Well, that’s what they call it now. Last year, it was still the “Philadelphia Distance Run,” though we runners all still knew that Philly was part of the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” family, just like the Country Music Marathon held each spring in Nashville, Tennessee.
This year, it’s official; Philadelphia is now home to the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.”
Still the same race. Still the same spirit. The same outstanding organizers, the same historic course through America’s past, the same music carrying runners through both the breeze of the easy and the grit of the difficult.
Okay…I’m making this worse. See, I can’t be there. And I wanna be. I’m currently on the other side of the world in Australia, a day ahead; in fact, as I write this, I’m well into my SUNDAY. The runners that will take on the run in Philadelphia, they are still loading up on pasta, checking their gear, and spending their SATURDAY getting ready for SUNDAY’S race.
I plan to pull up the live webcast online and watch the finish of Sunday morning’s race…but I’ll miss the first part, as we’ll be onstage finishing our evening show as they finish. Yeah…it makes my head hurt a bit; it’s hard to keep it straight. Bottom line – I’m way to far away to run the race with my Team McGraw peeps…but I’ll be cheerin’ ‘em on from “Down Under.”
As Team McGraw returns to the “City of Brotherly Love,” I can’t help but reflect on last year’s half marathon. Taking Team McGraw to Philadelphia, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom our namesake Tug McGraw won the World Series back in 1980…yeah, it calls up some pretty impassioned memories of Tug’s impact on the city.
Tug is still remembered…and still loved.
David Bier after his first half marathon finish. (Cue the music from "Charlie's Angels.")
But there was a lot more “special” from the 2009 race for me. Certainly at the top of the list was seeing my friend David Bier complete the course with his wife and Team McGraw repeater Diane. David is a brain tumor survivor…and a diehard Doors fan. He’s supported our runners through many races, but 2009 was his first half marathon as a runner; I relish each time I’ve gotten to witness these amazing feats of accomplishment in the face of adversity, and he did a great job.
And when I say “diehard Doors fan,” I mean it. The next time I see him, I’ll hear it. “So, have you learned the organ part to ‘Light My Fire’ yet?” Light my fire. No, I’ve not learned it. But you’ve done it, Dave…and done it again and again. Relit my fire for our cause. My fire for this program. For our runners. Thanks.
Genvieve could hardly contain herself in front of the paparazzi as Mark McGraw joined her for part of the race.
Team McGraw’s Genvieve Goldstein set aside some of her duties as a leader of our program and took the streets herself in 2009. If you’ve run with us before, or are on the way to some upcoming marathon with us, you know Genvieve. She knows how hard our folks work, how deep our athletes dig, on their way to the finish line…and she wanted to show ‘em she’d dig along with them.
Dig she did. Attagirl!
Gang signs? Uh, no. "45." Tug McGraw's baseball jersey number.
I’m remembering the gathering of our team and early morning hugs at the tent on race day. The gun and the laughter and the cheers of the start. “Rocky”-dressed runners, rock bands set up on trailers, and the full-blown orchestra set up on the corner that threatens to squash my time by making me stop and listen even longer.
Oh, yeah. The “Rocky” runners remind me. You WILL hear the theme from Rocky more than a few times along the way. Rocky is Philly’s favorite “not even a real person but if he were he’d be our favorite” son. And no matter how much it hurts after the race, you’ve GOTTA go run the steps from the movie at the art museum from the movie before leaving the city.
You guys are gonna have a great race; I know I did. I ran most of the race last year with Tim McGraw’s brother, Mark, and Tom Karpowich. Mark is a great runner and his “easy run” was still pulling Tom and I to better times. We stuck together until the last few miles; he and Tom ran away from me after Tom’s goal of hitting two hours…and I finished with my best time to that point of 2:07:55 for the half marathon.
Mark McGraw (left) and I reconnected at the Team McGraw tent before heading back in after the rest of our team.
After crossing the finish line, we all made our way through the medal and water and bagel and banana lines to get back out on the course to cheer on the rest of our team. That’s the best part of these races: THE TEAM.
It is worth noting for future storytelling…that the 2009 Philadelphia Distance Run was my third “Rock ‘n’ Roll” event of 2009, following January’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona and the April Country Music Half Marathon. I mentioned before my 2009 “quest for immortality.” At this point in the story, it was still a silent and solitary crusade. As concert touring season began for the summer, my quest would have to be set aside for a few months.
The spirit of that crusade would remain, the quiet pursuit of a prize that only I would ever fully appreciate.
At least…that was the plan…