10 Lessons from a Broad Street Run Newbie

Ashley's view from the starting line.

Ashley’s view from the starting line.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been called a virgin, but there I was, in my corral at yesterday’s Broad Street Run, doing something for the first time ever: this race—and any race, for that matter. Now that I’ve popped my Broad Street cherry (with the help of 40,000 others), I’ve learned a few things.

Here, my 10 biggest Broad Street lessons.

1. All the logistical stuff is totally worth stressing about.
In the weeks leading up to the race, I didn’t even think about the actual run. I was worried— alright, obsessed—with all the other stuff: What time should I catch the train? Shorts or running tights? What should I eat and when? Coffee? Bathrooms? While I’ve never run another local road race, I can’t imagine another one being as much of a cluster to get to as this one is. You basically have one option, taking the Broad Street line, which is filled with 39,999 other people doing the same thing. Stressing about it means that you are thinking through all the potential pitfalls, honing in on your morning-of routine, and talking to a lot of people about best practices. All of my research led to an almost (see #5) ideal morning. (The fact that my subway broke down TWICE is something I can’t control.) I got on a train around 7:20. That got me to my corral around 8:00. Getting there earlier probably means less crowds, but it’s not necessary.

2. All of the hard core training is totally not worth stressing about.
Yes, this is more than a 5K, and while 10 miles is a huge accomplishment, and the most I’ve ever run, this is not a marathon. Due to a full-time job, Satan’s winter, and a toddler, I only managed two runs, at most, each week in the 12 weeks I trained, and weight workout one other day. A wise friend (and seasoned runner) told me that if you can get past four miles, you can run 10. And he was right. I slowed down at the end, but it was totally doable. You can’t really really wing a marathon, but if you run a few days a week, and get past that four-to-six-mile hump, you can totally do this race. This isn’t some hard-core mud run … and the vibe, while not flippant, is still fun (there are people in tutus). My point: This is a great run for those who are new to running.

3. Shave a few seconds off your minute-per-mile time when signing up.
Race day adrenaline, the marching bands, and the herd of people will push you forward faster than on any training run you did. When you enter the lottery, you have to say what your minute-per-mile time is. This time determines your starting position. Underestimate and you’ll get a better starting position—and one that’s more accurate for race day.

4. Break the rules #1: You can wear headphones
The race rules say you can’t. Everyone does. I can’t run without my music and was happy I did. Just keep the music low so you can hear all the cheering (and passing runners).

5. Break the rules #2: There’s more time at the starting line than you think.
The race starts at 8:30 a.m., but it takes a while to get 40,000 people through the starting line. Pre-race communications are clear: Be in your corral at 8:10. I agree that this is a good idea. But if you need to hit the Porta Potties and wait on the long ass lines, you have time to do so. My corral didn’t actually start moving towards the starting line until 8:40. I waited in my corral for 30 minutes instead of waiting in a line for the bathroom. (You see where I’m going with this right?)

6. Don’t bring anything you can’t carry while you run.
There is this rather elaborate, and fairly organized-looking, gear-check system that involves buses and tickets. This is just one more thing to stress about, and one more thing that takes up time from waiting on bathroom lines. It’s only 10 miles; there isn’t really anything in this world that you need to bring with you. Food and water can be consumed or thrown away before the race starts. Your phone can be strapped to your arm with a band. Invest in shorts with a zipper, or one of those fanny pack-like Spibelts. Tie any long-sleeve shirts around your waist or toss them. (They get collected for charity.) At the finish line there is cold water and tons of free food. Trust me, after the run, and the crowds at the finish line, you won’t want to have to wait for your stuff … again.

7. Start the race in the middle of the street.
You can’t totally predict where Mayor Nutter will be standing to hand out high-fives to runners as you cross the starting line, but if you’re in the middle, you have a better chance of moving around (okay, just a tiny bit) to find him, if you really want a Nutter high-five. Also, the middle of the road is the flattest for most of the race—the road sort humps in the middle and tapers to the left and right, which can throw your legs out of whack. Stick to the middle when you can.

8. Know that you’ll have to walk a mile or so to get back to the subway.
And it’s packed with people. (Smelly people, too.)

9. You should tell everyone you are running.
I’m a pretty under-the-radar person when it comes to my personal life, but I found that everyone I told (co-workers, the running store guys, friends) was only super cheery about the fact that I was running. I fed off that energy in the few days leading up to the race—something that’s totally part of the experience.

10. Take it all in.
When my friend, April, moved to Boston a few months ago, she told me that running Broad Street was one of her top Philly experiences in the 18 years she lived here. I couldn’t agree more. It’s up there with the 2008 World Series win. Being part of such a positive and uniquely Philadelphia experience, that is both collective and yet utterly personal, makes for a rare combination of emotions. So make sure to go at a pace where you can really enjoy all the fans, all the runners, and the once-a-year perspective of our city’s most famous street.

»What were your biggest takeaways from this year’s run, Broad Streeters? Whether your a veteran or a newbie, we want to hear about your experience. Share in the comments. 

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  • ctbrunner

    Past two years we have be blessed with good weather, if it’s warm (guys at least) may want to have a dry shirt waiting at the gear bus. My gear bag carries towel, shirt, phone (don’t want to carry it), camera, Vaseline (guys use vaseline). I think the gear bus works great, the kids are always great – just remember the buses are to your right as you leave the food area (they are on the map). Some other thoughts:
    plenty of porta potties but they were decrepit and a little dirty and tilted (low bid?); I too didn’t want to stand in the corral for 45 minutes (like last yr) but when I tried to leave the field it was impossible to get out (no worry when the green corral moved it opened but if I had an orange bib I would have been in trouble.

