At the marathon, being seen is the goal - for fans, that is

Fans and signs cheer on runners Sunday at the Philadelphia Marathon. One fan, watching for her husband running the half marathon, had a sign: "13.1 miles, 'cause you're only half crazy!"
Fans and signs cheer on runners Sunday at the Philadelphia Marathon. One fan, watching for her husband running the half marathon, had a sign: "13.1 miles, 'cause you're only half crazy!" (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 19, 2013

The grand strategy of many Philadelphia Marathon fans could be reduced to a single word: balloons.

Or failing that, a large glittery sign.

And in one case, a big, blow-up alpaca - as in the camellike mammal.

Thousands of runners cruised through city streets in the 20th annual marathon Sunday, while even larger crowds gathered on sidewalks to cheer them on, many seeking ways to stand out and be noticed by friends and family members who were running.

"He's looking for the balloons," said Kati Cain, of Phoenixville, the stringed bouquet of latex that floated above her a signal to her husband, Matthew, running to celebrate his 29th birthday.

She dropped him off before 5 a.m., then moved through closed streets to stand at a spot near 15th and Arch. After seeing him go by - and his seeing her - her plan was to connect at different points on the course, first at 15th and Chestnut, then at the Art Museum.

The race started and ended near that landmark on a day that was ideal for running. Temperatures were in the mid-50s at the beginning, with cloudy skies and slight wind.

At the start, a din came off the Art Museum area, as 30,000 runners moved out amid the shouts of supporters, a crowd that organizers estimated at 60,000 coursewide.

Security was tight, given the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Police reported no major incidents.

It was dark when runners lined up, and fans arrived in droves soon afterward. Some came in running gear, though they weren't running, others in Eagles jerseys. Some carried breakfast to eat while they waited.

Susan Nerf, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., held a big handmade sign that said, "13.1 miles, 'cause you're only half crazy!" She was there for her husband, Frank Musante, running the half marathon.

"It was great to see him go by with a smile on his face," she said.

An estimated 16,000 were running the full marathon, about 14,000 the half marathon.

The runners came from all over, moving Sunday at impressive athletic speeds or at near walks, heading past the Liberty Bell and the Chinatown gate, cruising into the neighborhoods of Manayunk and University City.

Abebe Mekuriya, 39, of Ethiopia, crossed the finish line first, covering the course in 2:17:35. The women's winner was Irina Alexandrova, 33, who came from Russia to finish her first Philadelphia Marathon in 2:39:04.

At 9 a.m., near 13th and Chestnut, the pack had strung out, the street left to slower runners and walkers. Most cheering sections had moved on.

Carol Young's family held fast, waiting for her to come into view.

Young, 67, of Houston, was running a marathon in her 50th state, reaching a goal she had set years ago. Her husband, daughter, and others cried out as she ran past in shorts that looked like the Texas state flag. She ran far off the leaders' pace, but pushed forward at a steady trot.

"She's a finisher," said her husband, Richard Young. "Her medal looks just as good as anyone's."

One runner dressed as Wonder Woman, sans cape. Two wore caps bearing the Canadian flag. One man juggled three balls the whole way - and he wasn't last.

The musical instrument of the day? The cow bell, best for drawing the attention of passing wives, husbands, sons, and cousins.

On the steps of a cafe near Broad Street, Winnie and Tony Fadool held a big yellow flag that said, "Team Fadool: Running for Michael, 1976-2013."

Their son beat cancer only to be killed in a motorcycle accident. On Sunday, four children, including Comcast SportsNet reporter Amy Fadool, their spouses, friends, and family were running for Michael, having raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

"They loved their brother," Tony said.

Margery Sharkey wore a cap emblazoned "Team Farrell" and, with her husband, Patrick, was ready to cheer their 30-year-old daughter, Farrell Sharkey. A new dog just joined the family, and the couple held a sign: "Run like a crazy Dachshund is chasing you."

The pup wasn't the only animal in mind. Jim Wrubel held the inflatable alpaca, an inside joke among his wife, Eileen, and their running friends. Traversing the hills of Pittsburgh, he said, they're in alpaca country.

Some runners gave the alpaca a high-five as they went past. A couple stopped to kiss it.

"We advertised," Wrubel said, "that it gives you faster times."


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