Why I run the Broad Street Run

You won’t see me featured in one of those Inquirer profiles on people who run Broad Street. I haven’t lost 100 pounds. I don’t run in honor of someone with cancer. I don’t have cancer. I haven’t run all 32 previous Broad Street Runs. I run for one simple reason: me. And because I can. Selfish? Maybe. Honest? Definitely.

It all started because of a woman. Or, more accurately, in spite of a woman. Flashback to a Wednesday night in February 2000. I had been a few dates, and went for the goodnight kiss. She said, “No. I’m not interested in that kind of a relationship.” That was rather crushing to me. I woke up the next morning feeling sorry for myself for about 30 minutes, and decided that it was silly and that I should start running again. Not sure how or why I made a connection between the two. I had always wanted to get back into running, and this was the catalyst. So that Saturday, I got a new pair of running shoes. Went out on Sunday morning, and had to walk about 1/3 of the way back. I started out overly ambitious. But I stuck with it, readjusted my running, and got ready for my first Broad Street Run in 2000.

What an unpleasant day it was. It was in the mid-80s at the 9:00am start, which was the last time the race started at 9. Things weren’t going well for me, as I clearly was not ready for the distance or the weather. Things also weren’t going well for the organizers: some water stops ran out of water and others ran out of cups. I carried a cup for over 2 miles, just to make sure I could get water. The end result was 1:43:28, for 4773rd out of 6666 total finishers.

Despite the bad day, I was really hooked on running. I got into training more, so much so that I finished the Distance Run four months later in 1:38:27. 5K longer in 5 fewer minutes. This showed what I really love about running: you get out of it exactly what you put into it. How well I run depends on only one thing: me. It doesn’t matter to me how well I place (in my age group or otherwise); the time is what counts. With improvements in time will come improvements in place.

For the record, my Broad Street PR is 1:05:42, in 2007 (459th out of 15,878 total finishers). This year will be my 13th consecutive Broad Street Run.

20 Years Later: Duke vs. Kentucky, 1992

The 20th anniversary of the 1992 Mens’ East Regional Final, Duke vs. Kentucky, is coming up this week. I am a Duke grad (class of 1992) and was fortunate enough to have been in The Spectrum that night in Philadelphia (which is where I now live). The Spectrum is no more, having been demolished a few months ago to make way for a new entertainment complex called Xfinity Live. It stands just to the east of The Spectrum’s footprint, which is now a surface parking lot.

I don’t remember every detail about that game. In fact, my memory is limited to three things: (1) the students’ “fighting” with The Spectrum ushers to allow us to stand during the game, as we did at home games, (2) some grad students sitting a row or two in front of me and saying that I was the most vocal fan they’d ever been around, and (3) the very end of the game from the final timeout to the final shot. I recently finished reading The Last Great Game by Gene Wojciechowski, and  that helped refresh my memory and provide some insights that I had not known. I’m not going to spoil it, other than to say that it’s a book for both Kentucky fans and Duke fans (though most Kentucky fans wouldn’t go near it because of the picture of Laettner hitting The Shot on the cover).

The students and the ushers

As any Duke student (post-1989 Cameron Indoor Stadium renovations) knows, it is not physically possible to sit during home games. The bleachers are too narrow and too close together. If I (at a meager 5′ 10″) tried to sit down, my knees would be in the middle of the row in front of me. Plus, students in the first row wouldn’t be able to see over the sportswriters seated courtside. So we stood, all game, every game. And we tried to take that philosophy with us wherever we went. The Spectrum ushers didn’t want to cooperate, so we resorted to two tricks: sitting when they told us to sit, and then standing again as soon as they left; and singing the national anthem (because you can’t sit during the national anthem). Eventually the ushers gave up and let us stand.