    Lessons learned: on a cool day don’t over hydrate (standing in
    live for a pp at mile 2 not good), do stick to your plan – don’t go out too fast, not everyone
    likes it but for me seeing the pace on the garmin helped keep me
    focused, enjoy the run – crowds, confusion and all because it is over
    too quick, have a beer at 11:00 o’clock in the morning, but don’t leave
    your goodie bag on the bus (my one disappointment not that I need or
    want the things it’s just the principle of the situation – I earned it I
    want it).

    P.S. Rock and Roll has garish medals but this year’s Broad Street wow!

    • Bruce

      Yeah, the medal this year was some bling!

    • BK

      The other thing about this year’s medal design is that it is inaccurate. The medal says “35th Anniversary” when it was not. It was the 35th annual race, but anniversaries are observed each year following the first occasion. In other words, the first BSR was in 1980 so the first anniversary was in 1981, meaning this was the 34th anniversary of the first running of the BSR. The words “annual” and “anniversary” are not interchangeable.


  • Jonathan Holbert

    #8 is actually incorrect. There are shuttle buses that run from the Navy yard back up to AT&T station at the sports complex area. This also works well if you parked in FDR Park or anywhere in the sports complex area. There maybe a line for the buses, but it goes very quickly. It is definitely worth waiting a couple of minutes for a bus instead of walking the mile or so back to the station and parking lots.

  • Runner6

    Lying about your time to get a “better” start position is BS. Please don’t.

    • Joe

      That’s not what the post says, It says you’ll probably run faster than you think.

    • William Rhodes

      I think that I’ll lie next year, everybody else does and I got sick of passing slow moving people in front of me. I do 9 minute miles, I’ll move up to the 8 minute corral.

  • Don

    This run has become far to crowded. People all over the place, slowing down, walking. It was also impossible to finish strong and getting out of the Navy Yard is awful, felt like cattle. And don’t run out of pretzels next year, that is just lame. How about next year stretch the start times across the entire morning, beginning at 8 and extending til 12.

  • christine

    Don’t forget to celebrate afterwards with beer and good food, and don’t forget to wear your medal!

  • digitalsuze

    11. If you’re trying to make your way through the green corral to reach your assigned corral, give up and stay there.

  • Alex

    Don’t start sprinting under the assumption The Navy Yard gate is the finish line, there is a like a quarter mile left after you pass through it! A mistake I made last year and not this year. Also give yourself major extra time for the bathroom before you start, lines are LONG. And just find a space to get into the crowd at the start. Outside of the elite runners, the corrals are kind of actually the BS. Also pick a distinct landmark to meet spectator and racer friends at the finish, like the Dunkin Donuts truck. There are DROVES of people and it can be daunting to find anyone you know, my fiance’s orange sweat band served as a great way to spot him. Also there are shuttles to the subway, so no need to walk that extra mile when you finish!

  • Colin Lenton

    Please don’t lie about your time to get a better starting position. That’s terrible advice.

  • Gwynne Scheffer

    Why the ridiculously long lines at the portable toilets at the starting point? If everyone lined up in front of each individual portable toilet, the lines would be shorter and move much faster. I’m recommending race day “potty patrol” staffers/volunteers to help facilitate this next year.

  • SK

    Please don’t lie about your predicted finish time to get a better start position. This causes issue for everyone. Also it doesn’t take long to get your items from the bus at the end, for the past few years I’ve dropped off in 30 seconds (literally) and picked up with no line. It’s a WISE idea to have a long sleeve to put on after the race if you’re wearing a tank. Running makes your body temp go up by about 20*, it goes back down when you stop and find your friends and family at the finish..

  • 1st timer

    The Navy Yard was a big dump by the time I got there. No food, no bags, just heaps of trash. People who hadn’t run had bags of stuff strapped to their stroller…

  • http://www.designlifekids.com/ kim @ DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS

    run with a friend. we’ll at least start with one! if you have any anxiety about what to do and where to go, it’s so much easier to ease the nerves with a buddy!

  • Deana DiSipio Steil

    It was my first time as well. The port a potty issue at the start was definitely a problem. I didn’t absolutely have to go, but as I started to run i knew the whole race would be unpleasant and I found myself checking the lines every time there were available toilets. I finally had to dash into the McDonalds around mile 3.5. Although i wasn’t overly concerned about my time, it did disappoint me a little to waste over 3 minutes going :(

  • osothsri

    Well! let me share my experience about Broad Street Run 2014; my first 10 miles run. I went to bed at 7pm on Saturday and woke up at 5am on Sunday, ate oatmeal (cooked the night before), left home at 5.30am and got to the Stadium Complex at 6am; then got on broad street subway to the start. I know it’s too early; but I was having a great time walking around(warm up), Oh! hear me out, I really didn’t need to use the Porta Potties; but I went ahead and stayed in line anyhow, because by the time I reached the Porta Potties and I could use it. I did stand in line for 4 times ha ha ha (it is true). I was at the pink corral and I passed a lot of white and yellow; I had no problem passing them at all ( no complaints from me), I guess people have to work around; I don’t know why people get fuzzy with slow runners, when I signed up for this run, I just want to finish the run and not worry too much about the time.
    I love the atmosphere along the course; a lot of music and people come out to cheer, I felt have more energy. I can go on and on about this; but I won’t (tpying isn’t one of my favor things to do), from scale 1-10, I will give my first Broad Street Run 9. The reason is when I got to the finish line, I almost didn’t get snack bag ( it meant I got mine), but a lot of people behind me didn’t get it. I felt bad for them.