I live in Arlington, Va., and just happened to be in town on race day. So glad I was! After the race, Maiti asked on the race’s Facebook page for feedback: “What did you think of the course? Would you run it again?” My response, Maiti: “Loved it – and definitely!”
More than 250 runners made a little history of our own Sunday at the first annual Freedom 5k in Philadelphia’s picturesque historic district.
The unique race that swept past some of our nation’s most treasured sites was marketed by none other than the National Park Service as the first race held on and around the 55-acre Independence National Historic Park, home of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other old, cool stuff.
One phrase a runner never wants to see in a race description is the dreaded “first annual.” An organizer’s first crack at a race can be fraught with peril. “First annual” so often means “about 5k” or “8 am-ish.” And go-with-god trying to find your way around the loosely marked course. The problems are so common that some experienced runners translate “first annual” to mean “try us next year.”
That would have been a mistake Sunday. Pretty much everyone in attendance seemed to have a blast on a fantastic morning in the City of Brotherly Love. The race kicked off in front of Independence Hall and rolled down Market Street, the city’s most prominent East-West avenue, toward Old City – Betsy Ross lived there! — with a quick sweep along Penn’s Landing and a wave at lovely Camden. Washington Square Park brought much appreciated shade. We were back on the park lawn in no time. And since my time was only a coupla seconds off my last 5k (this one after a night of drinking at some of the city’s fine watering holes), I’m thinking they got the distance spot on.
Of course there were a few bumps along the way. A glitch at the start held up the start horn for about 10 minutes, but no one seemed to mind. The race also include a set of steps, which organizers might want to eliminate next year. The great weather made them a reasonable climb, but 300 people running up a serious flight of wet steps could create an insurance nightmare! The course had a lot of turns which were well marked if you were walking, but involved some quick decision making if you were coming upon the arrows in a hurry. I was fortunate enough to be running at the back of a small group and was able to let the frontrunners figure things out.
Don’t listen to people who complain about how contrary Philadelphians are. The atmosphere was so upbeat and cheerful that the top male and female winners essentially crossed the line together. And, amazingly, almost everyone who ran the race hung around for the awards ceremonies.
I just missed making the top three guys, but did win my age group and got a gift card from Philadelphia Runner. I never heard of the store and have no idea what the card is worth, but I didn’t need another water bottle or mini-towel so I was extremely grateful for the prize.The key to any race is the organizers, and this gang was top notch. The Park Service, the folks at Bryn Mawr Running Company, the nonprofit Friends of Independence National Historic Park and its very lovely and talented program director Maiti Gallen did a great job. She even arranged for a special guest — Dolly Madison herself judged the best runner costume competition. That is what they call in the marketing industry a “get”!!