City prepares for Philadelphia Marathon
Tricia L. Nadolny
More than 30,000 racers, and twice as many people cheering them on, are expected to converge on the city this weekend for the Philadelphia Marathon.
The main attraction, Sunday's 26.2-mile run, starts at 7 a.m. at the Art Museum and follows a route that takes runners past some of the city's most scenic and historic points. An 8K race will be Saturday.
"The marathon has showcased the unique history, exceptional hospitality, cultural riches, and remarkable beauty of Philadelphia," Desiree Peterkin-Bell, city representative and the race director, said at a kickoff event Friday at the Convention Center.
While the race is in its 21st year, the security surrounding it changed dramatically after last year's bombings at the Boston Marathon. Many security measures added to the Philadelphia race last year will remain in place this year, officials said.
A "secure zone" will span the width of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 18th to 25th Streets. All runners will be screened entering these areas, and only clear marathon-issued bags will be allowed inside the zone. Coolers aren't permitted.
Race organizers strongly urged spectators outside the secure zone to limit the number of bags or backpacks they planned to bring. All are subject to being checked.
Cheering sections will be set up at about two dozen spots along the route.
For the first time, there will be a finishers festival, providing a place for runners and their families to reconnect, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 20th Street and the Parkway. Peterkin-Bell said the cheering areas would offer the best view of the route for spectators.
"One of the hardest parts of the race," she said, "is probably Manayunk, the hilly part. . . . So if we could get folks out there, that would be great."
Mayor Nutter, who seemed surprised when Peterkin-Bell told the crowd at Friday's kickoff that he had committed to running the 8K race next year, called the event a prime way to promote Philadelphia as "the next great running city."
"With the marathon, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, our miles of recreational trails throughout our extensive parks system," he said, "Philadelphia is fast becoming a year-round destination for world-class running."
Ethiopia's Abebe Mekuriya, who won the 2013 men's field, has returned to defend his title. Last year, Mekuriya and the other runners were graced with clear skies and temperatures in the low 50s.
This year, temperatures will be about the same, but the athletes could find themselves running through some showers - there is a 20 percent chance of rain in the forecast.
For those hoping to avoid the marathon mayhem, organizers said that Saturday's events would likely wrap up about 3 p.m., with Sunday's marathon route being closed about 5 p.m.
Details about travel, rerouted buses, and other race information are available on the marathon's website, philadelphiamarathon.com.