I don’t have much interest in running the Broad Street Run. Maybe this makes me a bad Philadelphia runner. I hit the pavement four or five times a week, but I just don’t like racing that much. I remember my career as a mildly successful high school runner fondly, though, and I know how important those cheers can be. Even the sight of a lone spectator on the course just watching was a pick-me-up. I can’t be the only vain one who picked up the pace just to not look bad, even in front of a stranger. That’s why, every first Sunday in May since I moved downtown, I’ve hoofed it over to Broad Street to cheer on runners.
Spectators’ cheers help runners’ finish the race. After the bombings at the Boston marathon, runners expressed dismay that spectators were injured. “It’s such a tragedy for the people that supported us,” 10-time Boston finisher Josie Magee told USA Today.
The Broad Street Run is not a race of superstar runners. It’s a race of every runner in Philadelphia who wants to do it (okay, last year the race sold out). It’s on a downhill grade so it’s relatively easy for a 10-miler. It may not have a section as famous as the Scream Tunnel at Wellesley, but the spectators are almost as much of a part of the Broad Street Run as those in the race. I encourage you with even the slightest interest to come out on Sunday and cheer on the runners: Friends, strangers, people wearing funny costumes, people running in red socks for Boston. Whoever. It is always a blast.
Here are seven ways to make sure you’re the best spectator ever.
1. Follow the new race precautions. There’s really not much to do here; don’t worry. There’s no specific threat to the Broad Street Run, but after the attack on Boston security will be tighter. Most of the new post-Boston precautions are for runners, but keep these in mind, spectators: Sign up for alerts at readynotifypa.org if you need emergency texts, and keep in mind no backpacks or coolers will be allowed into the Navy Yard. The Broad Street Run says clear bags are okay.
2. Come up with a good spot, and tell your friends where you’re going to be. Despite watching the Broad Street Run, Distance Run and Philadelphia Marathon the past decade or so downtown, I’m still no good at finding people. (The official site has popular viewing locations.) Tell your friends running the exact corner you’re going to be at beforehand. That way, they can find you from the race if they want to. Most years, my friends running Broad Street spot me well before I spot them.
3. Anyone specific you want to see? Find out their planned pace. The Broad Street Run is huge. From a trickle of elite athletes in the early morning the race eventually envelops all of Broad Street, with racers taking up the entire road. With scores of people going by at once, you can make your chances of seeing your friends even greater by finding out when they’re about to pass. Check out a course map. If your close friend is running Broad Street, undoubtedly he or she has already told you the planned pace (as well as a million other things about training). The race starts at 8:30 a.m. Do some mental math or use an online calculator and figure out when your friend should be passing if he or she runs even splits. Then, do not be distracted by your smart phone in about 20 minutes along either side of that time. This has been my strategy to make sure to find friends even with a corral start and possible uneven pacing.
4. Don’t get in the way of the race. Signs are great. Sometimes they are even funny! And your friend will probably be motivated by seeing your clever sign. But don’t go in the street with it! Last year at the marathon I stood by about five different people who were so intent on making sure runners saw their sign they were literally standing on the course. I like to stand in front of a fire hydrant or pole, so I’m actually acting as a helpful warning to runners (that warning is, “Don’t run into this fire hydrant or pole!”). I don’t know if this helps much, but I like to try to do my part.
5. Find random people to cheer on! Last year, the Broad Street Run was the same day as Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs first round, and I made it a point to cheer for everyone running in Sixers gear. My friends joining me on the course are Mets fans, and decided to cheer every person running by in a Mets cap. I think you can find someone to cheer for every persuasion; I even caught a person running Broad Street in a Ron Paul Phillies shirsey last year. Also, don’t be an asshole. Don’t comment on women’s looks—note: it’s okay if it’s your girlfriend running—and be nice if a one-night stand passes by. No negative cheering! Just say some positive words or yell out “GO PHILLIES!” or “GO GUY CARRYING THE AMERICAN FLAG!”
6. Wear sunscreen, or maybe a hat. Hey, you never know. This is a good tip for all times. What, does someone need to write a weird speech set to pop music that mysteriously hits No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 to remind you to wear sunscreen?
7. If you’re not meeting your friends at the finish, stay on the course and cheer for a while. The Broad Street Run’s only once a year, so you might as well cheer for a while.