“Philly Sticking Together”: Runners Take to Broad Street For Annual 10-Mile Race
In her high school gym class, Muzna Gulimali looked for any excuse to avoid running the mile. Now, a race down Philadelphia’s longest road is anything but daunting for the three-time Broad Street Run participant.
“If I can do it, anyone can,” said Gulimali, a Temple University alumna and Fairmount resident.
Gulimali is one of almost 40,000 runners who made the yearly trek from North to South Philadelphia Sunday in the country’s largest 10-mile race.
The Blue Cross Broad Street Run begins each year in the Logan neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Runners flow through a sampling of neighborhoods, eventually reaching the finish line at the Navy Yard.
Along the way, spectators offer anything imaginable—from high-fives to Kleenex— to the groups that speed by. A corner in Hunting Park blasted music from a DJ booth while a man used a metal pot as a makeshift drum.
“It shows Philly sticking together,” said Rasheeda Rice, a Philadelphia native who watched the race and offered shouts of encouragement from a nearby stoop. Applauding the runners is a yearly tradition for Rice. “They love it. Some people don’t have family out here that are cheering them on,” she added.
For many runners, finishing in first place isn’t necessarily the goal. Gulimali trains for 10 weeks with Team Philly Race Training—a group designed for runners at every level.
“We have beginners who run their first steps with us as well as Boston Marathon qualifiers. And after the run they all meet up for happy hour,” said Philly Team coach Ross Martinson.
Twice a week, Team Philly members come together to train. Their sessions course through West Philadelphia or the green-accented trails of Kelly Drive. Keeping one earbud in to listen to music, Gulimali lets the other dangle so she can talk to other members about anything happening in their lives—from wedding plans to newborn babies.
For Jason Rosencranz, a Fairmount resident who runs with Team Philly, running with a group is more enjoyable than training in solitude. “People are just supportive, and you forget about the pain that you’re going through,” Rosencranz said.
For each session, the team divides itself into subgroups based on speed—some run 8-minute miles while others walk. In Gulimali and Rosencranz’s group, runners work on perfecting a 10-to 11-minute mile as Rosencranz cracks jokes for fellow trainers. “I love to shout, you know, ‘we’re not just 10’s people—we’re hot. We’re 11’s,’” he said.
For years, Rosencranz aspired to run the New York marathon. Even after moving to Philadelphia, he trained for the 26.2-mile race in 2012. ““It was on my bucket list,” Rosencranz said. Days before the event, the city cancelled the marathon due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
Rosencranz found his way back to Philadelphia, running the city’s own marathon instead. It didn’t take long for him to gravitate toward Team Philly and the Broad Street Run.
“I’m running Broad Street because it’ll be fun, but it’s because I run with them,” he said of Team Philly.
For Fairmount resident Kathy Rubino, running provided an outlet for motivation and inspiration after a difficult divorce. After about a year of running alone, she came across Team Philly. “The worst weather, and the hardest days, you still come out to see your friends, you can talk through all your problems together,” she said.
John St. Omer, who lives in New Jersey, makes the journey to Philadelphia twice a week to train with Team Philly. Searching for a healthier lifestyle, the two-time cancer survivor decided to join the team with his wife, who had already been running with the group. “I got jealous waiting for her going across the finish line that I decided to get up off the couch,” he said.
After the race ends, things can get emotional for Team Philly members, who may not train together again until the following February.
For many runners and residents alike, the Broad Street Run has made an impact. Fairmount native Jerry Townsend has worked at the Old Zion Lutheran church along North Broad Street for 33 years—and he has never missed the opportunity to step outside and watch the race.
“On that day everybody knows somebody,” Townsend said. “It shows the real brotherly love of Philadelphia.”