Rocky Run


Haddonfield Rocky Run profile.

Who, according to the Philadelphia Commerce Director, did more for Philadelphia than anyone since Ben Franklin?  Who put South Philly on the map?  And, who ran up the art museum steps in one of the most recognizable movie scenes of all time?  Right, Rocky Balboa!  So, to dedicate a run to our Philadelphia (fictional) hero, we came up with a Sunday run which would celebrate Rocky.

This was to be a point to point run, starting in our home base of Haddonfield, NJ and finishing up the steps of the art museum, with a total distance of 14 miles.  Our choice of this weekend was a bit of a problem for a few of our usual Sunday runners.  Some are running Boston next Monday, and didn’t want to do a challenging long run this close to their marathon.  Some felt they weren’t ready for that distance.  And some were doing a longer run readying for a May marathon, wanted to get in 20 plus mile runs, and finish close to home.  That left seven runners ready to take on the Haddonfield-Rocky Run challenge.

Steve, Dave, Dan Brian, Rich, Frank and Keith, at the start of the Rocky Run.

Steve, Dave, Dan Brian, Rich, Frank and Keith, at the start of the Haddonfield-Rocky Run.

The route started off as our usual Sunday run does, heading west to the Cooper River park.  Then, though, we kept heading west.  Crossing route 130 may have been the most dangerous part of the run.  It’s a busy highway with the crosswalk shut down for construction.  In a marvel of broken field running, we all managed to cross without a single loss of life.  Then, we headed down Admiral Wilson Boulevard.  This road once was home to several notorious stripper bars and hourly rate motels.  When the Republican National Convention came to Philadelphia in 2000, then Governor Christie Whitman had the buildings demolished and the whole area turned into parkland.  While this returned the good name of Admiral Wilson to honor, it also removed sorely needed tax paying businesses from Camden’s base.  We ran down the curvy, paved, path along the Cooper River on one side, and Admiral Wilson Boulevard on the other, towards the City of Camden.  We then headed into the center of Camden, and to Cooper Hospital.  Two of us, Steve and myself, work at Cooper.

Steve and Frank at the entrance drive to Cooper Hospital.

Steve and Frank at the entrance drive to Cooper Hospital.

We had the audacity to run right through the hospital, starting at one entrance, heading through the lobby to our new Pavilion building and out the other entrance, with a quick restroom stop in the middle.  From there, the route went past Rutgers in Camden and on to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

At the high point of the walkway on the south side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, with Philadelphia in the background.

At the high point of the walkway on the south side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, with Philadelphia in the background.

After crossing over the bridge, we headed south down to the Italian Market.  This is where a local shopper tossed an orange to Sylvester Stallone as he ran through the market in an unscripted moment in the first Rocky movie.  The scene was Rocky on his famous run, and was kept in the movie.

Did the orange come from this vegetable market?  Maybe.

Did the orange come from this vegetable market? Maybe.

Alas, there were no fans cheering us on through the streets of what was once called The 9th Street Curb Market.  It is by no means only Italian, although the Italian immigrant presence is strongly felt, in places like D’Angelo Bros.’, purveyors of meats and game, and Lorenzo’s Pizza, my personal favorite for a Philly cheese steak.  There are Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Mexican foods, stores selling every kitchen utensil and appliance one could imagine, and a fine cubbyhole of a shop selling all manner of spices from around the world.  As much as I would have loved hanging out here and visiting my favorite shops, we shot off farther west across Broad Street to 15th.  We then headed north to the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the last stretch of our run.  By this time, the group had splintered a bit.  Steve, Keith and I hit the beginning of the BFP first.

Keith and Frank in front of the Swann fountain in Logan Circle, symbolizing the three major rivers of Philadelphia.

Keith and Frank in front of the Swann fountain in Logan Circle, symbolizing the three major rivers of Philadelphia. The art museum is in the distant background.

