Hall is where the crowds became thick and fun (but, as a result, the runners also slowed). Noah and his dad were up ahead between Pine and Lombard. I was elated to see them, tossed them my shirt shirt, yelled something out about running at a quicker pace than I had anticipated, and kept trucking on. A mile or so later, Noah texted me just as my hip was starting to act up. His motivation pushed me harder, and I pushed on through.
Miles 7 through 9 were hard. Not hill hard (Broad Street is net down), not distance hard (this wasn’t my first 10 miler), not speed hard (I was maintaining what for me is an impressive pace). It was hard because my hip was aching, the short buildings did a terrible job of blocking the sun, and because no matter how much water I drank, I couldn’t keep hydrated. My head throbbed, and I even resorted to the Gatorade table. Do you know how much I dislike yellow Gatorade? But I knew I needed the electrolytes and sugar, and so I chugged and continued on.
Finally, mile 9… one more to go. Running into the Navy Yard was exhilarating: The crowds were electric, and the ships in the port on our right were pretty cool too. Before I knew it, I crossed the finish line. I had finished the Broad Street Run. I had hit double digit for the first time in two years.
Although the morning started off with a few minor frustrations, the end of the race was bliss. In New York, you get bagels. In Philly, they give you soft pretzels. I’m starting to really like this place.
Also, I got a seat on the train back home.
Did you run Broad Street? Did you race this weekend? What are your thoughts on races in general… love, like, hate, apathetic?