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Marathon runners get huge boost from Brotherly Love race crowd

Marathon runners get huge boost from Brotherly Love race crowd

Mark Fazlollah


Philadelphia came alive long before sunrise Sunday, with runners from around the world in a race that went off almost without a glitch.

It wasn't just the near-perfect weather for the more than 30,000 runners and thousands of family members who came to cheer them on. Everywhere, strangers loudly encouraged Philadelphia Marathon participants.

"It makes such a difference as a runner to have people cheering for you," said Jerome Robinson, who stationed himself on Lincoln Drive, where he urged on those completing the first 14 miles and the returning runners as they were near the finish line.

"It was amazing how many people do that," said Robinson, 27, a research chemist from West Philadelphia who already had finished the half-marathon. "It makes you feel good."

As runners passed, many people shouted out their names, which were visible on their bibs.

Noel Delgado, cross-country and track coach at Ranney School in Tinton Falls, N.J., stood nearby, high-fiving runners as they passed.

He was waiting for a former Ranney student to approach the 14-mile mark so they could run together for part of the race.

Many of the runners were in the race for deeply personal reasons, some supporting their own charities.

Brandi Dockett, 41, of Mount Royal, N.J., ran the race just 40 days after she had a pacemaker implanted.

She finished, she said, "nowhere near my goal," with a 5:43, but had no major problems "learning how to run with my pacemaker."

Dockett said she was able after the race to meet Mayor Nutter, who had read about her in The Inquirer on Saturday.

Danny Borden of Hawaii and Jeff Benelli of Kansas both suffer from a rare disease that causes progressive blindness. They ran for their Choroideremia Research Foundation, raising money for the first human clinical trials for a possible cure, scheduled to start at the University of Pennsylvania next month.

"This was the big one for the year," said Borden, who ran the race with his wife and Benelli. "It was great."

Dan Vassallo, 29, of Peabody, Mass., was first across the finish line in the 26.2-mile run. Vassallo, who also won in 2010, had an unofficial time of 2:17:28, fast enough to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials. Leonora Petrina, 32, of Long Island, N.Y., finished in 2:40 to win the women's division.

Among the bystanders was Pa. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who came to watch his daughter Sarah compete in her first marathon.

Wolf was waiting at the finish line as Sarah Wolf, 33, finished in a time of 4:27.10.

"I am very proud of her," the gov.-elect said. "She has been doing half-marathons a number of years and this was her first full marathon and she really did a wonderful job."

Sarah Wolf, who has a master's degree from Penn and lives in Brooklyn, had competed in three Philadelphia half-marathons. She said the full marathon was a big difference.

"I am glad I did it," she said. "It was hard and it may be my last."

As for competing in Philadelphia and the atmosphere, she said, "I love it."

For more than two hours before the race started, participants streamed into the area. By 5:30 a.m., many Center City parking lots were full.

In the staging area, Susan Jerotich, 27, of Kenya, wiggled through the crowd to reach her "corral" area for the half-marathon group.

Hakuaz Ono, 33, of Tokyo, was at his starting line for the full marathon by 6:30 a.m. Ono, an accountant with Prudential Financial, has run marathons in Tokyo and at the Jersey Shore.

Of course, there were minor problems, including too few portable toilets at the starting lines, with participants sometimes tapping on doors to remind users there was a 10-minute waiting line - and only five minutes until the start of the race.

But for others, the marathon was a perfect draw, bringing them back to Philadelphia long after they'd moved from the city.

Rod and Beth Feinberg of Fort Lauderdale said they were combining the marathon and Thanksgiving visits with Philadelphia friends and relatives.

Rod Feinberg, 52, said that although he felt cold after living for years in Florida, Philadelphia's weather was great for running "as long as it's not raining."

"We come back for this. We went to Wawa twice. We had cheesesteaks," he said. "It's a lot of fun."