Last year, as a sideline supporter, I watched the Philadelphia Broad Street Run unfold in front of me. This year, I experienced this phenomenon from the inside as a participant. I was joined by my friend Monica, who traveled from Boston for her fifth consecutive Broad Street.
The day was cool causing many runners to wear sweats they’d quickly discard on the streets to be collected by a Salvation Army type service. Monica wore a plastic poncho I gave her. Near the start, we spotted my sister and nieces while one person after another in front of us jumped up to slap the blue banner marking the start of their run. “I don’t know, think I can make it?” I asked my niece trying to gauge the height. As my hand hit the banner my hat flew off, I landed swiveling around into a stampede of oncoming runners to retrieve it.
Then sprinted ahead to find Monica. We ran together for a couple of strides until up ahead Survivor blared through a boom box. Sheepishly, she asked, “Mind if I take off?”
“Not at all…go get ‘em Tiger.”
Smiling, she leaped forward ripping the middle of her poncho with both hands breaking free from the plastic shell before quickly disappearing. For a while, I looked for my sister and nieces but it was impossible and soon gave up. During the first three miles, my stride felt strong, empowered by the surge of the collective rushing through me, flanked on either side by bands and supporters equipped with cow bells, signs and cheers. Periodically, I threw one-handed Rocky fist pumps at the crowd in way of acknowledgment.
Right before Temple Hospital, I heard a beautiful, angelic female voice singing on our behalf and it dawned on me that this is what it feels like to have an entire city behind you, supporting you. This is what athletes and musicians experience daily, an incredible energy. As Mayor Kenney observed, “Every year, Philadelphia has proudly given over 40,000 runners the opportunity to travel through historic neighborhoods distinguishing our city.”
The crowds at Temple University, my Alma Mater, were among the strongest. As I ran through I remembered something a classmate said years ago, “Everybody wants to belong to something.” I realized in this moment we all belonged here, to these streets, to this city, united in this very singular goal. Shortly thereafter, an older gentleman shouted: “I See You Philly.” I fist pumped and kept running. At halfway point, right before City Hall, a supporter standing on the center medium looked directly at me shouting, “This year there is no giving up. Pick up the pace!” Reminiscent of a drill sergeant.
Somewhere along the Avenue of the Arts I turned around to proudly thrust my chin up at William Penn whose been watching over this race for 38 years. At Pine Street, my brother-in-law slapped my elbow and for the seventh or eighth time I played the Mos Def song – Quite Dog Bite Hard – which became the theme song of my run. Fatigue set in after I passed Washington Street and right before Mifflin Street I stopped to walk. I took three steps before I heard the Drill Sargent’s commanding voice: “This year there is no giving up. Pick up the pace.”
“Yes, sir.” I replied and kept running. From there on I focused only on putting one foot in front of the other until I arrived at the Navy Yard, saluting the cameras as I crossed the finish line.
A Warrior Princess