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The OK Corral

on April 25, 2012

  No, I’m not talking about a gunfight here – I’m talking about this corral:

start line

It does look (and feel) like a herd of cattle sometimes in the corral! (Photo credit: B.T. Indrelunas)

To be more specific, the starting corrals of the 2012 Broad Street Run!

But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a funny story about my first experience of race corrals. It was at the 2008 Philadelphia Marathon, and my daughter was running her first marathon. I went as her chauffeur and cheerleader, but my secret reason for going was to be there at the ready for any emergency trips to the hospital, or to pick her limp & battered body  up off the finish line . I mean, 26.2 miles! Who does that?

I found a spot along the Parkway where I could see her as she ran by at the midpoint of the race. As I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with another spectator, and she asked me what corral my daughter was in.

Now at the time, my son was very involved in a choir, and when this woman asked her question, I heard, “what chorale is your daughter in?” My first thought was to say, “oh, she isn’t here with a singing group.” Luckily, I stopped myself, and gave the far more intelligent reply, “I don’t know”.  Then I added the equally intelligent: “I don’t know what that is.” So the woman explained it to me.

In theory, here’s how it works:

All the elite athletes start in the front. Everyone who registers puts down an approximate guess of how long they think it will take them to finish the race. Everyone is then put into corrals, according to their predicted paces and the race starts  in waves, with the faster runners starting near the front and the slower runners starting near the back.

In reality, here’s how it worked at Broad Street last year:

All the elite athletes start in the front.  Everyone who registers puts down an approximate guess of how long they think it will take them to finish the race. Everyone gets to the race and is enveloped in a crowd so large that they can barely move. They find a spot in the closest corral and wait for the race to start. And everything is OK. No one is trampled.

And here is something else that is OK with the corrals. I was standing there last year amid 30,000 other runners last year, and I’m going to be there again this year.  Every year there is news footage of the colorful sea of runners starting off on the race and I had always thought it looked so exciting, and so crazy too. Every time I find myself in a race corral, I’m a amazed to be a part of that sea of people. And here is what you can’t see or feel from the television. From the outside, it may look like a herd of cattle being led to slaughter, but inside the corral, no one is being forced to go anywhere. Everyone is happy, and excited, and yes, sometimes nervous. They have worked hard for this day, and they are glad it’s here. It’s a celebration – people are throwing clothes, tying shoes, looking for friends, and looking forward to a good run through the cheering crowds lining Broad Street..

How I got here is a story for another day, but the seed was planted at that Philadelphia Marathon in 2008. And my daughter? No picking her up off the finish line. She finished looking exhilarated, and like she had a few more miles left in her. She has run several marathons since then.  And in a little over a week, we’ll both be running Broad Street. And that’s more than OK with me.


Hoping to add to my bling this year!



One response to “The OK Corral

  1. Trish says:

    Broad Street will be A-OK and more! I’m excited that so many of us are running this year. And your description of the corrals is on point – nervous excitement!

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