The beauty of individual competition

Mayor Nutter gives runners a high-five at last year's Philadelphia Marathon.

This is just part of our coverage of this year's Philadelphia Marathon. You can read all of the articles at And don't forget to join us there on race day to follow the action.

By Rob Senior

My sports background consists entirely of team activities. Whether playing, coaching, officiating or covering events as a writer, every athletic competition I’ve entered was team vs. team. One group was going home happy, while the other would have to wait for another day.

Covering the Philadelphia Marathon has been an eye-opening experience. The event has over 28,000 participants, including half-marathon runners. Realistically, about 50 of these competitors—25 men and 25 women—have a legitimate shot at winning the event. So what’s in it for the other 99.9 percent?

Over the next week or so, you’ll find out, just as I did. Sports Doc will be profiling all types of marathon runners, male and female, experienced and beginners, record-setting champions and people just excited to run and hopefully finish the race.

You’ll meet a few of those select competitors with a chance at winning the event, like yesterday’s guest blogger Kelly Calway. You’ll get to know Meredith Lambert, a Main Line lawyer who doubles as a former United States Women’s Marathon Team trial runner. Lambert is hoping Philadelphia will be her first step back to the 2016 trials.

Ardmore’s own Mike McKeeman finished second in the 2006 marathon—and let’s just say he’s looking to improve his finish this time. You’ll hear Mike’s story of training with Olympians and elite coaches in hopes of attaining his goal.

But marathon weekend is more than just Sunday’s race. Saturday’s Rothman Institute 8K will feature Hugh Campbell, 88 years young, who earlier this year shattered the 5K national record for runners age 85-89. Hugh will share his tale of taking up running two years ago, at the age of 86, and reaching such lofty heights.

We’ll feature the incredible story of Amy McDonaugh, a mother of three who is legally blind and won a Cincinnati Marathon in the spring of 2011. Since then, Amy’s been racking up 5K, 8K and half-marathon victories and will go for top honors in Philadelphia next weekend.

You’ll be inspired by Chip Bearden, who overcame considerable obstacles to finish the Philadelphia Marathon two years ago and now hopes to return at full strength for this year’s event. And you’ll be moved by South Philly’s Linda Reilly, who runs for the hopes of an entire community—and for two very special men in her life.

Finally, we’ll take you to the end—or perhaps a ‘mile’stone—of a journey with Mike Fanelli of San Francisco. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Fanelli began running at Bishop McDevitt High School in the early 1970s and has kept meticulous records of his running ever since. Now, Mike is returning home for a crowning achievement. At some point during next week’s race, Mike Fanelli will run his 100,000th lifetime mile.

Through it all, running coach Mark Sullivan will be there to guide you through the course the marathon runners will take on Sunday. Sullivan is one of only two people to compete in every Philadelphia Marathon since 1994 and will offer pointers on several course landmarks through our interactive map.

And so honestly, I found myself a little jealous of these competitors after hearing their stories, their setbacks and their triumphs. For all my great memories—and hopefully, great experiences still ahead of me in team sports, one fact will remain—there’s going to be a winner, and there’s going to be a loser. Next Sunday, Philadelphia will celebrate 28,000 winners.