One longtime Broad Street runner enjoys the long haul

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A sea of humanity washes down Broad Street during the 2008 Broad Street Run. (Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel / Inquirer Staff Photographer)

In the race before the race, Tom Carbery has a long road ahead.

Carbery, 60, a Southwest Philly native and retired rec department employee, has volunteered and raced in the city’s Blue Cross Broad Street Run for all of its 31 years, starting, he jokes, when his gray hair was curly brown.

Before he takes off on Sunday, in the dark hours of the morning, starting around 4 a.m., Carbery will help 65 volunteer groups plot logistics and organize the necessities: 60,000 bottles of water; 790,000 cups; 60,000 bananas, 60,000 oranges and 60,000 Tastykakes; 30,000 bags of chips and 30,000 snack foods; 34,000 T-shirts; 7,000 feet of barricade – oh, 260 Porta Pottys! - and 187,200 safety pins to secure the runners’ race bibs.

(The day before, Carbery will also join hundreds of volunteers at a South Philadelphia recreation center to stuff 30,000 runner bags).

"It’s a real effort,’ says race director Jim Marino. "And it builds a lot of camaraderie."

It’s also a labor of love.

While Carbery volunteers, his older son, Brian, announces from the race’s starting area. His other son, Matt, has run in the race 16 of his 26 years. "At one time, he used to run with me in the back of the pack," says Carbery, "but he didn’t like that."

In runs past, Carbery has finished his volunteer work in enough time to get a 45-minute late start in the 10-mile trek.

"I just love to do it," says Carbery of the run. "Now matter how many times you do it, you can’t believe the start of the race. The ground vibrates when they take off. It’s just absolutely amazing. And you look down Broad Street, and see this sea of people. Every year, it’s still a sight to see."

Although Carbery says he’s slowed to a 10-minute mile, year after year, he’s managed to pass thousands of walkers and runners. This year, he has incentive. Marino of the rec department said that for every runner Carbery’s chip says he passes Sunday, a band of staffers will donate $1 to his favorite charity.

To that, Carbery jokes, "I guess I better know my pace."