Blog: A Running History / by Kenny Roposh

Kenneth Roposh
Architectural Designer

About 3 months ago, I decided to sign up for the Broad Street Run. I’ve come to realize there are two types of runners in the world; those who run for fun (i.e. some activities that require running, like sports) and those who run because they have to (for example, when a T-rex is chasing you). I quickly became the latter. I was stuck. I had told too many people I was going to do this race, and said things like “Pssht! 10 miles is nothing.” My goal was to try to keep a 10 minute a mile pace. Throughout my training, that changed to 9 minutes, then to 8 minute and 30 seconds. One may think this is good. Training is going well. Negative, running was BORING! I had to find a way to entertain myself while I ran; music wasn’t working, as I can only listen to the Rocky soundtrack so many times. That’s when it came to me! While listening to “Gonna Fly Now,” the song that played during the original Rocky montage. (You know, the part where he runs through the streets of Philadelphia in a non-chronological order.) I needed a Rocky montage. The scene in Rocky shows him running throughout significant places in Philadelphia like; the Italian Market, Kelly Drive, City Hall, Ben Franklin Parkway, Broad Street and of course the Art Museum steps. These are all places in Philadelphia that I have already visited, but I don’t know as many on Broad Street, the location of the run I am about to participate in. So I decided to research mile markers of intriguing landmarks along my run hoping that it could be entertaining. We shall see how it goes.

START LINE: READY, SET, GO!

The 37th Annual Broad Street run begins! It is the nation’s largest 10 miler. In the opening year of 1980, there were just 1,576 runners, of which only 122 were females. Since 2010, the race has been packed to its maximum amount of total runners. In 2014, 35,169 runners crossed the finish line. 19,384 of these runners were woman, beating out the number of men by well over 3,000! This year the turnout is expected to be even greater – I’m just hoping I remember a token in case I need to hop on the subway!

MILE 1: HUNTING PARK

Let race day begin! To kick off the Broad Street Race, we begin with Hunting Park. Not only is it the name of the neighborhood, but also a 10 acre park with many amenities, including a soccer court, pool, and eleven basketball courts, to name a few. The land that is now the park originally belonged to James Logan, aka William Penn’s agent secretary. His mansion still stands today and can be visited by the public.

MILE 2: TEMPLE HOSPITAL

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Nearly 125 years ago, Temple University purchased a 3 story house and transformed it into Samaritan Hospital. This became a 20 bed facility that provided free care to those unable to afford it. Today, TUH is a 722 bed teaching hospital. In the 2014-2015 U.S. News & World Report, Temple was ranked “Best Regional Hospital” in six different specialties.

MILE 3: JOE FRAZIER’S BOXING GYM

3 miles in and it’s time get a little motivation from a Philadelphia sports icon, “Smokin” Joe Frazier! The man that took down Muhammad Ali. The Olympic and Heavy Weight champion did the majority of his training here throughout his career. After his retirement, he purchased the gym and began to train other boxers. It later became his home when he began to face financial hardships. In 2013, his boxing gym officially made it onto the list of The National Register of Historic Places.

MILE 4: THE UPTOWN THEATER

This 2,000 seat Art Deco theater opened up in 1929. The Uptown Theater hosted some of the greats, including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, James Brown, and countless other R&B artists. Unfortunately, during the decline of the theater it was converted to a movie theater, followed by a place of worship, and then eventually closed. In 1982, the building was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

MILE 5: DIVINE LORRAINE HOTEL

One of the true gems of Broad Street! Designed by William G. Hale and built in 1893, The Divine Lorraine Hotel became one of the most iconic apartment buildings in a city dominated by single family houses. The Divine Lorraine was later bought and sold multiple times, becoming a hotel, followed by a center for Peace Mission’s international religious, civil rights, and social welfare activities until 1999. The building is currently being renovated into a mixed-use building with retail, restaurant space, and over 100 apartments.

MILE 6: CITY HALL

For the past 6 miles of the race, William Penn has been standing atop City Hall watching over the runners as they get closer and closer. Standing at 548 feet, he is perched on the tallest masonry structure, without a steel frame, in the world. City Hall was designed by John McArthur Jr. and began construction in 1871, however, was not completed for a whopping 30 years!

MILE 7: LINCOLN SQUARE

Lincoln Square is currently the site of a new proposed mixed-use apartment building located at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Broad Street. It is home to a historic train shed that was once part of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad in 1852. It was the first passenger station in Philadelphia and was used during the Civil War as a departure point for Union troops. The lot received its name because it was a stopping point during Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train journey to Illinois.

MILE 8: SOUTH PHILADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL

South Philadelphia High School opened in 1907 as an all boys’ school. It was designed by Board of Education architect, Lloyd Titus. The school eventually outgrew its 350 student capacity and expanded its building in 1914 to allow for more male students. With this expansion came a duplicate building for a girls school that would be connected through a single hallway. The school was eventually redesigned, reflected in the structure that stands there today.

MILE 9: SPORTS COMPLEX

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At the intersection of Broad and Pattison lies the Philadelphia Sports Complex, where fans go to boo, and athletes go to disappoint. The tradition all started in 1965 with the new addition of the Philadelphia Flyers (who are currently getting their butts whooped in the playoffs). The Flyers needed to find a location for their arena at a time when the other major Philadelphia sports teams were scattered across the city. The Spectrum Arena was born in 1967 and would host the 76ers and the Flyers. The Eagles and Phillies would join them in 1971 at Veteran’s Stadium just north of the Spectrum.

MILE 10: THE NAVY YARD

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It’s over! Hopefully I make it this far. When I finally catch my breath I will be sitting in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Philadelphia, the birthplace of the US Navy, made its final move to League Island in 1876. The Navy Yard constructed 43 warships between 1876 and 1970 and was largely responsible for the United States ability to fight in WWII. The Navy Yard officially closed on September 26, 1996. Today it has been transformed into a 1,200 acre business campus consisting of 145 companies.