For anyone not familiar with the Broad Street Run, it is the “Largest 10-Miler in the Nation,” and it gets its name from being a straight-shot course down Broad Street in Philadelphia. Each year since moving to Philly I’ve had people ask me if I’ve run the Broad Street Run, so after four years I decided it was time that I tried. I say ‘tried,’ because the event is so popular that entries are given on a raffle system. Luckily for Abbe and I, we entered as a group and got selected!
I would like to touch on a few logistical details of the entire event, but I’ll postpone that until after discussing the run itself; I once read a blog post in which the author ranted about race recaps that didn’t cut to the chase and just say what everyone reading a race recap wants to know (namely: how fast did you run?), and since I mostly agree with the author on that point, I’m trying to do a better job of giving running-related deets first. Sooooooo…..
My official time was 1:13:03, which is a 7:18 min/mi pace. I’m thrilled!! I was hoping to break 1:15:00 and secretly hoping to break 1:13:00, and although I didn’t quite meet that second goal, I came close enough that I’m satisfied. Unfortunately, I forgot my Garmin so I can’t give you (or obsess over) my individual mile splits, but the race was organized so that our 3, 5, and 7 mile splits were recorded.
For this reason, I’ll break my race down into those same segments. I’ve titled them according to the highlight from each.
Miles 0-3: Find your pace – Garmin-less Edition.
First of all, I was placed in the ‘Purple Corral’ which was assigned to runners with expected finishing times between 1:06:00 and 1:15:00. Because I was hoping to finish in the tail end of this time bracket, I was really worried about going out too fast since, presumably, I was surrounded mostly by runners who were faster than me. I even went as far as to ask a man next to me what his goal for the first mile was, and was kind of shocked when he replied, “8:00 pace, only because it’s hard to go much faster with all the people around.”
I wasn’t expecting that, and my worries about needing to hold back were replaced with worries about needing to get out fast enough (I’ve really been working on starting faster since slow first miles have historically dragged down my average paces; also, I was trying to average a 7:20 pace). In a moment of clarity, I decided that I should approach this watch-less race as an adventure and just try to tune into my body as much as possible to find the right speed. From that moment on, I was kind of excited to see what would happen. A few minutes later, we were off!
These first three miles are best described by my internal dialogue:
“Hey guy with the orange Newtons, we’re going about the same speed. Ok, I’ll stay with you. Should I actually say out that I’m going to stay you? Nah, you’re wearing headphones. Too much work/awkward.”
“Op! Mile 1 was just your warm up, I see. Not keeping up with that. Adios!”
“Guy dressed in white and black! I see we’re both trying to pass this same couple. We should run together. Should I actually say out loud that we should run together? Nah, headphones. Too much work/awkward.”
“Oh ho! Couldn’t hang with me, could ya? Niiiiiiiice, Kathryn. Dropping the boys.”
“Whoa! Not that boy over there, though. What pace is he going? Dang. What pace am I going?”
“Oh hey speedy chick who looks really good in tiny spandex shorts. How many miles a week do you run? How many do I have to run to look like that?”
“Yikes! How is this person wheezing at mile two?”
“This is fun! Look at all these spectators! That barking dog is totally cheering for us!”
That’s about the size of it. I was having a blast just observing my fellow runners and all the spectators. I have no idea what my first mile split was, but since there was a fair amount of weaving around people during the first mile (as the gentleman in the corral predicted), I remember making an effort to speed up a bit once I passed the 1 mile marker. I then settled into a pace (possibly around 7:20 or 7:15?) for the remaining two miles, and the overall result was this (the table listed net time, time of day, average pace):
Miles 4-5: Delusions of Grandeur.
These two miles will be remembered as “those two miles when I pretended I was much faster than I am.” They were fun while they lasted. My thoughts during this stretch?
Despite running at what I knew was a pretty good clip already, I pushed my pace even more after passing the 3 mile marker because my legs and lungs were doing great. I felt like I was in some sort of video game where the goal was to pass as many people as possible. I knew I was going much faster than I should be at that stage in the race, but I threw caution to the wind because I was having fun. It turned out (according to the official results) that my average pace between miles 3 and 5 was 7:05 min/mi, which confirms that I was, in fact, going too fast.
No negative splitting today, folks.
The whole course has an overall net decrease in elevation, but there were slight uphills and downhills throughout. My guess is that the downhills were a bit longer than the uphills, thus creating an overall elevation decrease, but it by no means felt like an entirely downhill course. During miles 4 and 5, however, there were some nice long, shallow downhills which most definitely contributed to my lack of restraint with my pacing. The results:
*Note: I brought a Hammer Gel and toyed with the idea of taking it at mile 5 or 6, but I didn’t end up using it. I woke up 3.5 hours before the start of the race meaning I had plenty of time to digest anything I ate, so I had a big breakfast of peanut butter toast and got my fuel that way.
