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FUBAR: A portion of the Fishtown Beer Runners make a new subsection of “Fishtown Ultra Beer Awesome Runners” at the inaugural Rocky 50k, including a couple of first time ultra runners.

    

 David N April had no business attempting to jump over that park bench.  Yes, he just witnessed some idiot (whose name may or may not rhyme with Todney Tussen) jump over it but what was he thinking?  For that matter, what was he thinking about even attempting to run this ultra?  Liz Pagonis and Rachael Harr were also drinking the purple Kool-Aid.

     It’s December 7, 2013 on a chilly Saturday morning in South Philadelphia just outside of where Rocky and Adrian live in Rocky II.  The sun is starting to rise and there is roughly 150 people geared up to take on the challenge of following Rocky’s training run around the city after Dan McQuade wrote about it and mapped the route out for Philadelphia Magazine and then Rebecca Schaefer jumps on it and organizes this Fat Ass Ultra.  As she stands on the back of a truck to send us off at 7 AM, we break off into our group.  Included in that group is the likes of Keith Straw, essentially a prince in the ultra marathoning world… or princess depending on if he is wearing his pink tutu, and also Yoshiko Jo who has done 120+ races of 26.2 miles or more and has her share of wins in 100 mile races.  Rounding out the rest of the group are some really solid runners like Maggatron herself, Maggie Guterl, Len DeProspo, Loren Thomas, Phil Cappa, Johanna Reade Goode, Anthony LoCicero, Little Dave Maver, myself and we picked up another first timer out there on his own but fit right in with us, Hal Wrigley.  Alejandra Murgueytio, Kerry Barrett, Jill Purdy, John Encarnacion and Dave Thomas were there for portions of it, too.

     We begin following the carefully drawn out directions that Rebecca posted on the Rocky 50k website and that Maggie happened to memorize.  The group splits off as some of us head to Sugar House Casino to gamble and use their bathrooms.  David April is doing a wonderful job being the historian that he is as he explains that William Penn signed the treaty with the Indians at some place called Penn Treaty Park.  As we run further north along back streets, sure enough there is a guy who parked his car to support the runners with water, Gatorade and bananas.  How random and yet how awesome.  We cut over to Lehigh and the air is filled with a wonderful smell.  It’s coming from Stock’s Bakery and I insist on buying everyone donuts.  We all head in and I think everyone has their treat and I’m getting ready to pay and they tell me it’s $3.20.  I respond by saying “No, I am paying for everyone’s.”  I think she says $3.20 again so I give her $20 to see how much change I am handed.  It’s $16.80 but Anthony didn’t get his order in.  He gets a donut and I’m charged 40 cents for it.  David and Anthony proceed to wear a good portion of their donuts and we begin running again.  Hal joins our group soon after this.  He’s another pea in our pod.  Shows up solo and makes a bunch of friends before being really late to his blind date, which we hear went rather well.  Around the next corner we run into Kelly O’Boyle, Josh McNamara, Kelly Payne, Kerry Barret and Jess Clegg who are enjoying the sights of beautiful Lehigh Ave and handing out water.  

     We almost lose Yoshiko from time to time but that was mainly because she ended up taking 220 photos during the run.  Many of them are of murals featured throughout the city and others of the amazing landscapes.  It was awesome as there was never a dull moment as conversation never stopped.  It could be 2 or 3 talking and running together or the whole group but it always changed up, always flowed, was very organic and never forced.  Another constant was the smiles.  Considering some of the areas are not exactly destinations that are sought out and most often are avoided when possible, the vibe was overwhelmingly positive.  No troubles were encountered by us or any of the groups we have heard from or ran into and ran along with on this journey.  On our way down South Broad, we encounter another kind soul supporting the runners with goods.  Some of the boys made a pit stop at Macy’s and back out to the streets we go.

     David “entertained” us with jokes that all began “This guy walks into a bar…” and regaled us with all kinds of stories.  Some we even assume were true.  I think we all believe him about the Dixie Hummingbirds, The Uptown Theater, Curley Milsap and the Joyland Singers, The Blue Horizon among others that seemed on the level.  It was David being David at his finest.  Well, at his finest without beer involved just yet.  Considering David helped start the Fishtown Beer Runners almost 6 years ago now and seeing how that has grown in size and meaning, it is also a testament to David himself how far he has come not only as a person but as a runner.  A few weeks before we started out on the Rocky run, he completed his 11th marathon but with not too much training in between he sets out to do this 50k.  His first attempt beyond the 26.2 mile mark and into the ultra world.  Liz and Rachael both finished the Philly full marathon on November 17th with very impressive times as well but neither had gone beyond, either.  If they were at all nervous, they were not showing it in their demeanor or running.

     Approximately 13 miles in we are back in South Philly and into the Italian Market complete with the flaming barrels and open stands.  We stop in Taffet’s Bakery and then to Gleaner’s Coffee Shop where I know that double espresso did wonders for me.  David April was drinking from the dog bowl out front as Dave Maver tries to push his face further into the bowl.  Again, no beer is involved whatsoever by this time.  Just fun for fun’s sake.  Hey, only 18 miles to go.

     To the north yet again into Northern Liberties with a detour through the Piazza, through Fishtown, Kensington and neighborhoods I have not spent much time in, admittedly.   The miles are flying by as we end up to where Shibe Park/Connie Mac Stadium once stood and then down to Kelly Drive.  A stop at Lloyd Hall to use the facilities and fuel up some more while talking with more new friends who came down from NY to do the run.  Running by the Art Museum steps was not easy to do at this point knowing we still had to come back but alas, there was no quit in this group.

     To Old City we go and over to Independence Hall.  We are about 28 miles into the run.  The before mentioned idiot insists on doing the park bench leap and subsequently puts the idea in David’s head.  He stares at it and says he wants to try it.  Answering the question from earlier about what was David thinking?  I guess the answer is that he wasn’t thinking.  He was caught up in the moment.  More to the point was that David was caught up in the vast amount of fantastic moments that kept happening one after the other.  He went for it not knowing if he could do it and despite catching his foot and rolling out of it in the grass, he did so gracefully and stood right up with a smile and we all cheered him.  Anthony clears the bench while Dave and Hal did an abridged version of the jump.  

     We are all feeling the miles at this point as we run along Front St and start to hear the Rocky theme blaring.  It’s Neil Brecher with a bunch of supplies.  It was just the boost we needed as we’re heading for the home stretch.  We’re all giddy and can’t wait to see those steps but end up hitting every red light from Front to 20th, it seems.  Then we see it.  We make our way to Eakins Oval, cross the 6 lane street and up the steps we go.  Here’s where words no longer do any justice to what we felt as we all throw our hands up in the air smiling ear to ear and high fiving each other.  As 1968 Boston Marathon Winner and Runner’s World editor Amby Burfoot once wrote, “First, we try to run faster. Then we try to run farther.  Then we learn to accept ourselves and our limitations, and at last, we can appreciate the true joy and meaning of running.”  On that Saturday, David, Rachael, and Liz ran farther than they had ever gone before and truly exemplified the joy and meaning of running as they finished the inaugural Rocky 50k along with their friends.

Rocky Run Photos

Rodney Russen