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February 01, 2024

Thinking of running the Broad Street Run for the first time? Or trying to notch a personal best? Experts offer advice

It's important to start training early and gradually adjust the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts

Fitness Running
Broad Street Run Jon Tuleya/PhillyVoice

About 40,000 runners participate in the Broad Street Run each. Those looking to enter the race in 2024 for the first time are advised to begin training early, and to gradually increase the intensity, duration and frequency of their runs. This file photo shows runners on South Broad in 2023.

Snagging a bib for the Broad Street Run – one of the largest and liveliest 10-milers in the country – requires some luck. But avoiding injury and running a personal best calls for careful planning.

Philadelphia officials expect approximately 40,000 people to race in this year's Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run, starting at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 5. Registration opened Thursday morning and closes at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15.

Registered runners will get bibs for the race through a lottery system, with notification the week of Feb. 19. Individuals or teams also may run on behalf of a charity.

Revelers, bands and occasional mummers cheer runners along the race course that stretches from Somerville Avenue and Broad Street down to the Navy Yard. Broad Street is a fast course, according to veteran racers. Still, runners need to follow a training plan to avoid injuries and improve racing times.

The first step for new runners is to find comfortable shoes, said Ross Martinson, co-owner of the four Philadelphia Runner stores.

"You don't want the shoes to be what stops you from going for a run," he said. "Try on multiple pairs."

Then comes finding the motivation to run. Having a partner or a group to head out with often helps.

Philadelphia Runner offers a training program for beginning and intermediate runners with Wednesday evening and Saturday morning group runs staring in mid-February. People can sign up here or through the store's web site.

"You may not want to go for a run, but you always feel great that you did," Martinson said, adding that "every kind of exercise counts ... If you like lifting weights, keep doing that and add in some runs."

Megan Williams, a Philadelphia native and veteran racer who has run Broad Street more times than she can recall, said novices should start training several months in advance, using a four week "build" cycle. Run three to four times a week, making one of the runs a longer run.

"I always find that after I hit City Hall, I am in a bit of a dead zone," Williams said, referencing the 6-mile mark. "The downhills are over and there is still a lot of real estate left to race."

Experienced runners trying to improve their Broad Street times should choose workouts that blend tempo and speed, Williams said. She favors "The Michigan," detailed by Outside.

"Remember, it is OK to walk," Williams said, but only until you recover. Then pick up your pace again.

To avoid injuries while training, it's best to gradually adjust the intensity, frequency and duration of the running in order to accommodate pain, said Dr. Arthur R. Bartolozzi, director of sports medicine at Jefferson Health's 3B Orthopaedics.

Seventy percent of runners have some kind of knee pain, the most common being "runner's knee," patellofemoral pain related to the knee cap often due to core muscle weakness or quadriceps weakness, said Bartolozzi – also a former team physician for the Eagles and the Flyers.

Shin splints occur from excessive stress on the muscle attached to the inner side of the shin bone, sometimes leading to more serious stress fractures. Running also can aggravate previously existing arthritis of the hip, knee or foot, Bartolozzi said.

One way to avoid such injuries is to make sure your running shoes are not worn out. Also, "most foot problems can be managed with over-the-counter foot supports," Bartolozzi said.

"The key is to pay attention to your body," Bartolozzi said. "Most people who are avid runners know what comfortable pain is. But anything that lasts for more than an hour, or keeps you awake at night, that's not normal pain."

Neither is sharp pain or incapacitating pain – signals that runners should halt training. Cross-training is an effective way to prevent overuse injuries by providing a "better platform of stability," Bartolozzi said.

Broad Street is "very much a local run," Martinson said. "It's amazing that 40,000 people run it, and it feels like everybody is from Philly" – or nearby. "It's long enough that it's a great goal and challenging without killing yourself," Martinson said.

"I really love this race," Williams said. "You get to run on streets that are never open. You literally run a cross-section of the city."

To stay warm while getting to the race and waiting for the start, runners should wear a layer of clothes they're willing to discard. The city collects cast-offs for donation.

The race website has answers to other frequently asked questions about the race and information about how to register.

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