New Details on the Rocky 50K Run: Q&A with Organizer Rebecca Schaefer

Lordy, does time fly. I can’t believe it was back in September when we first broke the news that someone had stepped up to the plate to organize a run based on the epic training montage in Rocky II, a 30.61-mile route first pieced together by Dan McQuade over on our news blog. Now that the Rocky 50K Fat Ass Run is just 11 days away, I figured it was time to check in with organizer Rebecca Schaefer to see how things are shaping up—and, you know, to find out if the thing is still happening.

In a word: Yes, it’s still on. Here’s what Rebecca had to say about all the logistics, how she’s been training, and what aspects of the fatass-style run (in her words: “no fees, no bibs, no medals, no refreshments, no BS”) are keeping her up at night.

How much interest and feedback have you gotten from people wanting to participate?

A lot, actually. The Facebook group I started for it has more than 1,100 people in it. As of now we have over 350 people who’ve said, yes, they’re going. It’s very exciting but the crazy response we’ve been getting is really shocking, too.

Have you reached out to the city—or vice versa—about permits or anything?

We’re going rogue—it’s an organized fun run, not a race. There is nothing official about it. The hardest part with crowd control will be the starting area. I think once the run actually begins, it will thin out quickly. This is what gives me stress dreams, though. Since it starts at 7 a.m. in a residential area in South Philly (Wolf and South Lambert streets, just below West Passyunk Avenue), I’m really hoping that people will be respectful of the neighbors.

The city hasn’t reached out about it. There’s been a lot of publicity, so they should know about it and I think they do. I just want to make sure everyone is safe, and if people are smart about how they run, they should be.

What’s the exact route?

We have a map up on the website: It starts in Southwest Philly and ends at the top of the Art Museum steps. Every spot that Dan profiled is on there. We had to make some slight changes, though, for logistics and safety. For example, at about mile 6, Rocky runs on the train tracks in Kensington. Since that’s definitely illegal and there’s no safe way to get to the train tracks, we’ll run parallel to them on Lehigh Avenue. And near Independence Mall, where he hurdles the benches, we’re going around them. That said, if you want to hurdle a bench go for it—this is where to do it. It’s around 28 miles into it.

Speaking of the mileage, how have you been training?

I did the Richmond Marathon and Philadelphia Marathon in the same weekend, so that was good training for the 50K. I was able to qualify for Boston in Richmond, so I was very happy.

I’ve been a runner my whole life. It started in elementary school, and I ran in high school. I went to Drexel and ran with the track club, and did my first marathon at age 19. Two summers ago, I did a 100-miler. A lot of ego gets you through it—ego and training. Ultramarathons sort of take over your life, though. You don’t go out Friday and Saturday nights, so the schedule and lifestyle is one that’s definitely not for everybody.

Sounds like you’re in shape to tackle a 30-mile run, but what about people who can’t handle that kind of mileage?

Because it’s a fat ass-style run, people don’t have to run the full 50K. I know for a fact that not everyone is doing the full race. Some people might just do the first 10 miles. This kind of race gives a lot more people the opportunity to participate. The nice thing with this route is that if people only want to do half of it, they end up in Center City.

How long do you think it will it take you to finish?

It depends. If I was to race the course, maybe it would take me between five and six hours. Like the Rocky 50K, the 100-miler I did in New York City was not a closed course (i.e. the roads weren’t closed, there were no aid stations, etc.), so I have experience with that. The worst that happens is you get stuck at a light, so you just wait and cross when you can. I think because I’ll be running with friends, including friends from out of town, I’ll be acting as a bit of a tour guide while we do it. So I have no idea what the pace will be. I’m going for a nice leisurely jog. So maybe seven or eight hours?

Are you worried at all about the weather?

That’s, like, my last worry. If it snows, it snows. I know the ultra runners will be there no matter what. If bad weather deters people, it would make me sad, but I’m hoping it’s early enough in December that we won’t have an inclement weather.

Aside from running his course, how else will you be channeling your inner Rocky?

I am wearing a Rocky sweat suit—grey sweats from Kmart. I tested it out it’s very comfy. I need to find a red sweat band, and I need to write “Italian Stallion” on the back of the sweat shirt.

Is there anything else you want participants to know?

We’ll be collecting shoes at the start for Back on My Feet—any dress or running shoes. I run with them; they’re an amazing organization. So people should feel free to bring any old shoes they have lying around and we’ll take them off their hands.