6 Burning Questions About the Rocky II Training Run

An actual Rocky 50K, the reaction in Albuquerque, and more odds and ends about Rocky’s ultra marathon through the streets of Philadelphia.

A few weeks ago I was at the Art Museum steps. As I churned out repeats of the stairs, I spotted him: Grey sweatsuit, black beanie, black Chuck Taylors. It was Rocky.

It wasn’t Sly Stallone, of course. But it wasn’t a Rocky tribute artist, either: This was a European tourist who had come to Philadelphia to dress as Rocky and have his wife take photos of him in the pose from the original movie poster. Later, I saw him taking a photo with a second man dressed as Rocky — this one a shirtless, fedora-clad Philadelphian taking photos with tourists. For a minute I was a little worried the world might explode when two Rockies met, but we apparently survived.

Man, do people love Rocky. My stupid little article about how far Rocky ran on his Rocky II training run got quite the response earlier this week. Quite a few people linked it, friends and writers I respect told me they enjoyed it and even Runner’s World interviewed me about it. A friend was in Albuquerque and overheard people talking about it.

I got quite a few comments and questions about the article. And since I’m always up for a good sequel, I figured I can answer them here. Let me drive this into the ground while I can!

I want to do this run. Do you think someone can actually organize it?
First off, a correction. In the subhead to the piece, which I wrote, I called Rocky a marathoner. He’s actually an ultramarathoner, as any run over 26.2 miles is considered an ultra. I thought ultras had to be somewhere around 50 miles-plus, but maybe that’s just for people like Dean Karnazes.

Karnazes is the ultramarathoner and author who once ran 350 miles in 80 hours and 44 minutes. Not every ultra runner is as ballistically dedicated to the sport as him, but they are a dedicated bunch. I received several emails asking if anyone was organizing a race retracing my map of Rocky’s route.

In turns out, yes. And, after talking with Rebecca Schaefer yesterday about her proposed Rocky Fatass 50K run, I actually think this is going to happen. Schaefer, who grew up in the D.C. suburbs and graduated from Drexel in 2010, is a social media coordinator whose high school coach got her into ultra running. She averages about 40-50 miles a week, though “every day’s a little bit different” depending on what she’s training for. She ran a 100-mile race in the summer of 2012. She had run eight miles yesterday morning before I talked to her.

She wants to do the Rocky run as a “fat ass” race, a DIY style of race organization that attempts to keep race fees nonexistent (or as low as possible). Fat ass races are an attempt to be low key: They might not provide water, they might not get permits, they might just be a couple of men and women pushing their bodies to run 50 miles in one day, just like future heavyweight champion of the world Rocky Balboa. Fat ass runs have no medals or prize money or race T-shirts. Basically, a fat ass run is the exact opposite of The Color Run. I like this more and more already.

“I think having it more DIY allows more people to get involved,” Schaefer says. “It also hearkens back to the starting of ultra running. It all started with races like this. Bring your own stuff, bring your own food.” Her 100-mile race in New York provided only water.

The people who joined her Facebook group already appear to be excited about it. Schaefer has organized races large and small before. Talking with her I think she knows what she’s doing. This is really going to happen. Join the Facebook group if you’re interested. And, no, there is no way in hell I will be doing this, but maybe I can be like one of those children, joining the modern-day Rockies for a jaunt up the stairs and a celebratory bounce.

Schaefer promises more detailed race plans early next week.

What if you move the Italian Market scene before the trainyard scene? The run would make a lot more sense logically (relatively speaking, of course). How far would it be?
One of the reasons the run is so long: Rocky goes from South Philly to the train tracks near Lehigh Avenue area to the Italian Market and back to the train tracks. If the Italian Market scene were just moved up before the train scene, Rocky would have a much shorter run.

A reader noticed that Rocky appears to be running south in the Italian Market, and not north as I had mapped. I think that’s right; it doesn’t really change the mileage, but I looped him south through the Italian Market here just to be accurate. In this run, Rocky runs only 20.25 miles! That’s still a lot, for a boxer. If you were to just cut the train tracks out and run down Lehigh Avenue, you could make it even shorter (and maybe an actual training run).

Any other corrections?
Yeah, unfortunately. I called it “Kelly Drive,” but the road was named East River Drive until 1985. The first Rocky film set in a world where Kelly Drive exists is Rocky IV.

How did Rocky get home from the Art Museum steps?
Okay, let’s assume Rocky was more tired than he let on at the top of the Art Museum steps. He could take a cab, but with the money issues he’s having in the second film he’ll probably just hop on SEPTA. I’m not sure of the routes in 1979, but today he could hop on the 7 bus (.pdf) near the Art Museum and take it back to his home near West Passyunk Ave.

Really people? 30 miles? That is not that much. I have run marathons, mega marathons and excelled in triathlons. A marathon is 26.2 miles and people run those everyday. A well-tuned athlete has no problem running 30 miles. But I could understand how a lazy person might have trouble wrapping their heads around such a subject thus writing an article out of jealousy and disbelief. I have done runs just like the aforementioned variety where I am doubling back and doing cross routes. Keep eating your fast food and enjoying your sedentary lifestyle!
This was a comment on the article. Really fantastic work. But, hey, be fair: Plenty of people (like myself) work out every day and eat like crap. Also, Rocky did this in Chucks! That impresses me almost as much as the distance.

Were there any comments about flaming barrels?
Yeah! Carrie filled us in on the flaming barrels in the original film:

Heaven smiled one gray morning on Ninth Street, where [Steadicam inventor Garrett] Brown, wearing his Steadicam rig, stood in the back of a moving van filming Stallone in his sweats and watch cap as he trotted past the dawn patrol at the Italian Market.

“For real, there were those burning barrels of trash that people warmed themselves on. And there was Stallone, totally unknown,” Brown says, recalling the shoot. “And, for real, some soul throws him an apple and he catches it. On camera. What a moment of unique high energy.”

To Brown’s eternal relief, the shot – taken on potholed pavement – was razor-sharp.

Quibble with the realism of Rocky’s route if you must, but the flaming barrels in this film series? As realistic as it gets.

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  • David

    Wait. Hold on a sec, marathon man. Go do a quick image search for ultamarathoners and look among your peers. Find me one person who looks like they could take a punch from Apollo Creed, much less throw a punch that Creed might even feel. It’s not that an athlete can’t train for and run 30+ miles, but it is highly impractical for a heavyweight to do so, especially while trying to maintain that much muscle mass. Distance running just eats muscle up like crazy. It wouldn’t make a lick of sense to train like that.

    • Bill

      Just look up Ultra Marathoner and Navy Seal David Goggins and you’ll see someone that looks like Apollo Creed

  • Scott

    Ok, so how fast did he run? I don’t know Philly that well, and I don’t have a copy of Rocky II to see if I can figure out how long he’s shown running each stretch, but I have to assume that it took him (and the kids!) longer to knock this out than the three minutes it graced the screen.