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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Philadelphia Marathon Better Than New York City Marathon

As a veteran marathoner who has run the Philadelphia Marathon and New York City Marathon a combined nine times (with a personal best of 3:34 in 2003's Philly), I'll tell anyone that the Philadelphia Marathon is a vastly superior race.  That's why this year, I'm registered for both races (something I did just in case the weather for one is real bad), but I'm skipping New York's on November 4th and doing Philadelphia on November 18th, and here's why.

I get two more weeks to train. 

Philadelphia runs its race at 7 am sharp.  You can be done by 10am or 11am, and home in time for the afternoon football games.  New York makes you get there by 9am, it starts at 10am, and by the time you run and finish and then clear customs in Central Park after the finish (or whatever gauntlet they call it now), it's almost dark. New York blows your day, and neither the race nor the people are worth it. 

Philadelphia's weather is usually a little cooler and drier because it's the last Sunday before Thanksgiving.  For runners, this is prime running weather.  For spectators, it's football weather. 

Philadelphia has a nicer course, more scenic and fewer hills.  It is superior in every way.

New York has more potholes, and many more narrow streets.  That matters, because New York's race is designed for 15,000 runners.  When I first ran the New York City Marathon they had fewer than 19,000 runners start.  Now, it's over 40,000.  Absolute greed means the race route is much more clogged, particularly with slower runners and other runners -- usually foreigners -- who are there to sightsee, take pictures and wave, but all on the course and blocking the path of other runners who, ya know, are there to run and run for time.  Nothing like four guys from Peru, straddling the course, running in line (and blocking you), to frustrate you after months of training.  Or when these same four guys decide to run in unison while holding one flag, to really hold you up. 

I like Philadelphia.  It's a nice little unpretentious city, and the people are nicer. (Exceptions are the Eagles fans, but I give them credit; they care.) And to be frank, the young ladies handing out water are much more attractive.  I'm allowed to write that.

New Yorkers are jerks, and that city attracts and retains a tremendous amount of trash.  I mean, the Eurotrash.  These snooty bastards -- and their female golddigger moocher counterparts -- live off of the work of others, then come over to this continent to use us like a dog uses a tree, and worse, then they come up with the bridge-and-tunnel putdown.  Real New Yorkers don't do that.

There's less dog poop on the sidewalks in Philadelphia.  Maybe that's because the people are nicer and find company with, well, other people.  Many New Yorkers are so obnoxious that only a dog will tolerate them.

At mile 18 of the New York City Marathon, volunteers hand out PowerGel or some other sugary goo.

At mile 18 of the Philadelphia Marathon, volunteers hand out beer.  And it's a dark amber microbrew!  Better, you run past them again on mile 21 for a refill.  After you've run that far, you'll want a beer, anything other than tap water and the green stuff they now call Gatorade, but which isn't the real thing like the orange stuff they sold in the 1970s.

But the biggest difference between the races is that I can run the Philadelphia Marathon without getting covered in a sticky spray.  Here's the explanation. When I run New York, the race starts on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. That means I have to go into Staten Island (which is bad enough).  But running the New York City Marathon means you'll deal with the first-mile occupational hazard known as the World's Longest Urinal.  Now, many years ago, I had to "go" before the race, and started asking around for the "World's Longest Urinal" (which race organizers had been promoting).  Couldn't find it. I made other arrangements.  But then, running across the bridge, I noticed hundreds -- no, thousands -- of racers (including some women!) urinating off the side of the Verrazano Bridge! 

Now, when you are spraying into the air, a few hundred feet above sea level, you have wind currents much stronger than those at the earth's surface.  The wind -- the breeze -- turns this moisture into an aerosolized spray and that gets blown around and back.  So unless you are in the middle of the road surface on either the top or bottom level of the bridge (and runners go on both the top and bottom levels), you stand an excellent chance of feeling a mist during your run across the Verrazano.  But now you know what that refreshing spray is.  It's the urine of a few thousand strangers!  Imagine taking a golden shower, and then running 25 miles until the end of the race.

There ought to be a new race slogan: Welcome to Urinetown! Next sink with running water and soap: 25 miles! Have a nice day!

Philadelphia has no such hazard.  The cops let you pee freely on Marathon Morning.  They're more concerned with real crime, like the vagrants along Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

So these are the reasons I'll be home next Sunday, waiting for the real race on Tuesday.

Eric Dixon is a veteran marathoner.

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