The graduate students

In Cameron, the undergrads sit on both sidelines and the grad students sit behind the basket closest to the Duke bench (this is due to the way the ticketing is arranged: the grad students camp out once in late August or early September for season tickets, and the undergrad seating is first come first served for every game, hence the lengthy camp-outs). From January 1990 through March 1992, I was in Tent #1, except for one or two games. My “job,” as I took it to be, was to make sure that there was always noise in Cameron. Thanks to the small size and acoustic construction, it gets LOUD in there. Unless you’ve been to a game in Cameron, you really can’t tell how loud it gets, but you know while watching a game on TV because the announcers start shouting because they can’t hear themselves.

So at this game, which could have been the last Duke game I would get to watch as a student, I carried over that “make it loud” vibe. Of course, with only 150-200 students in an arena holding nearly 18,000 people, it wasn’t that much noise, but it was what I did. At some point during a timeout – I’m not sure when in the game this was – one of the grad students sitting a row or two in front of me turned around, introduced himself (sorry if I forget who you were) and said that I was the most vocal fan he and his friends had ever heard. I was a bit surprised about hearing that; I never thought it was anything special. It was just what I did. But thanks again.

The Final Timeout

You know a game is exciting when you start sweating, and you’re not even playing. My hands were sweating and I was nervous. Standing in my “usual” nervous position during the timeout, with the index and middle fingers of my left hand on the seat in front of me, there was only one thought in my mind: “It can’t end this way. It can’t end this way.”

Aside: I have no idea why I stood in that position. It was something that carried over from home games, since I could put my hand in the sportswriter’s seat in front of me. Due to my location near center court, this was often a member of the national media or one of the local papers. (Different story for another day on how we interacted with those guys.) I guess my thing, which I even did during free throws was better than the arms up followed by a “woosh” sound from the students. Please stop doing that. Really, I mean it.

In hindsight, there are two things that I did not know or recall at that point that, if I had remembered or known, I would have been even more nervous. First was that the exact same play had gone wrong in a Duke loss at Wake Forest a few weeks earlier. Grant Hill throw a curve ball that Laettner couldn’t catch and stay in bounds. Second was that Laettner hadn’t missed a shot all night.

The Shot

To avoid confusion, the game play will be in italics. Everything else is my commentary. As noted by others in Wojciechowski’s book, time slowed down as this play went on. Looking back, I didn’t think my mind could process the thoughts as fast as the events actually unfolded.

Hill inbounds the ball to Laettner.

We were sitting behind the Duke bench, off to the corner of the court, so the play came at us, from right to left (on TV, you saw it from left to right). As the ball is in the air, everyone in The Spectrum stands in the direction of the play (from my right to my left), like the first part of The Wave (you didn’t see that on TV).

Laettner catches the ball. Dribbles once, spins to his right, then back to his left.

He’s dribbling!?! He doesn’t have time to dribble! Shoot it! This was a great basketball move – Laettner created the spacing he needed to get off the clean shot. And it helped that Kentucky was not going to be close enough to foul.

Laettner shoots…

Go in! Go in! Go in!

Scores!

Was it good? When you see the famous picture of The Shot, you see the clock only has 0.2 seconds on it and the ball has clearly left Laettner’s hand. That wasn’t immediately clear from where we were sitting. No signal to wave the shot off. It was good!

Then: utter chaos in the Duke student section. We were hugging and high-fiving everyone we could get our hands on. Didn’t matter if you knew them before the game started or not. If there were not seats separating us, there would have been a massive pile of Duke students in the stands. That euphoria was part collective sigh of relief, part subconscious acknowledgement that we had just seen something incredible.

Post-Game

If I had my stuff packed in the car (I was staying at my parents’ house in north Jersey, about 90 minutes away), I probably would have gone back to campus that night, despite the additional 6 hours it would have taken, to try to participate in some of the on-campus frenzy.

But I wouldn’t have changed places for anything on that night. People did ask if I thought I missed out on not being on campus for some of the great Duke wins while I was a student (this game, 1991 vs. UNLV, the 1992 Final Four). And without hesitation then, and even still today, the answer is: No, I didn’t think that I missed out on anything. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and thought it was my “obligation” (for lack of a better word) that I go to those games and support my team.