From here we shot right down the middle of the Ben Franklin Parkway, and made it to our goal, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  This is a hot spot for tourists, and this beautiful Sunday morning was perfect for the run up the steps.  There were several tour buses in front of the museum, and as we approached we could see a couple of hundred enthusiastic visitors vicariously living Rocky’s finishing sprint up the steps.  Rocky collapsed on his first run, but these enthusiastic young people jetted up the steps like they were in a Red Bull commercial.  For us, we were at the end of a long run, but still had a nice adrenaline kick to make it possible to hit every other step on the way to the top.

Looking back at Philly from the top of the Art Museum steps.

Looking back at Philly from the top of the uppermost Art Museum steps.

It did seem a little anticlimactic once we had hit the top.  Now what, was my thought.  Partly, the day was so nice that we didn’t have the cold, the heat, the rain or the wind that I thought would make this extra tough.  But then, as I looked around and saw the city, it felt we had accomplished something.

Keith, amidst the columns of the museum entrance, rehydrating.

Keith, amidst the columns of the museum entrance, rehydrating.

Brothers Brian and Dan on the steps.  The statue behind is Prometheus strangling a Vulture, by Jacques Lipchitz, his take on Hercules taking on the Eagle.  It represents conquering adversity.

Brothers Brian and Dan on the steps. The statue behind them is Prometheus strangling a Vulture, by Jacques Lipchitz, his take on Hercules taking on the Eagle. It represents conquering adversity.

Having reached our goal, we had one more, very necessary task to complete.  We needed a photo with Rocky, the statue, that is.  The statue was commissioned by Sylvester Stallone for Rocky III and initially placed at the top of the “Rocky Steps” in 1982.  But museum folks objected and it was relocated to the Spectrum sports arena.  It was brought back to the museum again in 1990 and 2006, and finally found it’s permanent spot on the grounds outside the museum.  It is one of the most photographed sights in Philadelphia.

Keith, Steve, Brian, Frank and Dan with Rocky.  Dave helped Rich get to the finish a bit behind the rest of us.

Keith, Steve, Brian, Frank and Dan with Rocky. Dave helped Rich get to the finish a bit behind the rest of us.

After a good run, what could be better than a good breakfast.  We all headed over to Little Pete’s on Fairmont Avenue, to scarf down some pancakes, eggs, sausage and coffee.  We were joined by a few of the others in the club who had gone cycling this morning or run a shorter distance.  Now, we are planning for Rocky II.

Outside Little Pete's, a fine place for a delicious breakfast.

Outside Little Pete’s, a fine place for a delicious breakfast.

Route of the Haddonfield Rocky Run.

Route of the Haddonfield Rocky Run.

Chasing Reindeer

December is a hectic time of the year.  The sudden realization of how many days left before Christmas makes us a desperate lot, and then there’s all the great traditions of the season which must be carried out.  One, the annual hauling up out of the basement of the lights, ornaments, tree stand, fake garlands of spruce and pine, the statue of Father Christmas looking resplendent in fur collar and slightly scraggly white beard, sleigh bells to hang on the front door, and the stockings to hang over the fireplace.  I always seem to miss the mild days of opportunity to hang the lights outside, and wind up trying to get my hands to work on a cold, windy day, dangling dangerously under the eave of the porch to string the icicle lights.  First is the challenge of untangling the strings, which I was sure I put away last year in an orderly coil, but somehow, I suppose due to their boredom in the basement, become intricately woven together in a free=form, almost spiteful, version of macrame.  Having laid them out, finally, on the porch, tested them to be sure I have a live string, I pick out the working strands to hang.  Of course, I’ll spend thirty minutes with a strand that won’t work, trying to figure out which of the one thousand bulbs is out and needs replacing, only to fail completely, throw out that strand, and move on.  The “icicles” of the new replacement strand, fresh out of the box, are contracted up and won’t hang down naturally no matter how much I tug on them.  Hmmm…., anyway, I proceed to get them up on last years’ nails, starting at one side of the porch and making my way around the perimeter.  Then, there’s the moment I bring them to life, ala Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, with a little drum roll in my head, as I plug in the extension cord.  Yes!, I say to myself, they’re all working!  Not to last, though, as sure as reindeer can fly, one or more of those strands will fail, creating a dark space in the icicle light line up, giving the house a certain trailer park chic appeal.  Of special note, this year my son and daughter did the work, and somehow, they managed to get the lights up and working better than I’ve ever  been able.

