The 2015 AT&T Back on My Feet 5-Miler took place on March 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. I decided to sign up for it when I was planning our East Coast trip because I thought:
- It would be a fun way to tour a city;
- The distance was appropriate for my level of running fitness (i.e., low–I had to take several weeks off from January through March); and,
- The race benefited a great cause.
The BOMF 5-Miler benefits Back on My Feet, a non-profit that
uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.
The race started on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive below the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is famous not just for the masterpieces it houses, but for this dude:
The weather was a chilly and windy 28 degrees at the start, but the sun was out, the roads were dry, and the assembled participants were in high spirits to be gathered to help such a great organization.
Because it was so very cold, before the race I wore a warm sweatshirt over my race outfit (sweet Nuun compression socks, Oiselle singlet, and Lulu Inspire Crops and 3/4 zip) and brought a spike bag so that I could avail myself of the gear check. I was pleasantly surprised that my registration packet included not only my bib and a t-shirt, but a BOMF spike bag. Very cool!
The starting area was divided into two corrals: faster than a 7:30/mile pace, and slower than that pace. Guess which one I chose? I hadn’t run a race since November’s Seattle Half-Marathon,and I hadn’t run more than 3 miles since January, so I started in the slower corral.
After one of BOMF Philly’s graduates sang an emotional version of the national anthem, the air horn sounded and we were off. The course was flat as it ran along the Schuylkill and I kept an easy-going race pace of around 8:00/mile. I took some time to look around to enjoy the views as we ran along the Schuylkill–especially Boathouse Row across the river.
The first mile or so clicked by quickly, and with it, the first water station. I decided not to stop because I wasn’t thirsty and I knew what happens around water stations in freezing conditions: impromptu ice rinks! I steered clear and kept going.
I’d checked out the elevation profile before the race, so I knew there was a hill at Mile 2. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I’m somewhat of a hill snob. We have steep hills out here! That Philadelphia hill wouldn’t be a big deal, right?
Well, my hubris got the best of me, because but I wasn’t really prepared for what I actually encountered. That hill was no joke! It was over 100 feet in elevation but it curved and seemed to go on forever. Fortunately and finally it ended, and the course leveled out as it ran through a residential neighborhood bordering a park. We ran by the Please Touch Museum and then down a short and relatively steep hill back to the river.
Despite feeling like crap on that longer-and-steeper-than-anticipated hill, I ended up running the first 5K in 24:14. Back on the flats on MLK Drive, I knew that my unspoken goal of finishing at 40:00 or faster was a probability. I was starting to feel a little tired, though, which wasn’t surprising considering I’d only started running again in early March. I needed hydration, but I skipped the water station on my way back to the finish line because I really didn’t want to slip on ice. My paranoia about the ice was a little out-of-hand, because there didn’t appear to be any.
I tried to pick up my pace for the last mile but was too tuckered out. I couldn’t find much of a kick for the finish even though one of the organizers was yelling inspirational messages to finishers and I really, really wanted to. My favorite message? “How you doin’!”
Despite slowing a bit in the last mile, though, I still ended up finishing in 39:48, 12 seconds below my goal.
After the race, I grabbed a bottle of water and ended up running into and chatting with Faye, a fellow Oiselle Flock member who spotted me because of my singlet. She lives in Philadelphia and is a fast runner, so she finished well before I did. It was great meeting her, and I regret not having my head together enough to grab a picture with her.
After parting ways with Faye, I walked back to my car and reflected on my performance. It wasn’t too shabby considering my injury and time off, but I had secretly hoped this first race would have felt easier than it did. I certainly felt the effects of all of my down-time, not just in my legs and feet (which didn’t turn over that quickly), but in my lungs.
I knew at that point it was going to take a lot of humility along with hard and steady work to build back up to–and hopefully beyond–where I was last May when I ran my last full marathon.
And I decided to walk up those stairs at the art museum and take a picture in that damn Rocky pose–no matter how cliche–because I can,and will, fight to get back there.
The BOMF 5-Miler has a lollipop out-and-back course that’s mainly flat except for a long, steady climb (about 100 feet of elevation gain, but it seemed like more), and a short, steep decline mid-race. The roadways were closed off, well-maintained (yay, no potholes!), and not noticeably cambered. I appreciated the scenery of the Schuylkill River and West Fairmount Park but would have enjoyed the race even more if part of it had run through a more urban portion of Philadelphia.
This race offers easy and flexible packet pick-up, either in the couple of days before the race at a local running store, or the morning of the event at the start-and-finish area. There were ample porta potties, as the lines were pretty short and moved quickly. My only gripe? Parking was kind of a hassle, as many of the streets were closed off for the race, limiting access to the nearby parking lots. The parking lot I planned to park in was inaccessible, despite what the event website said. I ended up parking on the street in a metered spot and learned the hard way that Philly’s parking meters don’t accept credit cards.
Coins only, baby.
Swag: A- (for a shorter race)
Swag included a bright yellow, short-sleeved technical race-t (which will help keep me from getting hit by cars), a handy BOMF spike bag, and a sample of Mamma Chia (which I could not bring myself to eat). The swag was especially good considering that the registration fees are inexpensive ($25 early bird, $35 general, and $40 late).
The AT&T Back on My Feet 5-Miler is a small (<1,000 finishers), community-oriented race with a pleasant course and modest registration fees. Even better, funds raised through registration fees further the noble and much-needed work of Back on My Feet.