The most amazing thing about the din and delirium of two hours and 10 miles, of helicopters buzzing and Neil Diamond blaring, was a moment I was not expecting.
My number was 39,707 so there were that many and more strangers vs. the five people I knew that were running and the five people I knew that were watching in person.
So it was a shock to hear a voice, so loud, so crystal clear, so familiar, as I was scant feet away from the finish line.
"Jooohhhhnnnnnn!!!!" my wife Amy yelled.
I turned and saw her jumping up and down. She was there, with my son, Jack, a day removed from his 12th birthday, in full party mode.
It would be another 10 minutes before I meandered through bag check, port-a-potty land, food pickup, water pickup, philly.com tent checkpoint ... before I found them again.
By then, my aching calves, thighs, feet, soles, ankles, Achilles, hips, thighs (yes, they still hurt so I am mentioning twice) were playing tag with my adrenaline turned endorphin rush.
It hurt so good.
My journey was now complete. Months of daily running, working out, 5ks, 10ks had come full circle.
I can say I ran Broad Street a second time, and it was worth every second.
Waking up at 5 a.m. is no small feat on any day, but when you leave a wedding in East Norriton, Pa. at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night (the former Deanna Aiello was stunning, btw) to go to bed in Mullica Hill NJ, you are truly a deadline animal.
In the morning, on the drive to the race, I could see danger on I-95 from the Walt Whitman Bridge heading toward the stadiums. Bad accident, truck fire, cars backed up both ways as far as you could see. E-mailed editor Rose Ciotta at 6:42. She responded at 6:52. "I'm in it ..." Without my glasses, I thought she responded, "I'm on it ..."
Either way, she WAS ON IT now.
It was cold outside, cloudy. Not what anyone expected from Cecily, Sheena and Hurricane Schwartz ...I wore my winter gloves and a cozy red fleece. Underneath was a tech shirt for Students Run Philly, and shorts. I would put my heavy duty stuff in the clear bag for bag drop. Most people were freezing, shivering, in an ironic state of under AND overdressed. They were too cold, then when race started, too hot.
But it was so beautiful, that it didn't matter.
I saw a few of my favorite spots in the first two miles. Grover Washington mural, different churches with the folks in stunning formal attire, with radiant smiles and spiritual encouragement.
There would be two interesting band arrangements along the way. The Average White Band's “Pick Up the Pieces” (which gave me a boost) and a quizzical choice of the Rolling Stones song “Paint it Black” by a solo artist who had a bag full of double A batteries on the ground below his guitar. Looked like he had gone though about two dozen by the time I got there.
Best sign was "You're not the Pope, you can't quit."
Other winner was “NO STOPPING by order of City of Philadelphia.” Had to be hundreds of those.
Good old Ed Rendell was high-fiving again just past City Hall.
The last part of the race was a blur. I felt like Gale Sayers dodging and weaving through the walkers at the end.
Without my 5-6 minute bathroom break, I finished in about two hours and one minute. I predicted two hours on my application, so once again, I am a better prognosticator than athlete at this advanced stage of my career.
Plus poor Matt Breen, Inquirer sports writer, owes me a Milky Way. I got a minute for every year, his 24 vs. my 59 ... So his 1:41 was no match for my official 2:06 ...
And, as for the Derby ... Orb and the autocorrect from heaven helped me cash my winning ticket on Sunday. Walking into the Turf Club, proudly wearing my Broad Street Run medal, you would have thought I was from another planet.
But the lasting memory will be that of my wife cheering me on.
And that's enough to get me to run again.
See you next year.
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