The next major task involves finding a tree.  We can usually find a tree to our liking at any one of many spots selling them in our area.  We like  a nice, full spruce, tall to look proportional in our old house with the high ceilings.  I am amazed at how that tree can be forced through the chute with branches held in by the web of plastic around it, but it makes for easy transport.  We prepare a space for the tree in our parlor, rearranging the furniture to allow for this gargantuan icon of the season.  Getting it up in it’s stand is a bit of difficulty, although not too hard.  We then cut open the binding web and watch as the branches unfurl.  Hopefully, we’ve given adequate space to those branches, and they don’t take out any eyes or things hanging on the wall.  My wife is particularly good at taking out branches and trimming up the edges, to make it look just right without having been obviously altered.  If I were to try that, I know it would come out looking like a victim.  Putting up the lights and ornaments is certainly one of the most pleasurable things to do, although it doesn’t hurt to have some Christmas music playing and a steady flow of beer or enhanced eggnog to allow us to appreciate the moment.

Our gift buying is a combination of guesswork and direct grilling of the subject to see what we should wrap and put under the tree.  I’ve certainly turned to more on-line buying these last few years.  Nothing satisfies me more than to be able to avoid the mall parking lot.  I had the opportunity to visit a high-end purveyor of home goods a week ago, in Philadelphia, to return an unfortunate on-line purchase.  I thought I was getting a steal, paying $40 for a coffee maker of good name, good pedigree.  It turned out it made weak coffee much less flavorful than our old, ugly Mr. Coffee, so I took it to the “bricks and mortar” store to return it.  The store was filled with high-end Christmas shoppers, examining carefully a $35 set of ice tongs, or listening to a slick presentation of why they really need to spend upwards of $1200 to get that perfect cup of coffee Christmas morning.  No wonder my purchase was so incredibly wrong.  I misplaced the decimal point by two positions.  Regardless, and without shame, I brought that machine to the counter asked to return it.  “Had it been used?” the woman behind the counter asked.  “Yes, that’s how I know it makes bad coffee,” I replied.  With a dour look, and without even asking if everything was in the box, she took it back and gave me a refund.  I suspect it is going in the trash, as it can’t possibly be worthy of repackaging.  My favorite real shopping experience at Christmas time, though, is visiting Barnes and Noble.  It’s busy, but not so busy one can’t move about in the store, see what the new novels and biographies look like, pick up a real book and thumb through it, get a few laughs in the humor section, examine the games and puzzles, and look through the calendars.  I went yesterday, and was quite pleased to not only find the books I was looking for, but to have had an uplifting time doing so.

Another tradition is the annual office gift carousel.  I always give my secretary a nice, large spiral cut ham.  While this may seem a throwback to some industrial age era of Dickensian mindset, I see it as a true thank you for all she’s done for me this year.  She has my back, so to speak, and anticipates my daily struggles.  She fends off attacks from the flanks and calms worried callers.  There are a thousand things she does to make my life better, and I’d like her and her family to have a nice, tasty meal to show for it.  Perhaps originating with the writer Dorothy Parker, the definition of eternity is two people and a ham.  So that’s the best part of office gift giving.  We also give the rest of the office staff home-baked small cakes, lemon-poppy, pumpkin, pecan and apple, and they all seem to like them very much.  This year my daughter did the baking, and word at the office was, they couldn’t tell the difference from the ones my wife made in years past, so that is high praise.  For my partners, there is a tradition of trading wine bottles.  Not fancy wine, not special wine, just whatever is convenient to grab a case of at the moment.  It has become an obligatory, drab exercise, made slightly better by the underlying humor of seeing your name on a sticky note attached to the bottle in place of a real gift card.  Personally, I can’t just buy a cheap, mass produced bottle with a kangaroo on the label, so I do look for something unique and special, without spending a lot, but I’m not sure whether that translates to appreciation of the wine.

