BROAD STREET RUN ‘18: OH, THE HUMANITY
Not unlike a scene out of Braveheart, a vast sea of humanity gathered at the corner Broad & Fisher this morning, and charged, wave after wave, ten miles to meet their fate. Not a fate meted out by swords, maces or axes, but by the relentless ticking of the clock. Armed with only their training, determination and endurance, this army took on the greatest foe of all: themselves. Whether their ultimate goal would later be understood in “gun time” or “chip time” made no difference on this day. Forty thousand warriors were in this together, and even at different speeds, and with different bodies, they were of one mind. Goodbye to the thousand yard stare, hello to the ten mile gaze.
In front of them stretched their ten mile test. Both a pursuit and an escape, all but the first among the 40,000 having someone in front of them to chase down, and only the last having no one chasing them. It was a raucous gauntlet of water stops, bands, cheer groups, cityscapes, emergency personnel and sweat for every step of the ten miles. And sometimes, as in the words from a Springsteen song “…past those fallen in their tracks, always lookin’ ahead, never lookin’ back.” DNF in running means Did Not Finish. It is the award no runner wants to win, but in a race of 40,000, some always do. Today, for a variety of reasons, would be no different. Even though conditions this morning were more favorable than in several recent years, “ too little preparation”, “too little sleep”, “too little hydration” and “too much food” were the reasons most bandied about by a few runners dissatisfied with their performances, as the mass of runners finishing began to fill in the parade grounds at the Yard. Everybody would like to set a record or run a PR every time they compete, but no one ever does. Not every time, anyway. But enough people do run on the low side of their previous mark in any race to keep that hope and motivation alive.
Running is fun, but it’s a different kind of fun. It is not like the fun you experience at Great Adventure or a day at Island Beach or as a fan at a ballgame. No, this fun requires a lot of sacrifice, dedication, sweat, and yes, pain. And not just for the comparatively minute number of award winners in a race this size, but throughout the ranks. You do not have to be a Bill Bowerman or Jumbo Elliott to suss out the differences in the runners riding the Broad Street line to the start area. Or relaxing or collapsing on the grass in the Navy Yard afterwards. Don’t dismiss the accomplishments of any of these runners, especially the females who are such a huge and visible part of American distance racing today. These are not just recreational runners or joggers, ten miles is ten miles, and it takes something special to cover that distance at any of the speeds recorded today.
Standing along Broad Street at the forty five minute mark of the race, the mood begins to change as the first runners commence their final kick through the gate and down into the chute. The throaty rumblings and shouts rise to a crescendo of cheers and clapping. Initially this will be for the front runners, the top fifty or so finishers to pass, The name of the best of the best of that group this year was Kenyan Daniel Kemoi winning in a great time of 45:44 on the men’s side. And exactly ten minutes later Sophy Jepchirchir took the women’s crown in 55:44. As these elite athletes and their closest competitors were embraced at the finish line. applause and shouts of final encouragement continued from the crowd for the small packs of runners who were just hitting the Navy Yard. Eventually the most passion and noise is often reserved for family or friends in the race as they pass by. Hard for anyone to scream “Let’s go’” or “You can do it”, forty thousand times. After awhile, fans toting signs or placards or blasting air horns and ringing cow bells, are revealed as the wise ones. Full results of the 2018 Broad Street Run, and eventually a link to thousands of photos of the runners, will be available over the next several days at the race website www.broadstreetrun.com Philadelphia has had no shortage of recent events attracting throngs of people to its streets, from the visit of the Pope to the Democratic National Convention, to Championship parades for the Eagles and Villanova Basketball. But, oh the humanity, moving this morning like an irresistible force the length of Broad Street. At the end of the day, perhaps this mass of humanity is the most amazing. Certainly, it is the most athletic.