Monday, May 7, 2012

A Broad on Broad Street

I feel the need to introduce myself to Courtney’s followers, my name is Aimee Gardina. In a nutshell, I am a former elementary teacher, now stay-at-home mom with a four year old son and three year old daughter. I found the need to enjoy some “me time” after going through some freakish medical complications that I will spare you the details on as well as trying to find “a thing” for me and thus, running became my cheap therapy.

So I am wrapping up my “spring training” runs and Courtney asked me to do a review on my last run which was the Blue Cross Broad Street run. This run boasts on being the biggest 10 miler in the country, enabling 40,000 runners to run the mostly downhill street race straight down Broad Street, a busy road that starts in North Philly, goes through center city and finishes in the Navy Yard in South Philly. My sister lives in Philadelphia and we had heard about this run after completing one in Philly in November so we were excited to do this one together.

Let me begin by telling you that this is a race I will be doing again. Not even a question in my mind and let me tell you why…..

I had the registration date for this race in calendar in my phone (because I found after having children that I could no longer remember anything) and sat at the computer on that morning to sign myself and my husband up for this race. I also texted friends who I knew were also interested in doing this run a reminder about today being the day! Unfortunately the page I pulled up said the site is basically on overload and is crashing. Awesome. Apparently lots of people also have this in their phones or perhaps their brains still work. So fine, onward with my day….I worked out, brought my recycling to the recycling center and came home to give it another go…. I got in!!!! Yay! So I quickly registered myself and my husband. My sister also was able to register from work and then the next thing I knew the website said they are at capacity and all other interested parties could now register for a lottery for the last few places. This race sold out in 4 hours. Wow. That left a lot of angry people who work all day and couldn’t register yet. Counting my blessings…..

Fast forward to packet pick up day, the expo was in the Lincoln Financial Field. To those of you who could care less about sports, that’s the Philadelphia Eagles Stadium.  The expo was held on the club level…which is the top level.  That means for us, we had to drive to south Philly on Saturday and then walk ramp after ramp to the top to pick up our stuff. We joked as we walked up that this was how they weeded out the incompetent runners. The crowd was surprisingly small, but we heard it was crazier earlier in the day. All in all it took us about 30 minutes to pick up our stuff, laugh at the funny t-shirts the vendors were selling, sample the new black cocoa coffee Dunkin Donuts was sampling (delicious both times we grabbed one) and head into center city for the night.

Even though this was just a 10 miler, we felt the need to “carb up” so we went to a restaurant we have been to before that is close to my sister’s apartment called Giorgios on Pine (on Pine Street obviously). As on previous visits, the food is beyond amazing and it’s safe to say we all had about a loaf of bread to eat in addition to our meals. If you are ever in Philly and want some ridiculously good food, try this restaurant. I could write a whole blog on this jackpot find so I will just leave this deliciousness to your imagination.

After a good night sleep we headed up to the start line in North Philly at about 7:15. The run is scheduled to begin at 8:30 and we wanted time to find our corrals and the ever delightful porta-potties with time to relax with the other 40,000 other runners. Thankfully we had someone to drop a group of us off, most of the runners took the subway up to the starting line (the subway was free for runners that day, thank you SEPTA!) Now for those of you not familiar with North Philly, it is a VERY interesting place. Let me paint this picture for you….. North Philly has some great stuff (my mom always told me to say nice things) …. Temple University (including a law school and a hospital) and Albert Einstein Medical Center.  (There I said some nice stuff)  but it also is a straight up ghetto. But I have to say, I have NEVER seen so many local spectators so excited for a race before. There were people leaning out their windows (a lot without shirts, yes) yelling and cheering. There were street bands playing for the runners that varied from a gospel group on the steps of a church, to a high school band, to a guy with a set of drums and his dog lying next to him. This was a major event!!!! I have to admit I took my head phones out after the race started. I honestly don’t know who was more entertained, the runners or the spectators. I again could write all day about things I saw and am having a tough time deciding my favorite part of the race…. Was it the guys running in Flyers jerseys together carrying a blown up Stanley cup? Was it the man who ran the entire thing in a full body lime green spandex suit?? Was is the group of military guys that ran together holding a massive flag and stopping every mile to do pushups and squats??? Was it all the North and then South Philly residents that came out to cheer like we were a parade??? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that this is something everyone should experience.

The race continued down through the city and we ran around the historic and magnificent City Hall and I stopped for a photo op complements of my sister. Then we headed into South Philly, which just like North Philly, had the streets lined with people cheering like we were soldiers returning from war. It was incredible. You run past the sports complex for all of Philadelphia teams then end in the Navy Yard alongside the ships.

The only real negative I can tell you is that because there was so many people, your phone didn’t work that well so if you planned on using Pandora while you ran you were out of luck and also it was difficult to find people unless you planned on a meeting place ahead of time.

What I opted not to mention thus far is my time.  I was planning on running a 10 minute mile for this which would get me a time of 1:40. I ran a 10 mile trail run the week before this with my husband with a time of 1:47 so this was well within reach since this run is on a paved, sloping downhill road. My sister called me a few days before the race, panicking about her not being able to do 10 miles and threatening about dropping out. I felt like I had a real mature adult life altering decision to make. Do I run my race, pushing for a good time by myself or run/walk the 10 miles with my sister by my side? As with all major decisions I make, I put myself to bed after fretting all day and woke up and knew what I had to do. I explained to my husband that even though I had been training for this for months and I knew I could do this with no problem, it was more important to me as a person to be the best sister I could be not the best runner I could be in this situation. I could run 10 miles for a good time anytime I wanted  to but I couldn’t run/walk through Philly with my sister whenever i felt like it. My husband is more than understanding of my closeness with my family and encouraged my decision to hang with my sister. We finished this run in 2:13. A terrible clock time for a runner who trained, but an irreplaceable time and experience together.

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