With all the rushing around trying to get things done in time to settle down and truly enjoy the holiday season, when do we run?  Well, there’s nothing wrong with backing off some of the intensity of training at this time of year to let the old bones and joints recover.  Yet, we still need to keep up with the base.  Running in the dark is challenging and dangerous, but there’s little daylight when one can run, especially since work doesn’t stop.  Dressed up for a run, I look like a miner, with my headlamp and reflective chest-wear.  When I see the rest of the runners in our Wednesday night run heading down the street, and see the reflection off the gear from a car’s headlight, they do stand out, though, as they should.

As this year closes, I’d like to thank my family for all their support in keeping me going in running and all my pursuits.  I’d like to thank the members of my running  club, South Jersey Athletic Club, for their terrific motivational support and companionship.  And, I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers, whose blogs I have been following, for their posts with clever writing, beautiful photos, and inspiration.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and we’ll catch up in the new year, when plans for our next marathon adventure will be laid out.


Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

“To alcohol!  The cause of–and solution to–of all of life’s problems”  Homer Simpson

I did a quick check on Google, asking the question, “Why do runners like beer?”  Not too surprisingly, there are plenty of comments, articles and pseudo-scientific research about how running and beer go together.  There is an entry in a Runner’s World forum asking why runners like Craft (Craft is capitalized in the entry) beers more than the general populace.  This query, posted in March, 2012, got answers ranging from “that’s because runners are snobs” (I’m paraphrasing here), to runners are craft beer fans who like the quality over the Bud/Miller/Coors brews.  There were a few comments on why Michelob Ultra might be marketed to athletes, or at least, to sedentary slugs who see drinking that beer as a first step towards fitness.  Little mention though, at least in the first several pages of hits on Google, on home brewing and running.  So, that’s where I step in.

Last spring I made a beer of my own recipe which I called “Long Run Ale”.  The idea was to make a beer dedicated to my running friends about to run the Boston Marathon.  In order to make it special for runners, I investigated how to make home-made energy gel.  It turned out that two primary ingredients were honey and molasses.  I made the brew as a very hoppy American pale ale, with Cascade and Willamette hops, and honey and molasses as part of the sugar source.  It turned out it was a real hit.  My running friends loved it.

When I wanted to make a Christmas Spiced Ale this winter, I decided to include the “Gu” in the recipe in order to keep it runner oriented.  Not that including honey and molasses makes it sweet.  The yeast convert all the sugar to alcohol and CO2, and the honey and molasses add to the color and impart a bit of flavor.  This is my version of a Christmas or Winter seasonal ale.  It is a partial mash recipe, which means part of the sugar for fermenting comes directly from steeped grains, and partly from malt extract.

Partial Mash:

  • Belgian 2-Row Pale Malt  5 lbs.
  • Caramel 80    0.5 lbs. (for the red color)

Boil 60 minutes

  • Grain extract from partial mash
  • Amber Dry Malt Extract   4 lbs
  • Honey  1 lb
  • Molasses  0.5 lbs
  • Spices:  Nutmeg, Ginger and Clove (I intended to use Allspice, too, but the stores were all out, every one I tried).


  • Centennial                0.5 oz. at 60 min.
  • Northern Brewer     0.5 oz. at 30 min.
  • Sterling                      0.5 oz. at 10 min.

Yeast:  Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey

The first step in the brewing is the partial mash. The crushed Belgian 2-Row malt and the Crystal malt are put in a nylon bag and suspended in water heated to 154 degrees Fahrenheit. This extracts the sugar from the crushed grain, dissolving it in the water. The grain is then sparged (rinsed) a couple of times with hot water to extract as much sugar as possible. The grains are then discarded, although they can be saved and used as an addition to bread, for animal feed, or as mulch.

Malted crushed barley

Combined and crushed malted barley and caramel 80 grains.

Partial Mash

The crushed grains being steeped in 154º F water for one hour.








The sweet liquid which is left is called the wort, not yet beer, but that is its destiny.  Water is added to bring the volume to about 2.5 gallons, and the wort is brought to a boil.  The additional malt extract, which is sugar extracted from malted grain, just like in the mash, above, but prepared and pre-packaged either in liquid (LME) or dry (DME) form, is added to the boil.  Now, all the wort needs is the hops.  Hops are a wonderful aromatic flower which grows on vines, and add bitterness and aroma to beer.  Hops added early in the boil are the bittering hops, in the middle, flavoring, and those added at the end are the aromatic hops.