This is still a blog, 2012 edition

Wow, I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t blogged in nearly a year! I wanted to do some site maintenance and finally get around to posting something new (percolating for a few weeks). Spent the last hour or so updating, tweaking, etc. Trying out a different theme. The images are random stock images. None are mine – yet. Something else to hope to work on, and will languish for a while.

On closing the Center City Philly Borders store

Went over there at lunch today to check out the store closing deals. As of today, only 20% off most books and magazines are 40% off. Some stuff has been picked over, and the store was very crowded.

All sales are final, but I think they do a dick move by marking the bar code on the books with a Sharpie. So don’t buy anything you intend to give as a gift (I think it looks tacky).

It’s a little sad to see the store closing. They had some good stuff (though over the last year-plus, they drastically cut back the computer book section) and the occasional deal as a Rewards member was nice. Based on the high traffic location (corner of Broad and Chestnut), I am a little surprised that this store was selected for closing, but I imagine that the rent wasn’t cheap.

Hey, look: This is still a blog!

I now Tweet more than I blog, which really isn’t saying all that much. I was using a plugin called “Twitter Tools” to add my tweets here, but the developer updated it and it broke. So if you followed this blog, it looked like I fell off the face of the Earth (which sometimes, might not be such a bad idea). I have finally gotten around to getting a new way of showing my tweets, the official Twitter widget. I might need to play with the design of it so it doesn’t flow over the right margin, but for now, I rather like it that way. And, yes, I’m too lazy to try to fix it right now.

Making fun of “Eat, Pray, Love”

While running on Sunday morning, I was thinking (and I don’t know why) about making fun of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Maybe it was the incessant blathering on Good Morning America, which has reduced once-decent TV journalists into shameless promoters of fluff.

So with that in mind, I was thinking about “Eat, Sleep, Run.” Since I lack a video camera or the desire and skill to make a movie, I figured text would be easier (not to mention, faster to produce). This is mercifully short on purpose. Besides, there’s probably not much else to the book or movie other than extended scenes of the same, with flowery prose and “feelings.” Sorry to the men: I don’t blow anything up here. Would have made for one helluva run though…

Eat

Karen and I shared a wonderful steak dinner (complete with potato and vegetable!) with Caroline on Saturday night. Victoria was with her father, and missed a great meal.

After putting Caroline to bed and taking Daisy for her evening constitutional, we sat down to a bad Vin Diesel movie (is there any other kind?), Fast and Furious. Apparently, the people working on titling films at Universal were either really struggling or afraid that they’d confuse their target audience. (The Fast and the Furious 4: Electric Car probably wouldn’t sell many tickets.)

Sleep

We started the movie late and it didn’t end until 11:20. Too late for anything else, and we were both very tired. So we went to sleep. It was a good sleep, only occasionally punctuated with waking.

Run

The alarm went off at 6:45am on Sunday, since I wanted time to walk Daisy before running. Hit the snooze bar a few times, and finally got up around 7:10. Walked Daisy, dressed for running, and finally left around 7:45.

It was an OK run – about 6 miles to the stadium complex in a rectangular route. Nothing fancy or too hard; wasn’t really up for much hard running, after the steak dinner.

(And yes, I was feeling very link-happy while writing this.)

Changes I would make to the Broad Street Run

Before getting into this, I have to say upfront that the Broad Street Run is one of my favorite races. It is one of the few races where I will circle the date on the calendar far in advance to make sure we don’t schedule anything for that day.

