First off, thank you to my wonderful friend/roommate Courtney for making me a new banner! This one looks a thousand times better than the one I tried to put together.
When I originally started writing my recap of Broad Street, it turned into a 700-word examination of race logistics. So I added this part 2. Just some thoughts I had when reflecting on the race. (You can read about how I actually ran the race this year in Part I)
I can’t help comparing this race to the Peachtree Road Race:
- Both are the largest race of their kind in the United States (Peachtree is largest 10k, Broad Street is largest 10 miler) — and actually the Peachtree is the largest race in the country based on 55,850 finishers in 2013, while Broad Street is the 8th largest with 32,075. (Running USA)
- Both are community events that attract large numbers from the local Atlanta and Philadelphia areas, respectively
- Both have a mix of super serious athletes (Peachtree was the site of the U.S. 10k Road Championships last year, and the fastest 10 mile time in the country was set at Broad Street) as well as people who have never done a race before
- Both use lottery entry systems and sell out every year
- Both run along a single road for most of the race which is also the namesake of the race (Peachtree goes along Peachtree Road for all but the last part of the race when there are a few turns to get to Piedmont Park, and Broad Street is literally just a straight shot down Broad Street to the Navy Yard)
- Both have been around awhile, although Peachtree (1970) beats Broad Street (1980) by 10 years
- Both encourage runners to use the local subway system (Marta in Atlanta, Septa in Philly) to get to the race start, since parking at the start is limited and the race isn’t out-and-back
That said, from my perspective the Peacthree is organized far better than Broad Street, primarily due to the way the start is set up. I also think the Peachtree as a more fun, festive atmosphere since it’s on July 4, but that’s not something that could be changed as easily as the start line logistics. Peachtree also boasts a larger elite field, but that doesn’t affect the experience of the “regular” runners as much, although could be part of why it’s more organized.
Peachtree has 60,000 entrants and uses a staggered wave start system. The waves go seeded, subseeded, then letters A through Y for a total of 27 waves, with earlier waves being populated by faster runners based on previous race results. Whether they do or not, they claim that they will verify your performance in the race you use as your seed time. If you don’t have a seed time, you are placed in wave Y.
Broad Street has 40,000 entrants and also has a wave system, but they do it by color, which makes it more difficult to figure out who is supposed to be in the faster waves. There are also only 9 waves (including wheelchair start). They ask for a predicted finish time to decide where you place you but do not require previous race results to verify what would be a realistic start wave for you.
Notice Peachtree on the left with all the different start waves staggered to begin at different times and Broad Street on the right with fewer corrals and the note that “all runners must be in their corrals by 7:40 a.m.”
The biggest logistical difference, however, comes in the way the waves are staggered. At Peachtree, the first waves go off at 7:30, and the last wave starts at 9:05. Last year I started in wave “A,” and after I finished the race, ate some food, and walked around Piedmont Park a bit, I was in the car on the highway back to my sister’s house before the wave “Y” even started! At Broad Street, the waves basically go off one after another, so you have all ~40,000 people at the start line of the race at the same time. This makes getting to your corral and using the bathroom a nightmare.
These are the best pictures I could find to compare the start areas. Notice the hoard at Broad Street (bottom) versus how it seems like people at the Peachtree could still move around if they wanted (top)
Interesting, Broad Street has a gear check while the Peachtree does not. I typically don’t use gear check except if it’s cold at the start, in which case I use it to store extra layers. An early May morning in Philadelphia could still be a bit chilly, while no one would ever accuse the 4th of July in Atlanta of not being warm enough. That said, when you have tens of thousands of participants and a point-to-point course, some sacrifices undoubtedly have to be made. Broad Street currently uses a fleet of school buses for gear check, but I’d be in favor of eliminating it to make room for more start corrals. Maybe not a popular opinion because I know a lot of people like gear check, but most necessities (phone, keys, money, ID, gels) could easily be carried in a belt and/or armband, and getting rid of the 50+ school buses that line up at the start would alleviate participants being crammed together and not making it to their corrals.
On the left is the start corral map and on the right is the start area map. The yellow buses are representative of gear check — each must represent more than one bus though, because there are over 50. With all the streets they have closed off, there’s no reason all the participants need to be crammed together.
I know there are probably some unforeseen reasons they don’t do the start like I think they should. For one, it would likely prolong the times roads would be closed, and I imagine that might be a bigger issue in Philly than in Atlanta. Atlanta is huge, and while inconvenient, the road closures don’t stop all transportation around the city. Center City Philadelphia is tiny, and Broad Street basically bisects it. I think there’s a way to use the highway to get from one side to the other, but still.
Whatever the reason… Broad Street is a fun race, but I know some people don’t enjoy it anymore because of how crowded and hectic it is. Last year, after crossing the finish line, I had to come to a dead stop because no one in front of me was moving. There was a huge bottleneck and it took 45 minutes to get from the finish line to the medals/food area. Broad Street definitely has some logistical issues, and I hope that they can get some of them worked out, because there are so many ways they could improve things. If they do, they could even increase the entrant field and allow more people to experience the race.