Wort on the stove.

The wort is boiled and the hops added according to a time schedule.

Once the boil is finished, the wort must be cooled to approximately 70 degrees F as quickly as possible.  There is equipment for this, but I use a very basic method known as putting the brew pot in the sink and swirling cold water around it.  It takes about 30 minutes to bring the temperature down this way.

Brew pot being cooled with cold water.

At the end of the boil, the wort is chilled as quickly as possible to 70ºF.

After the wort is chilled to room temperature, it is ready to pour in to the fermenter.  This is done fairly vigorously, to aerate the wort in preparation for the yeast.  Water is added to bring the volume up to five gallons, and the mix is again aerated to supply oxygen.  Also, a measurement of the specific gravity of the wort is taken, which will be used later to estimate the percent alcohol in the beer.  For this recipe, the O.G. (original gravity) was 1.066.

Package of yeast

The yeast comes packaged with nutrients, and is activated before adding to the fermenter.

Then comes the almost ceremonial “pitching” of the yeast.  This is truly how the magic happens.  In the days before the microscope, beer was made with barley, water and hops (or other spices before hops were used).  The yeast was there, but no one knew it.  Then, Louis Pasteur discovered what was happening at the microbe level.  Now, we have the remarkable choice of numerous strains of yeast, each with their own behavior, which is how beers get certain fruity, spicy or caramel flavors, achieve higher alcohol levels if provided enough sugar from the malt, and may also contribute undesirable flavors.  I chose this particular yeast because it is often used for Belgian style spiced seasonal ales.  Once the yeast is pitched in, the fermenter carboy is sealed with a lid with an escape airlock.  As the yeast go to work, producing alcohol, carbon dioxide is also created which is released through the airlock.  It takes a day or so for the yeast to start converting the sugar to alcohol, and there is nothing more satisfying at this stage than seeing the bubbles merrily making their way through the air lock.  Ales are fermented between 65 and 75 degrees F.  Lagers are fermented at lower temperatures (45-55 degrees F) for longer times (weeks to months) using yeast which are active at those temperatures.


The fermenter, with lid on and airlock up and ready.

There’s nothing left to do at this point except wait for those marvelous little yeasts to do their job.  After about a week, the beer is transferred, this time with a siphon to prevent aeration, to a secondary fermenter.  The first week is for the major conversion of sugar to alcohol.  The secondary phase is for conditioning, when the yeast are still active, but taking on more complex sugars and initial byproducts of fermentation.

After another week or two in the secondary fermenter, the beer is ready to be bottled.  Bottling day can be busy.  One needs all the bottles cleaned, sterilized and ready to go.  The bottling equipment, including a bottling carboy, siphon and tubing, bottle filler and tubing, and bottle caps all need sterilizing.  I find the first step in this process is to pour a homebrew from the last batch, and then set about tackling all these steps.

Bottle of beer and glass.

A bottle of my last brew, a German Hefeweizen.


Nice head, nice color, this should augment the bottling day activities nicely.

Bottling is best done with a helper.  It is possible to do it by yourself, but a whole lot tougher, and it is not easy to keep all those parts I mentioned clean and sterile without an extra pair of hands.

The beer is decanted into the carboy used for bottling, which has a spigot at the bottom, and doesn’t require a lid.  Priming sugar, which has been dissolved in boiling water to sterilize it, then cooled, is added to the mix.  This provides the additional amount of sugar needed to allow carbonation to occur in the bottle.  The yeast are still there, and will convert this small amount of sugar to additional alcohol and carbon dioxide, not enough to change the alcohol content significantly, and just enough to provide carbonation in the sealed bottle.  Many tales of exploding bottles are told by home brewers of their early attempts at getting this right.  The amount of sugar needed is readily available in homebrewing books and online.  A final gravity (F.G.) measurement is taken, with my brew having a F.G. of 1.010, which indicates the yeast did their job.  This should be about 7.3 percent A.B.V.   The spigot is then opened and the bottling begins.

Filling the bottles

Filling the bottles takes a bit of concentration and assistance.

