A year ago, Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn, overweight and feeling it, would never have dreamed he would be competing in the Broad Street Run on May 6. In this final blog entry, he shares the experience of running the race. Check out all of our Broad Street Run coverage at www.philly.com/broadstreetrun.
You go to the gym every day, with a goal in mind. Run Broad Street.
It was the fear of the unknown that motivated you and scared the hell out of you, too, as the day approached.
Then comes the fateful Sunday morning. You get to the parking lot early, you take the SEPTA express, you check your gear, you go to the bathroom.
Everything is in place. And then the horn goes off and you go on a journey, like Gulliver’s Travels or the Wizard of Oz.
I finished in two hours and 15 minutes. It hurt like hell sometimes, and I smiled liked hell sometimes.
It was a test. Ahab beckoned and Vonnegut laughed.
And I made it.
There were many gifts along the way. In North Philly, the giant mural of Grover Washington Jr. got me through at least a mile. Mister Magic was playing in a loop in the iPod in my head. Stanley Turrentine’s Pieces of Dreams followed.
The next mural added some punch. Joe Frazier. Ali, Larry Holmes and George Foreman. Not long after was the promo for the Mayweather-Cotto fight shown live on pay-per-view the night before at the club. Sign was still up.
Along the way was the Temple football team. I ran the gauntlet of about 8-10 players, low-fiving as I swooped across the group. “You look like you did it …” the last one said as I broke quickly back into a 13-minute pace from that momentary burst of energy. His words stayed with me, too.
You buy time, steal time, really … taking you out of the street and into the moment. The mental energy boosts break down the miles so you forget where you are and how far you have to go.
Around the 3-4 mile mark, the lack of port-a-potties became evident as one male after another bolted for the weeds around York Avenue. Some are even captured in one of the local TV stations’ photo galleries.
Peeing is believing.
Before the race, there were very few options. The first was at the Olney SEPTA station. There were two bathrooms and the line reached about 30. At the moment, it seemed like a bad call. So I went back upstairs and headed for those port-a-potties just ahead of the Pink Corral, which was my group anyway.
The line was long and the number of receptacles small. Thoughts of watering those pansies no doubt danced through many heads.
One pair of runners who clearly looked like a couple, kind of wandered sideways into the line, somehow managing to get next to me. Before I even realized it, the three women behind me got all Philly on them. “Don’t even think about it,” one said. They were politely hostile and the couple scurried away like scared rabbits.
Eventually, everyone took care of business. But it would not be the last pit stop.
I found a relief station about a quarter mile before the halfway point. I waited for at least a minute and the rest took a minute, too.
Back on course, with the Inquirer building in plain sight.
That’s where I got my first real energy boost. My wife Amy and son Jack were waiting for me outside, rocking away to the music of the live band. I hugged Amy and then Jack, as the band played on.
It lasted me at least another five minutes until I became the first in my family to ever run for City Hall.
Not long after rounding the bend, former Mayor/Governor/potential owner of the Inquirer, Ed Rendell, was giving out high fives. “Under four to go,” he said to me as I traipsed past him. I didn’t know who felt more tired at this point, him or me.
Under four miles. That’s longer to go than any other race I have ever run except for the Rothman 8k. Still, it gave me hope. (By the way, Mayor Nutter, you need some serious road work done. You could drive a jet ski though some of the ruts.)
Two more rock bands played and a rapper, getting me through South Philly.
When I hit Wolf, all I could think of was the movie 10th and Wolf in which Giovanni Ribisi played the lead character/gangster and that the movie was filmed in Pittsburgh. I mean, what’s up with these guys?
No one is going to watch a movie about the mob in Philly except people in Philly, and you film it in Pittsburgh?
Now you’re really talking about pissing people off. Inquirer reporter George Anastasia totally agrees.
At the 8-mile mark, one guy came across the street and pointed directly at me: “You got it, big man.”
Hell, I almost felt like sprinting, but the ankles, knees, Achilles and hips took a rain check.
Broad Street started getting narrower now, then stadiums showed up, followed by the Navy Yard.
Inquirer sports reporter Bob Brookover was near the entrance. His wife ran, did great, and he gave me a high five.
That got me another 200 yards, and I figured, what the heck, run as hard as you can.
The race took me 15 minutes longer than it took to watch The Avengers.
One last bathroom break, then a trip to the Gear Check bus No. 55 and another line for the shuttle bus back to the parking lot by Lincoln Financial Field.
I have to give props to all the people who had spurred me on, especially Monica Yant Kinney, who’s challenge turned from half-kidding to reality.
There were some great tips from friends and gurus. I used Pro Glide and will gladly be their celebrity endorser. Chafing used to be my middle name. And it gave me ammunition when I saw the woman with the sign that said: “Your nipples will be bleeding at Mile 8.” Not mine.
Same with socks. Cost 10 bucks at the running store in Mullica Hill, but worth every cent. No blisters.
There were training tips: hit the roads. Nutrition tips: protein bars and limit the caffeine on race day. Plus big breakfast three hours before start time. And SEPTA: Take public transportation.
This was a battle of mind over matter, asphalt and sore joints and muscles.
When I saw my son at the halfway point, he said, “Did you win, daddy?”
Yes, Jack, I won.
I ran the whole way.
Read John's previous installments:
To check out more Check Up items go to www.philly.com/checkup