But with the recent expansion of the BSR into the largest 10 Miler in the country, some things have gotten out of hand. I would change/suggest the following:

  1. The Expo. A necessary evil to get the race number and T-shirt/goodie bag. But the current set-up needs to be changed. The current space (the VIP level of Lincoln Financial Field) is too small and the layout is dreadful for those of us who would like to get in and out as fast as possible. You have to go to one end of the concourse to get your number, and then go all the way to the opposite end of the concourse for the T-shirt. I appreciate the “need” to funnel people past all the vendors, but there needs to be more space and a quicker in/out option for those of us who don’t want to browse. I went on my lunch hour with people from my office – including travel time we were gone about 2 hours.
  2. The start. Getting 30,000 people to line up for a race is a logistical nightmare at best. The start corrals help, but they are way too large. Cutting the field into 3000+ people chunks doesn’t help all that much. The corrals should be shrunk, and there should be more of them. Harder to set up, but easier for racing.
  3. The finish area. I haven’t had an issue with this until this year. Far too many people in the Navy Yard and getting out of there is really difficult. The main exit (a sidewalk at the entrance gate, 1/4 mile above the finish) is a choke point and foot traffic comes to a crawl if not a stop. Going around whatever that building is next to the gate is not a problem, but it should be marked as an alternate exit.
  4. The participants. People, you owe it to yourselves to look over the information included in your goodie bag. It includes useful tips like where the finish is (after crossing the line, some guy asked me, “We don’t finish at the stadiums?” No dude, they were at Mile 9.) and that you should keep moving through the refreshment tent (I had some idiots stopping right in front of me because the didn’t think they’d get their bags, even though 5 feet further into the tent, where we all had to go anyway to get out, there were no people and thousands of bags).

Broad Street Run race report

This is a little late, but that’s OK.

I didn’t have much of a goal in mind for Sunday’s run, and that was further dampened by the unseasonably hot weather. The hottest BSR since my first in 2000, which was a truly awful day of running for me – I wasn’t ready for the distance or the weather. (Four months later, I ran the PDR in less time.) This time, I thought I would be better prepared, solely based on experience. Whoops.

Lots of things went wrong, from the insanely crowded subway ride to the start (my foot was cramping up because I couldn’t stand up very well) to my new watch going nutty (it’s one of those Timex tap watches; I stupidly set the sensitivity too low and it misfired repeatedly, for a total of 39 laps in a 10 mile race, so I have no idea what my splits after Mile 4 were without a lot of guessing).

Thanks to the crummy winter weather, illness, and work, I didn’t have enough time to ramp up my training to where I would have liked it to have been (only one run of 10 miles), so I was a little short on the preparation. I figured I could handle a 7:00 per mile pace. Just enough to keep myself in the second start corral. Until Mile 4, I was hovering around 7:00 per mile. I took water at almost every stop (skipping one of the two right around Mile 5), even if I didn’t really need it. And then, like most of my other on-the-fly BSR plans, it all fell apart around Mile 5. I obviously wasn’t ready for a 7:00 pace. I had to stop to walk twice: once between Miles 6 and 7 and once between Miles 7 and 8. About a block each time, just long enough to catch my breath and get it together again.

You know it’s a bad day when you think about stopping. I did a few times after Mile 6, thinking that it wouldn’t be that bad too take a left turn and head home (a little over a mile east of Broad). But I didn’t think I could have lived with the DNF due to wimping out. I finished in 1:17 and change, my slowest time in years. Not that big a deal considering I was not prepared. I’ll take this as more training and move on to other running over the summer.

Lost‘s Libby is the Psycho Pirate

Geek-out spolier alert: Watch tonight’s episode of Lost first.

I’m not as much of a Lost-creator junkie as other folks are, but I do know that they’re comic book geeks (and that’s meant in a good way). When Libby was telling Hurley that she remembered the plane crash but wasn’t really there, the first thing that I thought of was Psycho Pirate from Crisis on Infinite Earths.

What? Short explanation: in the pre-1985 DC Comics universe, there were several alternate universes (called the multiverse). The Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline crashed all these alternate Earths together into one single Earth. Psycho Pirate, who was driven insane by the events of the story (he’s last seen in the story in a straitjacket), was one of only a few people who had memories of the multiverse.

So… when Libby said that she remembered the plane crash, it’s in a similar vein. But, somehow, when she kissed Hurley, he started to remember as well. The last few episodes should be very interesting (in a try-to-wrap-your-brain-around-this kinda way).