Finally, the bottles need to be capped.  My son and I worked together on this, with him holding the bottles so they wouldn’t tilt, and with me working the capping device.

Bottle capping.

Capping the bottles.

The yield from five gallons of beer is about 50 twelve ounce bottles, plus or minus a bottle.  We eked out forty eight and three quarters.  The beer is now ready to be bottle conditioned, which means storing it in the cellar for about four weeks.

Two cases of beer.

The beer is in the bottles, and they are capped and ready to go to the cellar.


On the shelf in the basement, they will sit and condition, adding flavor and carbonation over the next several weeks.








At this stage I just need to forget they are down in the cellar, and let the weeks roll by.  While I can get an idea of how the finished product will taste, from various whiffs and sips of the dregs, I won’t really know the outcome until it is ready to drink.  We’ll probably uncap a bottle at Christmas time, since the family will be around, but it will be a bit early yet.  Also, higher alcohol beers like this can use a much longer bottle conditioning time before they reach their best flavor, mouth feel and overall presentation.  It is mentioned, the time a homebrew is ready to drink is when you are opening the last remaining bottle from the batch.

Is beer good for runners?  That’s not an easy question to answer.  I do believe in the relaxing and socializing qualities of beer, and nearly all of my running friends like it.  It turns out Ben Franklin was speaking of wine, not beer, in the quote attributed to him about how god loves us and wants us to be happy, but it applies to beer, too.   Pro-temperance zealots have their own reasons for disliking all alcohol, and some trainers will come out strongly against it for their athletes.  On the other hand, there is tremendous support in the running community for beer.  It’s freely distributed at the end of many marathons.  The international group known as the Hash House Harriers is based on the combination of beer and running, and they admit that they are a drinking club with a running problem.  Our neighbor, Philadelphia, has a great group of runners known as the Fishtown Beer Runners, who hold weekly runs which end at the selected pub of the week.  I think the combination of running and beer is here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier.


Philadelphia Marathon #5

This was an experiment for me, to try to run two marathons in a six week period.  To give away the ending, it worked out okay, and I would do it again.  But, to get back to the details about Philly,  it is a small marathon by big city standards.  There were about 14,500 signed up to run the marathon, which is a sellout number, and also included about 1500 runners signed up for New York City, which was cancelled due to hurricane Sandy.  This compares with NYC, registering 47,000, and Chicago, 51,000.  Even Boston, which has qualifying times, runs 21,500.  Philadelphia runs a half marathon alongside the marathon, starting at the same time, with 12,500 entrants.  So, the start is fairly crowded, totaling 27,000 runners.

I headed over to Philadelphia Saturday, to the expo to pick up my number, and to browse the various booths.  Along the way, I stopped a few times to admire the city, its architecture, public works of art, and general scene.

Dropped off on Broad Street

I was dropped off by my son on Broad Street, and made my way over to the convention center.

I’m always pleased to see what a vibrant city Philadelphia is.  People live all throughout the city, and its businesses and public spaces are always busy.  It’s also a destination city for tourists, with the historical nature of the city, its museums, parks, and local flavor.

Cunstruction in center city.

Philly is building, and there are many construction sites such as this.

I like the way the old and the new blend together in Philly.  The Quaker Meetinghouse has been around since the city was founded, and is still active today.  The dramatic Chrysler Building-like tower is One Liberty Place, the first building to tower taller than William Penn’s hat atop city hall.  The building to its left is Two Liberty Place, a conglomerate of hotel, condo and commercial space.

Sculpture in front of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts public sculpture.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest art museum and art school in the US, founded in 1805.  It is still teaching budding artists today, allied with the University of Pennsylvania.  This particular public spectacle, a real Grumman SE-2 Tracker, originally on an aircraft carrier, later used to fight fires in California, was installed by artist Jordon Griska, as if the plane hit the ground nose-first.  It is symbolic of swords being turned into plowshares, according to the director of PAFA, and will have a greenhouse built in to the fuselage (from, a website of WHYY public broadcasting).

City Hall, Philadelphia

A glimpse of City Hall, with the statue of William (Billy) Penn on high.

