Beat the Bus: Racing SEPTA

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You can join West Philly Runners tonight as they race the SEPTA 21 bus. (Beat the Bus Facebook)

Did you ever try to race a car down the street as a kid? You’d get a quick jump off of the starting line, briefly putting you in the lead until the vehicle switched gears and sped past. Even if it was only for a few euphoric seconds, you – in true underdog fashion – were faster than that car.

Well, if you’re looking to recapture that feeling or just want to test your abilities against an inanimate object, the guys of West Philly Runners have just the event for you. Tonight they’ll be taking on an adversary most of us would surely like to see fall when they race against a SEPTA bus.

“It all started when I was waiting for the bus and thought, I wonder if I can make it home before the bus shows up? Is it even possible,” Kyle Cassidy, member of the West Philly Runners group and the creative genius behind the “Beat the Bus” event said.

They’re out to prove that running from point A to point B could be a potentially faster option than some of our city’s public transportation services.

“We’re hopeful some runners will beat it. The time is possible. SEPTA says it will take 31 minutes for the bus to get to our finish point which is on pace with some of our faster runners,” West Philly Runner founder Alon Abramson said.

The group will meet tonight at Penn’s Landing (Front and Market) at 6 p.m. before they prepare for their showdown with the SEPTA 21 bus. The official departure time of the bus from that specific location is 6:16 p.m., but once the bus picks up its passengers the race is on.

Heather Redfern, a SEPTA spokeswoman said, “Our buses are going to continue to operate along their regular routes, making their normal, scheduled  stops. We hope that those attempting to outrace the bus observe the traffic lights and laws that our buses must also follow."

Running alongside the SEPTA bus, the group will (hopefully) follow the same route as its mechanical counterpart for about 3.5-miles on a course that is basically a straightaway down Walnut Street. They’ll finish at one of the running group’s favorite post-run hangouts, Pasqually’s Pasta and Pizza on 43rd and Walnut.

“If we were to make a bet, our money is on the bus,” Redfern said.

They have also coordinated the event so that there will be someone on the bus live tweeting the run using the hashtag #BeatTheBus, as well as someone at Pasqually’s tweeting as people approach the finish line.

“Maybe people will start thinking, hey I can pack a small bag and run home from work,” Abramson said about the possible effect of the run.

Not interested in running? The group would still love your company. You can hang out along Walnut and cheer them on as they go by or simply come to the after party, an activity they take just as seriously as their runs. In Philadelphia there are only a handful of what they call beer runner groups, West Philly Runners being one.

“Most of our ideas often come up at the bar after a run,” Cassidy said.

This isn’t the first quirky run West Philly Runners has come up with. In the spring they host the 26-by-1 marathon, a team event where 26 participants are asked to run a single mile. The course is set up as a loop so runners can interact with each other while waiting for their turn.

“It’s a party as much as a race,” Cassidy said

The group meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at 45th and Locust Streets before they go on runs of 2, 4 or 6 miles and although they might originate at different locations they all conclude at the same bar.

“It’s very social and informal. It’s great because it’s not geared towards a particular fitness level. Anyone can do it,” Abramson said.


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