The night before the Broad Street Run was the most nerve-racking time I've ever experienced. Even though I had been training, there was a little voice in my head begging me to not go through with it. Would I faint from exhaustion or dehydration? Would I trip over my shoelaces? I nearly convinced myself that I wasn't capable of finishing a 10-mile race.
Back in February, I set a goal to follow the Inquirer's 15-week beginner training plan, leading up to this year's Broad Street Run. I was intimidated, but with consistent training, advice from colleagues, and a determined mind, I completed my training.
On the day of the run, I woke up in high spirits. My mother and sister traveled to Philly from Houston to support me. Because I get to see my family only once or twice a year, having a piece of home was paramount to being emotionally sound. My mom, who has run long-distance races before, reminded me, in a way that only a mother could, to "run my own race."
As I waited at the starting line, I chanted this mantra to myself. My palms were sweaty with anticipation. Small beads of sweat rolled down my forehead as I completed my warm-up stretch.
Then I heard the horn blaring. We were off. Forty thousand runners made their way down Broad Street, under an overcast sky and a light breeze — the weather couldn't have been more pleasant.
As I moved one foot in front of the other at a modest pace, I took in the crowd of supporters that lined the course. I passed Temple University's marching band, which played a cheerful chorus as runners passed. People found creative ways to keep runners supported, such as one young woman whose poster read, "Stop Running? Ain't nobody got time for that!" Another sign read, "Keep running. Dementors are behind you."
With all the wonderful distractions, the first three miles flew by. Why couldn't training be this easy?
I felt a high point around City Hall at mile six. Drum circles beat their instruments as if their lives depended on it. Dancers were in step. It was incredible to see strangers go out of their way to cheer in solidarity with runners.
By mile eight, I started to feel nagging pain in my feet. Every step became harder. So I allowed the crowd to carry me. At that point, every cheer mattered. Every high-five. Every funny sign. Every person yelling, "You got this."
Although I was in pain, I high-fived every kid I could. I gave a fist pump to every person who reminded me that I could and would finish the race. Mile nine came and went, then, finally, I could see the finish line, which gave me such a boost of energy. I heard, "Go Brandon!" and I looked over to see my little sister in the crowd.
I anticipated a grueling physical feat, and even having to train my mind to keep my body moving. What I didn't anticipate was the enormous support down the 10-mile stretch, and how essential it was to me.
It's a time when Philadelphians come together to support each other. On the day of the race, no political, financial or social barriers were in place to keep people divided. I felt in sync with the Philadelphia community like never before. And that's what makes the Broad Street Run so magical.