Miles 6-7: Regret Previous Chapter.
I was excited to pass the 5 mile marker because that meant I was half way done! I almost immediately started feeling the effects of the previous two miles, though, and at this point I happily settled back in to a more reasonable pace. Mile 6 wasn’t too bad, but when I passed the 6 mile marker and thought about having to go four more miles, I started to worry.
At this point I knew I was going to slow down, but it was unclear by how much. My right quad was feeling fatigued, and it seemed almost inevitable that I was going to hit a significant wall before the end. The euphoric feelings from mile 5 had quickly disappeared, and I started having to mentally retreat. The video game had ended, and I tried to focus on shortening my stride and increasing my cadence; I tried to take note of my breathing.
After a few minutes of paying close attention to my body, I realized that I was hitting a mental wall more than a physical one, because while it was getting harder to maintain my pace, I wasn’t feeling bad – I just no longer felt amazing. But I certainly wasn’t approaching disaster. My pace between miles 5 and 7 was 7:18 min/mi, so my 7 mile split looked like this:
(I have the feeling mile 6 was probably 7:12ish and mile 7 was 7:30ish…the 7:18 average is misleading because I definitely struggled in mile 7 more. I wish I had had my Garmin!)
Miles 7-10: This Is Almost Over, Don’t Blow It.
I had to dig deep to get through mile 8 because I was still feeling like three miles to go was a lot; the course also opened up a lot and was no longer flanked by tall buildings, so the sun began aggressively beating down on us from this point on. I made an effort to grab gatorade rather than water at the last few hydration stations because I knew I was doing my salty-sweat thing.
Once I passed the 8 mile marker and had only two miles to go, my spirits improved and I felt confident that I could speed up again (slightly) until the finish. Right around mile 8.5 I smelled Ramen really strongly…that was weird. I kept looking around for a Ramen factory and was confused when I couldn’t see one. I don’t appreciate any strong smells while I’m running – even ones that I would normally consider appealing – so I was happy when this passed.
I caught up to a guy carrying an American flag around mile 9, and it was fun to run near him because the spectators would chant, “U-S-A!” whenever he passed. My cadence matched up nicely with these chants, so it helped me keep my pace. I should mention that for the first 7 miles I was passing people constantly, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t; I seemed to have finally caught up to all the people running my same speed. I would try to pick out people in these last two miles to catch up to, but I couldn’t do it.
There was one last little hill around the 9.5 mile point, and I willed myself up it knowing that the finish line was right on the other side. I told myself to stay steady on the uphill, and try to pick it up on the downhill. I don’t think I actually managed to speed up until the last quarter mile when I finally saw the finish line, but then I gave it my all.
It is always so sweet to cross the finish line.
After crossing the finish line, I collected my medal and chugged gatorade for a few minutes. I walked to our designated meeting spot and waited for Abbe to finish; I was so excited to see how the race went for her. As it turns out, Abbe ran 1:28:44, which means her average pace was 8:52 min/mi – under 9:00! Yay! Her streak of improvement has yet to be broken.
I love big races because the energy is always so high, and this was no exception. There were tons of really wonderful volunteers at the water stations and at the finish line, and spectators lined the streets for all 10 miles of the course.
Notes on logistics:
1) Getting to the finish line to park my car before the race was easy (we parked near all the sports complexes); it was also easy getting on to the Broad Street Line subway from there, which took us to the starting line. Runners with bibs got to ride for free, but the trains were so packed that no one even came around to check.
Although this whole process was easy, Abbe and I (and most other people) didn’t get seats on the train, which meant we had to stand in somewhat cramped quarters for ~45 minutes. It wasn’t terrible, but neither of us loved being on our feet and not moving for that long right before running 10 miles.
2) Getting back to my car after the race was brutal. We probably walked another mile+ from the finishing area to where my car was parked, and if the distance itself wasn’t trying enough, the hordes of people making the whole process slower was. My feet were so tired by the time we made it to my car.
3) The bag check was super easy and user-friendly. We checked our clear gear bags from the expo at school buses near the start line, and were given little stickers and wrist bands that had the bus number and bag number on it. At the finish line, we simply walked up to our bus (easy to find) and told them our bag number. There were lots and lots of buses, so there wasn’t a lot of waiting in line. It’s an effective system.
Overall, the Broad Street Run was a fantastic experience. I loved it, and I would most definitely do it again. These 15k’s and 10 milers are fantastic distances to race, and getting to do these distances in well-organized, energetic races is even better.