Philly Marathon: One Runner Gets Back In The Groove

Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn last blogged for Philly.com about his experience with the Broad Street Run. That was the last time he ran - until this past weekend - when he participated in the Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10K. John's back, and will be sharing his experience as he prepares for the Rothman Institute 8K, as part of the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. This is just part of our coverage of this year's Philadelphia Marathon. You can read all of the articles at www.philly.com/marathon2012. And don't forget to join us there on race day to follow the action.

by John Quinn

I take the Ben Franklin Bridge to work every day heading into Philadelphia. No time to play tourist. Only when you get to ride in the passenger’s seat do you get a glimpse of the magnificent view as the car ride lasts anywhere from two minutes to a half hour. But if it takes more than four minutes, you’re in no mood to look around, anyway.

On Sunday morning, I got a rare glimpse, a gift that I would have to pay for later. The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k started at 8:30 a.m. on the Camden side. We were given markers to stand at the start so the runners could be properly grouped. It went from elite at the front, and ascended by minutes per mile. Most were in the 8-to-10-minute corrals. The last dividing line was 12 minutes, then Walkers. So this size 13 shoe took his wide body and created his own 13-minute-but-not-yet-Walking group. While I was not alone, it sure felt lonely at the back.

I also was a part of another select group, the Clydesdales. There were age groups and gender groups and finally a category made for me: Over 200 pounds.

A deafening helicopter hovered above,  then left, and the horn sounded for us to traverse over to the Philadelphia side, toll free. I veered as far right as I could and took in the beautiful sights, alternating waterfront with skyline. And at the rate I was going, there was plenty of time for it all to sink in.

It was cold, and windy and seemingly uphill on both sides.

By the time winner Sam Ndereba crossed the finish line in 29 minutes and 59 seconds, I was still on the bridge passing the two-mile mark.

Before the race, I was psychologically prepared to Run the Bridge, which turned out to be about three miles. When I finished the return trip to Camden, I found out I had another three miles to go.

This is why casual runners run 5ks, not 10ks.  

This ain’t no disco.

We headed south down Broadway, then Cooper and finally passing the Battleship of New Jersey, which again was a treat.

I entered Campbell Field on empty, but two cheerleaders took me by the arms and helped me sprint to the wire. One hour and 22 minutes and 5 seconds. I finished 3,195 out of 3,263 (and not last of the Clydesdales).

While everyone wound down, eating bananas, energy bars, animal crackers and bagels, the awards ceremony began. As the winners got sporadic cheers, the final runner came into view, entering the stadium.

The public address announcer diverted everyone’s attention and the remaining crowd gave
Thomas Hamlin, 66, of Brackney, Pa., a standing ovation. He hit the tape in 1:52.20, followed by his police escort. A woman near the medal stand turned to me and said: “That takes a lot of courage.”

The human spirit triumphed. There was no difference between first and last.

Not this day.

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