PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Marathon season in Philadelphia is off at a steady clip after a premier half-marathon and 5K took over Center City on Sunday. Thousands of people of every athletic level and ability packed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the annual 13.1-mile Philadelphia Distance Run.
The race may be more familiar to some as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Now known as the Philadelphia Distance Run, it has had a few names since it began in 1978. It is one of the world’s premier half-marathons, but it brings out every level of athlete, from pros to weekend warriors.
Jake Miller, who made the trek from Doylestown, says he is among the latter.
“I’ve never run a half-marathon. I’m not a big runner, but I’ve been training since the beginning of the year, running,” Miller said.
For a lot of participants, the run is a tune-up before marathon season hits full stride. With a start at at 22nd Street, the course moved down along the Parkway to Independence Mall, back up the Parkway to Falls Bridge, and down again to finish at the Art Museum steps.
Miller said he’s just excited to put his first race under his belt. So, could the full-length Philadelphia Marathon be next?
“Nope,” Miller said. “This is it.”
There were plenty of old-timers on the parkway, too, like Barry Goldmeier from Rockville, Maryland.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time — since the ’90s,” Goldmeier said.
He was dribbling a basketball, juggling beanbags and running — all at the same time.
“Just what I do,” he said. “I just practiced a lot.”
Runner Seina Lee said she couldn’t think of a better way to spend her Sunday morning — and she’s doing it for a cause.
“I am all about leading and living a healthy and happy life,” she said. “I’ve been running to increase awareness for mental health, and this is a great way to do it.”
Thierno Baroy is a high school sophomore at The Academy at Palumbo in South Philadelphia. He is a member of the nonprofit , a co-owner of the event.
Baroy said his favorite part is the preparation.
“From my school, we run three days a week. I just wanted to come out here and have fun. That’s all,” he said.
Students Run Philly Style has been helping make the run accessible to an ever-wider set of participants, beyond the traditional demographics of the running community. The run’s owners rely on an advisory board comprising community leaders and athletes from an inclusive range of backgrounds and perspectives.
The run is promoted to more underserved communities, offering on-site registration, including a non-binary gender option, that doesn’t require internet access, a credit card or even a bank account. And runners experiencing financial hardship pay reduced fees.
Organizers say a significant portion of the proceeds from registrations and fundraising events goes toward serving over 1,500 Philadelphia students each year. And prize money is equal across elite categories.
James Ngandu, a 32-year-old elite runner from Kenya, won the half-marathon with a time of one hour and two minutes. His pace was 4:44 per mile. James Senbeta, 35, from Chicago won the half wheelchair marathon. Shaojie Wang, 24, from Tucson, Arizona, won the 5K.