The ornate City Hall building in Philadelphia is a much photographed building  Here, it is seen from the darkened byway at Broad  and Cherry.

Not much farther, I reached the convention center where the marathon expo was being held.  The clue that you are in the right place is all the thin bodied individuals leaving the building carrying the same minimalist backpack, the kind made of nylon, with shoestrings for straps.  Entering the convention center, one is greeted by this banner.

Entrance to the Philadelphia Marathon Expo

A mock-up of the finish line at the entrance to the expo.

Inside, the first stop is the packet pickup, for your number and your bag with the t-shirt and other little goodies they throw in.  Mine had a refrigerator magnet with clip, a Philadelphia Marathon ball point pen, and a bunch of flyers advertising other marathons as well as a coupon for a complimentary ticket to a Philadelphia 76ers game.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup, where it all becomes official.

I headed over to the section where official marathon clothing and gear were for sale.  Most of the items were severely picked over, with all the good stuff in the popular sizes taken.  Plus, the check out line looked to be at least an hour wait to pay for your goods.  I had plans to buy a jacket in commemoration of my fifth Philly marathon in a row, but the jacket I wanted was sold out in men’s large.   They had a different jacket with a giant “Philadelphia Marathon” emblazoned on the back, but it lacked the subtlety I was going for.  Leaving the official wear area, I headed out to wander through the aisles of the other booths.

Philadelphia Marathon expo.

Booths at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo.

I came across a booth by Sigvaris, a company which makes compression stockings, mainly for medical use.  I had a nice chat with a saleswoman there, explaining I often wear their stockings at work, having to stand for hours on end.  I was looking for something to run in.

Sigvaris saleswoman who helped me get my compression socks.





Many of the compression garments for runners either don’t have sufficient compression, or cover only part of your leg, or your knee, and act more like a tourniquet than a useful support.  She had just the thing, a knee high sock built for running, 20-30 mm Hg gradient, knee high.  For me, it serves two purposes.  One is to provide compression for my broken down veins, the other is warmth for running in the raw, cooler and windier days of fall and winter.  I bought a pair on the spot.  I was so pleased, I got a photo.


There were many booths selling all sorts of other goods, gels, arm warmers, t-shirts, “The Stick”, ear buds guaranteed to stay in your ears while running, Clif Bars, Power Bars, Snyder’s Pretzels, custom running shoes, and myriad other items.  One display I did not fully explore were the two real buses, one Greyhound, one some other company.  I’m not sure what they were there for, perhaps to take your club to their next big race?

Leaving the expo, I crossed the street to one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market

Entrance sign for the Reading Terminal Market

This market, which opened in 1892 as part of the Reading Railroad terminal, with tracks over the market space, has survived many economic downturns, and is currently a vibrant, packed, hectic market selling produce, poultry, meats, cheeses, bread, coffees roasted on the spot, cook books, spices, and in short, anything that’s delicious.  The Pennsylvania Dutch have a prominent presence here, and can be identified by their typical garb.  Yes, I dropped a few bucks here, picking up some bread from Metropolitan Bakery (Pain au Levain, and a chocolate cherry loaf), some house-roasted coffee, the Balzac blend, from Old City Coffee, and some fine cheeses from Downtown Cheese.

Leaving the market, I walked to the Ben Franklin Parkway, to check in to our hotel room.  Our club rents a room close to the start and finish of the race, to have a spot for our runners to stay warm and stow their bags before the race, and have a comfortable place to change afterwards.  Along the way, I passed some more iconic symbols of Philadelphia.

Jacques Lipchitz, artist, Government of the People, in front of the Municipal Services Building

Ben Franklin and the printing press.

Ben Franklin and the printing press.

Crossing the street you arrive at the start of the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the nicknamed Love Park, so named for the famous LOVE statue.

Love Statue

LOVE Statue, famous symbol of Philadelphia, is constantly surrounded by people taking photos.

Love Park

LOVE from behind.

I checked in to the hotel, but wasn’t assigned a room yet.  So, coming back later that evening, I finally got in to our room, which was, coincidentally, room 2012.  I had to argue a bit to get the promised view of the parkway from the balcony, but it was definitely worth it.

