BROAD STREET: AMERICA’S ROAD RACE
The first Sunday of May, every year, in Philadelphia, the City Parks and Recreation Department hosts one of the oldest and largest road races in the country, the Broad Street 10 miler. It is truly America’s Race, held in one of our nation’s most historic cities, run through enthusiastic neighborhoods, past remarkable structures, and finishing inside iconic Navy Yard, as you past gigantic naval vessels still moored there. Broad Street is the longest street contained within any US city, and you get to run ten of it’s twelve plus miles in this race. It is officially known as the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, acknowledging the event’s main sponsor for the past thirty-nine years. But if you just say “I’m running Broad Street”, everyone understands what you are saying.
The phrase is uttered by some 40,000 runners each May, with race entries capped st that mark. The race is so popular and unique, it utilizes with few exceptions (legacy runners, or certain charities for example), a lottery system for entries. There are no performance entry standards to be met, it is open to everyone to register, but not all the registrants are selected. Late winter when the lottery results are released, the second iconic Broad Street phrase is spoken or posted, “Did you get in Broad Street?” No one is referencing the SEPTA subway system with that query.
This year’s event will take place on Sunday, May 6, and after some summer like conditions for much of the week, race day conditions are predicted as favorable. The temperature looks to be sixty degrees at the start of the race, with little wind, some cloud cover, and manageable humidity. There have been a few unseasonably hot race days at this event in the past. After ten miles with heat and humidity at ninety-five, even the elite front runners are starting to wobble a little.
There are elite runners every year, and it is a fast field up front. Many of the best running clubs from the Philly area to New York enter teams each year, as do corporations. It is a “hometown” race for the many talented locals who pencil in this date when they are filling out their dance card each spring season. And they are joined by thousands of competitors from dozens of of states. Foreign runners, including world class African stars often are at the head of the pack. The corral start, and the logistics of fitting 40,000 runners between the curbs of Broad Street, gives the race another unique aspect. Normally the first hundred or so of the top runners are re-hydrating down in the Navy Yard before the final runners have even started their race.
Let that sink in for a moment. And eventually, all 40,000 runners end up in the parade grounds on the Navy Yard, making for a rather packed house as the morning progresses. The adjacent stadium parking lots at the Sports Complex absorb some of the crowd and feature impromptu post race tailgates, depending on other events that might be going on st the Sports Complex that day. More of the organized post race get togethers are held in FDR Park on Broad Street near the Navy Yard.
If you didn’t get into Broad Street, there is still plenty to do. As mentioned, 100,000 plus fans will line Broad Street cheering on the runners. Hard to calculate that over a ten mile stretch, and I have always felt there were more people than that milling about. Also, the race expo where the runners pick up their numbers and race packets beforehand is open to the public and free, called the Health & Wellness Expo “Presented by Einstein Healthcare Network” will be held at The Pennsylvania Convention Center, Hall G, on Arch Street, Philly the two days prior. A lot of running related vendors and a speaker series focusing on running health.
The Expo hours are Friday, May 4 – 11:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 5 – 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The race starts at 8:00 AM Sunday, and the first finishers will be in the Navy Yard in under fifty minutes. Further info, directions, and security protocols are available on the event site www.broadstreetrun.com.