Philadelphia Marathon a run of fun for racers, rooters

And theyre off: Philadelphia Marathoners heading down the Parkway in 2010. They do it again Sunday. (ED HILLE / Staff)
And theyre off: Philadelphia Marathoners heading down the Parkway in 2010. They do it again Sunday. (ED HILLE / Staff)
Posted: November 16, 2013

You don't have to be a runner to make the most of Race Weekend.

From museum discounts to chef specials at local eateries, enthusiasm surrounding Sunday's Philadelphia Marathon is taking over the City of Brotherly Love.

On Friday and Saturday, the Convention Center will be transformed into the Health & Fitness Expo, with 81 vendors displaying the latest in running apparel and health products. The Expo will feature a Seminar Speaker series, showcasing talents like former Olympian runner Bill Rodgers, who won the Philadelphia Marathon in 1974.

Local businesses see the annual influx of 30,000 runners and their families, friends, and fans not only as a chance to show off their city, but also as a lucrative opportunity.

For Philadelphia Runner (1601 Sansom St.), a sporting-goods store that has been a Philly staple for nearly a decade, the marathon marks the busiest weekend of the year. The store offers 15 percent off all merchandise during Race Weekend, and often it's those little forgotten items - gloves, socks, and the like - that send customers through the doors in the days leading up to the big event. The discount is also available at Philadelphia Runner stores in University City and Glen Mills.

"For the running community, [the marathon] is really the culmination of months of hard work and training," says Ryan Callahan, outreach director for Philadelphia Runner. "It's great for Philadelphia in the way it promotes the city. But it's also great for the running community to come together and celebrate."

The Philadelphia Runner crew plans to support running friends, customers, and colleagues by setting up camp at a cheer zone near the 23-mile mark ("Where they need it most, the final stretch of the race," Callahan says) in front of Laurel Hill Cemetery. They promise a $25 gift card to the onlooker with the cleverest sign.

Philadelphia Runner's 15 percent deduction is one of the 19 "Fan Pass" discounts - a program created by Philadelphia Marathon organizers to help visitors explore the city with Race Weekend discounts to favorite Philly spots. The Fan Pass will be distributed at the Health & Fitness Expo.

The National Constitution Center (525 Arch St.) also participates in Fan Pass, offering $2 off general-admission tickets. The center, just two blocks from the Liberty Bell, benefits from the tourism generated by the marathon. "Events like the marathon help raise the city's awareness and create important economic impact and feel-good impact," says Steve Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and communications at the Constitution Center.

Other Race Weekend specials include $2 off general-admission tickets at the Franklin Institute (222 N. 20th St.), Philadelphia's science museum, and 20 percent-off tours with Philadelphia Chocolate Tours, the quirky walking and tasting circuit of Philly's chocolate shops.

Marathon weekend presents a unique dining experience at many favorite eateries. Twenty-eight restaurants are participating in "Choose Your Course," a program in which chefs construct premarathon meals, ranging from prix-fixe menus to all-you-can-eat buffets for runners and family and friends.

For $12, the cheapest Choose Your Course offering, you can get a Caesar salad and pasta with meatballs at Marabella Meatball Co. (1211 Walnut St.). The most expensive clocks in at $45, a four-course chef's menu at M Restaurant (231 S. Eighth St.).

Winnie Clowry, 54, co-owner of the Manayunk institution Winnie's LeBus (4266 Main St.) along with her husband, Bob, has insight into Race Weekend as both a restaurant proprietor and former marathon runner herself. Clowry has found that supporting the marathoners is just as rewarding as running.

"Now I can't run the marathon because I'm holding a party for the people running it," she says. Instead of passing across the finish line, she's there on the other side, organizing a catered tent.

During the race, it's impossible to miss Winnie's LeBus, blasting "Eye of the Tiger" on loop from speakers outside, to the chagrin of the neighbors. At the 20-mile water stop, runners can enjoy a pick-me-up with pieces of LeBus brownies.

During Race Weekend, Winnie's LeBus will offer three courses for $25. Clowry has a different idea about what constitutes healthy premarathon nosh. "People say, 'You gotta load up on the carbs.' Not all the time," she says. "You need your grains. You need your proteins." Her kitchen boasts plenty of vegetarian options, but, of course, pasta is still on the menu.

Square 1682, on Rittenhouse Square, will provide an all-you-can-eat buffet pasta dinner for $40. They plan to host their premarathon dinner in a private dining room that can fit up to 60 people, while other patrons can still dine a la carte in the regular dining room.

That was a strategic move. Chef Caitlin Mateo says, "It's going to be extra special to have all these runners in the same room. We thought it would be great for them to socialize and get to know other runners doing the marathon."

Mateo expects a full house all night, but anticipates a trend. "It's an earlier dinner crowd," she says. "Everyone is trying to get well rested." But revving the kitchen into high gear earlier than usual or preparing a full breakfast spread at the crack of dawn simply comes with the marathon territory.

"We try to take care of the people who are running the marathon and enjoying our city," Mateo says.


ajaffe@phillynews.com

Health & Fitness Expo: Friday noon to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Convention Center, Hall F, 12th and Arch Streets. Admission: Free. Information: philadelphiamarathon.com

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