Ben Franklin Parkway

View of the Ben Franklin Parkway at night from our hotel balcony.

The large circle is Logan Circle, and the fountain in the center is the Swann Memorial Fountain, named for Wilson Cary Swann, the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society.  I suppose that’s one way to get your name on a fountain.  It is an incredibly beautiful fountain, though, representing the three rivers of Philadelphia, the Delaware, Schuykill, and Wissahickon, using native American symbolism to portray them.  The marathon starts at the far end of the parkway, and runs down and around this circle as it heads down to Columbus Boulevard along the Delaware.  Later in the race we cross both the Schuykill and the Wissahickon, so in a way, this fountain is a good representation of the marathon.  I didn’t stay over in the hotel, wanting to sleep in my own bed, and have access to my usual breakfast.

On the morning of the marathon, I met up with a few other club members at the train station at 5 AM.  We took the train in to Philly and got to the hotel in time to do a little stretching.  A good number of other club members showed up, and come 6:20, we headed down to the lobby and walked up to the start line.  The crowds of runners and spectators were busily getting to either their corrals or to prime viewing areas for the start of the race.  As with every marathon, there’s an edgy tension, people adjusting clothing and retying shoes, starting of Garmin’s, stretching in the limited space available in the corral, and nervously chatting.  Then comes the national anthem, and the start of the race.  Throw away t-shirts get pitched to the side, and the corrals move up as first the wheel chair racers, then the elites, then the rest of us make our way to the start.  As we got close to the start, the walk broke into a trot, then a run, and we were over the start line, heading for the first of 26.2 miles.  This year we had a special group in their own corral, the runners from the New York marathon, who started after my green corral.  They were heartily welcomed to the race from the runners and the spectators, and I saw many signs along the route in support.  The route is a great tour of Philly, going through old town, down to South Philly, with onlookers in bathrobes standing on their porches, up Chestnut Street, with the street filled to capacity with cheering fans, over the bridge to the Drexel University area, past the fraternity houses where frat boys were out banging on pots, making noise for us, and looking like they hadn’t gone to bed the night before.   From there we head to the Belmont plateau, past the Zoo and the Please Touch Museum, down on to West River Drive.  A quick switchback along the drive, then we head back along West River Drive to where we started, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the halfway point.  Large signs, much more visible than years past, show the way for the half marathoners to peel off to their finish line, and the marathoners to continue on to Kelly Drive.  Then, it’s out along another Philly landmark, boat house row, out to the Falls Bridge, over the bridge and down on to West River Drive again for another (and very annoying) switchback.  I don’t like this part because the road heads down hill and you need, of course, to come back uphill again at a time when the legs are starting to feel the fatigue set in.  The last outward bound stretch is along Main Street in Manayunk, with its young and hip fans lining the streets, offering home baked brownies and cups of beer to the runners.  At the end of Main Street, another switch back for the last 6.5 miles to the finish line.  My legs were pretty well cooked by the time I made the turn in Manayunk, and I lost a lot of time having to slow down.  On the bright side, I didn’t have to stop and walk for leg cramps like I have in my other marathons.  I got a big boost from two club members, Rich and Joy, who were waiting for me around mile 23 and ran with me to mile 25.  Their encouragement helped me speed up the last few miles, and really push to the end.  Fellow Steamtown runners Tony and Brian, watching from the sidelines, said that I looked totally focused the last mile.  It was either that, or I had completely lost the ability to think and could only run on basic instincts.  My final time of 3:57:18 was not what I was shooting for, but it is now in the books.  I was pleased to run under 4 hours, pleased to have done two marathons in 6 weeks, and pleased to have completed my fifth Philadelphia Marathon in five years.

Vies from the balcony, Nov. 18, 2012

Frank finishes his fifth Philly Marathon in five years.

Ben Franklin Parkway and the Philly Marathon

View of the Parkway, with the crowd of runners and spectators, the beautiful trees, and the art museum in the background.

That’s how it went, Sunday, November 18, 2012.  Of note, our club, the South Jersey Athletic Club had many runners in the marathon and half marathon, and they all put in great performances.





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