Op-ed: National Running Day and its impacts in Philadelphia

Desiree Peterkin Bell. Provided Desiree Peterkin-Bell. Provided

Today is National Running Day and I want to share with you how running impacts us all.

Personally, I know first-hand how running has positively affected me. As a former runner and five-time NCAA All-American in Track & Field, I understand the challenge and thrill of a great run.

Now as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Marathon, I’m excited and eager to be part of shaping an endurance race that brings together nearly 100,000 runners, spectators and volunteers.

The event truly is a unique spectacle serving as Philadelphia’s heartbeat for one incredible weekend. The Marathon along with the Half Marathon and 8K race attracts young adults and seniors, from casual novice marathoners to elite running veterans, as well as everyone in between. You’re invited to join in the weekend’s dynamic activities! Our doors open to you on Friday, Nov. 15 which begins a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The expo features the latest running apparel and seminars designed to give you an unforgettable experience.

I am proud to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Marathon Nov. 15 through Nov. 17, which showcases the evolution from a small, local race into one of the top-10 marathons nationally. Most important, the race unites Philadelphia’s businesses, volunteers, government, hotels, families, tourists, and citizens in a holistic citywide experience. Our theme this year is “20 Years, For the Love of Running” and today is a timely reminder that running brings so much joy whether you’re lacing up for a run or simply participating in an event as a volunteer.

So what makes you train for weeks and sacrifice early-morning sleep? Well, it’s for the love of running! That spirit is why we celebrate National Running Day. Whether you run as a means to express yourself, enjoy the thrill of competition, or just because you can, I encourage you to spend a moment today to pause and reflect on why running is special to you. I am amazed and thankful that running is accessible to everyone. No matter what your age is, experience level, background or beliefs, running is always available as something you own. In this sense, it represents a sport of true “democracy.” With training, most everyone can participate making running the world’s most inclusive sport.

Your neighborhoods and favorite landmarks take center stage throughout our 26.2-mile-course on race weekend! Our race connects our city’s unique mix of modern and historic characteristics, whether you live in Center City near LOVE Park, visit iconic sites like the Liberty Bell in the Historic District, gain your education at University City or just want to relax in the nation’s largest municipal park at West Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. More than just a race, the Philadelphia Marathon represents a platform inviting you to participate in solidifying Philadelphia as a world-class city.

For instance last year we teamed up with 34 charities serving many important causes for your community. Students Run Philly Style, an original Marathon charity partner, mentors our city’s youth by using running as a teaching vehicle for adolescents to develop a positive and healthy lifestyle. Our charity partners help raise money through the Philadelphia Marathon to fight disease, develop youth and promote healthy lifestyles among other life-empowering objectives.

It’s clear that runners carry huge hearts. Through the senseless Boston Marathon tragedy, we all witnessed the running community mobilize instantly to demonstrate tremendous support, love and encouragement. It’s a symbol that even when life presents a tragic challenge, running fosters the strength to connect and empower communities and the people who live there.

From what they tell us on social media, through emails and phone calls, many of our runners at the Philadelphia Marathon feel the same way. If you’re seeking a like-minded community, consider joining this year’s Philadelphia Marathon! Team Philly Race Training will get you in shape and you’ll be set to experience the Best Time of Your Life. If you’re interested, visit us at www.philadelphiamarathon.com.

I wish you an extra special National Running Day! This is a time for all running enthusiasts to come together to celebrate the power of running. I’ll see you in November … out at the finish line, where you can get an enthusiastic high-five from Mayor Michael A. Nutter and me!

-Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Marathon