Broad Street Run a ‘rejuvenating’ return to a new normal in Philly

The nation’s largest 10-mile road race was back on in Philly on Sunday — with some notable changes. Many of the 18,000 runners said it still felt good to be back.

Runners take off at the start of at the start of the Broad Street Run. Participants had to provide proof of vaccination. (Mallory Falk, WHYY)

Runners take off at the start of at the start of the Broad Street Run. Participants had to provide proof of vaccination. (Mallory Falk, WHYY)

For many of the runners lacing up their sneakers and stretching their calves on Sunday morning, it was their first time racing since May 2019 — the last Broad Street Run before the coronavirus pandemic.

Tanya Crump-Chapman had been away from the starting line for even longer.

“This is my first time in seven years that I haven’t been out of shape,” she said, beaming as she stood in the light drizzle and waited her turn to start the race. “So, I’m finally ready this year and I’m extremely excited.”

The pandemic pushed Crump-Chapman to focus on her health and start exercising again, “instead of being depressed, ‘cause it was such a depressing moment.”

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She started going for long hikes through Valley Green Park with her poodle, Mocha, and built up to seven miles a day.

Aunt and nephew at the Broad Street Run
Tanya Crump-Chapman said the pandemic pushed her to get in shape for the first time in years. She was excited to participate in the Broad Street Run alongside her nephew, JaMeer Crump. (Mallory Falk, WHYY)

Now, she was ready to race alongside her nephew, JaMeer Crump, a seven-time Broad Street runner.

“This is my motivating factor,” she said, squeezing his shoulder and noting how disappointed he’d been when the race was canceled last year.

“I feel good to be back out here,” Crump said, before admitting that, unlike his aunt, he hadn’t done any training.

“None at all,” he laughed. “We’ll see how it goes. I’m only 24, so I should be good.”

The aunt and nephew were two of the more than 18,000 people who registered for the 10-mile race, which draws participants from across the country. Around 17,000 were expected to run in person, after providing proof of vaccination, while another 1,500 planned to complete a virtual race.

“We’re so excited to welcome back runners to Broad Street and celebrate their hard work and determination,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner. “It’s a giant step forward for our city to put on an event like this.”

There were some notable differences this year. For the first time in its 41-year history, the Broad Street Run was held in the fall. It normally takes place the first Sunday in May, but was postponed out of COVID-19 concerns.

The race typically ends in the Navy Yard, but construction there pushed the finish line to Pattison Avenue.

And cheer zones were suspended as a COVID safety precaution. That meant no huge crowds along the route, cheering on runners and waving bright, motivational signs.

Some spectators still managed to show up. Lillian Glover lives across the street from the starting line, in the York House Apartments. She bundled up in a puffy black vest and came out to encourage the racers as they took off.

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“I wanted to see history with my own eyes,” Glover said. “I’m 86 years old and who knows if I ever see it again, but I saw it today.”

Like so many others, Glover had a challenging year. On top of navigating the pandemic, she was in and out of the hospital for complications from gallbladder surgery.

Standing on the sidelines, waving her arms in delight as each corral took off, felt like a triumph. It had been a long time since she had seen such a large, public, joyful event.

“We’ve shut down. We haven’t been able to do the things we’re used to doing, so this just impressed me,” Glover said. “It made me feel good to see this many people come together to do a Broad Street Run. Thousands and thousands of people. I don’t even know how to express it, really.”

The race also felt like a return to normalcy for Kayla Csizmazia, a teacher and cross country coach at Boys’ Latin charter school.

This was her fifth Broad Street Run, and being around other people again felt “rejuvenating.” She participated virtually last year, but said it was harder to stay motivated without other people around to push and encourage her.

Csizmazia hopes next year is fully back to normal — streets packed with spectators, a live performance from the Temple band — but says this year still felt “amazing.”

The main highlight was running alongside one of her school’s star runners, junior Jayden Grier; she convinced him to join at the last minute.

Runners in Broad Street Run
18-year-old Jayden Grier participated in his first Broad Street Run this year, with encouragement from his cross country coach, Kayla Csizmazia. “I actually feel like it was a breeze,” he said. (Mallory Falk, WHYY)

Grier was moved by the sense of camaraderie on the route, after an isolating pandemic year. One moment in particular stood out, when he passed by an older runner.

“He was like, ‘You got it, keep going.’ And I also cheered him on. And we helped each other out.”

Crump-Chapman, the proud aunt, also loved the experience. She finished about 20 minutes after her nephew, and said she felt a little sore, but very accomplished.

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