View from the pink corral: Last wave of Broad Street runners overcame challenges just to get to the starting line

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While waiting for the Broad Street Run to begin, Alba Miranda warms up near the Olney Transportation Center. Miranda is a member of the running group Latinas in Motion. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

While waiting for the Broad Street Run to begin, Alba Miranda warms up near the Olney Transportation Center. Miranda is a member of the running group Latinas in Motion. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

Updated 3:27 p.m.

While the elite runners began the 10-mile course of Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run at 8 a.m. Sunday, Carmen Hernandez tried to keep dry from the rain in an area labeled the “pink corral.”

It designates the slowest wave of runners who are expected to pace 11 minutes per mile or more — and by the time they start the race, hundreds of others have already finished.

But for many of these runners, just getting to the starting line is a feat in itself, and a point of personal pride.

“My big satisfaction will be me crossing the finish line,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez, of South Jersey, was one of the more than 35,000 people expected to participate in the 40th annual event, which has become one of the most popular 10-mile races in the country.

This was her fourth Broad Street Run, and any other year, she would have been a corral or two ahead. But she was hobbled by a fall during the July 2017 Spartan Super in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, a challenging course that involves running through a forest and climbing a mountain. Hernandez tripped and rolled down a hill, breaking her leg.

After a surgery to repair the break, she walked around in a boot for about five months, and later with a cane.

Now, she’s easing back into long-distance running.

“I’ve seen friends and family members who get discouraged. They get hurt and they think they can’t come back, but an injury shouldn’t be something to hold anybody back,” Hernandez said. “Unfortunately, we got to work hard on it to get back to where you was.”

Wearing a pink rain jacket, worn-in sneakers, and a “Latinas in Motion Philly” hat to represent her running group, Hernandez said Sunday she was just happy to be running again.

Carmen Hernandez (left), takes a selfie with Lissette Murria and Epi Estremera prior to the Broad Street Run. The women are members of the running group Latinas in Motion. (Jonathan Wilson For WHYY)

Before the race began, Hernandez laid out her two goals: “Two hours and, honestly, to finish,” she said. “Two hours and that I’m not in too much pain.”

‘A big accomplishment’

Making it through a long-distance run comfortably is a concern during any race. Runners can chafe parts of their body, lose toenails, and get blisters on their feet.

Then, there’s cramping.

Alba Miranda, of Havertown, knew that to have a fulfilling race, she would have to manage her knee pain and cramping, which tends to creep in around mile eight.

Miranda underwent weight-loss surgery in October 2016, which prompted her to lose 100 pounds. She started running in February 2017, but the surgery has left her in a unique situation.

“Runners can, in the middle of a race, chug water or eat protein bars or eat any kind of snacks and just replenish,” Miranda said, explaining her stomach is now the size of a banana.

“I can only have certain portions in such a short period of time. So if I feel that I’m dehydrated, I can’t chug a bottle of water like everyone else,” she said.

But Miranda doesn’t let that stop her. She hoped to finish her third Broad Street Run within about two hours.

For Gabriella Guzman-Jennings, of Northeast Philly, it was her first Broad Street Run and the longest distance since she started running last summer, when her mother- and sister-in-law roped her into signing up for a 5K.

“After that, I kind of just got like a runners high — that’s the best way I can put it … I just wanted to run,” Guzman-Jennings said.

She’s been squeezing in 5:30 a.m. runs with her Latinas in Motion running group at least twice a week.

“I was never a runner, like I never ran,” Guzman-Jennings said. ”I hated it through high school, hated it while playing sports. I never liked running, so for me to like running now, it’s amazing. It’s my favorite type of cardio to do.”

When she signed up for the race earlier this year, Guzman-Jennings said she chose to go in the last corral because she was unsure how training would go.

“It’s going to be my longest distance race that I’ve ever ran,” she said. “So I’m probably going to be real emotional, but I’m really excited. It’s going to be a big accomplishment for me.”

‘Struggling’ and pushing to the finish

The rain never let up during the race and several runners could be seen slipping at certain parts of the course, which starts in North Philadelphia, reaches its halfway point around City Hall, and ends at the Navy Yard. But many runners said the music and cheering crowds helped motivate them.

The fastest man in the race kept a pace of 4:44 per mile and the fastest woman kept a pace of 5:28 per mile, each winning $3,000 in prize money.

But for pink corral runners, participating in the race — with only the promise of getting a participation medal at the end — was about pushing themselves to the limit.

“I run to see if I could do it, to get to the finish,” said Shyloe Jones, a first-timer from D.C. who ran with her sister, Lorpu Jones of New York City. “The time is less important than the experience.”

Lorpu Jones (left), came from New York City while her sister Shyloe Jones (right), came from Washington, D.C. to participate in the Broad Street Run together. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

“I’m competing with myself, so I’m not really worried about [time],” said Corey Evans, another first-timer from Philadelphia.

Still, at mile nine, Miranda sent a message: “Struggling.”

Though she followed it up with another message, saying she was going to make it, which she did.

“As every year goes, I see myself getting stronger and feeling a lot better after these races,” said Miranda, after clocking in just shy of two and a half hours.

Alba Miranda (right), embraces Epi Estremera at the conclusion of the Broad Street run. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

She beamed, despite being drenched.

“I probably just need a nap,” she said.

Hernandez, the recovering athlete, said she did feel some hip pain and by the time she finished in a little more than two hours, she just hopped in the car with her husband, who also ran, and headed home.

Guzman-Jennings, the first-timer, also finished in just over two hours, although she didn’t know it when she caught the Broad Street Line subway home.

“I don’t even know what I did, I just wanted to finish,” she said with a laugh. “I feel really good. I’m going to go home and take a bath though — that’s for sure.”

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