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I will start this off by disclosing that I am by no means a runner. Never have been,Broad Street Run 2011. Photo courtesy of Facebook. perhaps never will be. I have only run in one competitive race in my life, and I was anything but competitive.

However, yesterday I embarked on a ten mile journey of sweat, determination, and honor that truly left an immediate imprint. It may have been my legs and lungs that were put to the test, but it is my heart that emerged victorious. No measurement of time, training, or endurance could equate to the pride I felt with each passing stride.

From my perspective, the sights and sounds of the 32nd Annual Broad Street Run  in Philadelphia were those of great honor and overwhelming delight. It was a comfortable and gorgeous Sunday morning, just shy of sixty degrees at race time. I had trained and set goals, but in my mind I knew I needed to relish the experience of the race. I just didn’t know to what extent the experience itself could carry a somewhat novice runner such as me.

I now truly believe the character and popularity of the Broad Street Run stem from its format and layout. A point-to-point race, it is the largest 10-miler in the United States. Most runners begin the race by taking the SEPTA subway from Pattison Avenue in South Philly to the starting line near the Olney Transportation Center. From there, it is a ten mile haul to the finish line, and the only realistic option is to get there on your own power. There is no loop to the finish; that is, you never return to the starting line. The course itself is almost entirely flat, making it very appealing to the runner. But it is the added incentive of those standing on the course’s edges, cheering and waving and motivating each runner that made this race feel special.

A day later, I already cherish the memory of how I felt when I heard the first echoes of encouragement stream from the cement sidelines. People mightily shouted and applauded as the runners passed. I remember feeling grateful that those great people of our city- you know, the one with the constantly questioned, “so-called brotherly love”- were displaying such great love and support. It made me proud to be a product of the Greater Philadelphia area.

There were a few key moments that stick out in my mind. First, I vividly remember one woman yell out after the first mile, “Only nine miles to go! Keep it up!” I laughed and appreciated the sentiment, a feeling of positive energy that would seemingly carry over for much of my race. I also remember the feeling as the sidewalk bands played the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Satisfaction," the latter coming as I swooped my way around City Hall and realized that more of the race was now behind me. But perhaps the pinnacle was the echoing of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger," which I fuzzily believe occurred somewhere around mile seven. It was truly a Rocky-like moment that made me want to finish the race by scaling the steps of the Art Museum (which sadly is too far away and would require far too much stamina).

Essentially though, the playing of the bands and the cheer of the patrons were just the icing on the cake. Seeing Governor Rendell cheering on the runners and giving high-fives and words of encouragement confirmed just how much this race means to the city of Philadelphia.

Finishing the 2011 Broad Street Run was a great personal accomplishment and it means a great deal to me. I feel blessed, honored, and privileged to have participated in such an event. Yet, if there is one thing that leaves an indelible mark from this single experience, it is this feeling of brotherly love and support, great pride and unity.

Clearly, the Broad Street Run means as much to this great city as it does to its participants.

Contact Ryan Downs at rdowns@philly2philly.com

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