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Philly runners are racing again, pandemic be darned

Close to 3,600 runners are signed up for the Philly 10K race Sunday morning, the first of several big city races after a year of COVID-19 delays.

Teleka Seh, right, and her mother, Adrienne Hampton, stopped by Philadelphia Runner's Center City store on Saturday to pick up the numbered bibs they will wear for the Philly 10k race on Sunday morning.
Teleka Seh, right, and her mother, Adrienne Hampton, stopped by Philadelphia Runner's Center City store on Saturday to pick up the numbered bibs they will wear for the Philly 10k race on Sunday morning.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

Adrienne Hampton refers to her daughter, Teleka Seh, as “my exercise buddy,” as the two often run together in the streets of Philadelphia.

At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, they will be joined by close to 3,600 other runners when they compete in the Philly 10K — the city’s first big road race after more than a year of delays and cancellations due to COVID-19.

“I am so excited,” said Hampton, 53, a singer-songwriter who performs under the name Sapphire. “I’m excited to have a sense of normalcy. Last year was really depressing, not being able to get out there.”

She, her daughter, and a steady stream of other entrants dropped by Philadelphia Runner’s Walnut Street location Saturday afternoon to pick up their race “bibs” — the numbered tags that organizers will use to keep track of entrants during the 6.2-mile event.

It is hard to imagine anyone with more pent-up pandemic energy than the city’s running community, a group that has spent months scrutinizing every race update with the zeal of CIA analysts scouring wiretap transcripts. In addition to the 10K on Sunday, the 10-mile Broad Street Run is set for Oct. 10, followed by the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 21 — all three of which were canceled in 2020.

» READ MORE: Broad Street Run requires runners to be vaccinated

Throw in the Philadelphia Distance Run — a Sept. 19 half-marathon that takes the place of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (yup, also canceled in 2020) — and the calendar for the remainder of this year is enough to get any runner’s heart racing.

Alissa Lurie, 37, a fund-raiser for the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has signed up for Broad Street, the 10K, and the half-marathon. The first two races normally are held in the spring, but Lurie, who picked up her 10K bib earlier in the week, was undeterred by the thought of bunching them up.

“As soon as all these races came out, I’m like, ‘Sign me up!’” she said.

While the races are on, COVID remains a factor, given that thousands of huffing and puffing people are more likely to spread germs than someone sitting quietly on a park bench.

That means restrictions are in effect, varying slightly from race to race.

For the 10K, all entrants were required to show either proof of vaccination or negative results from a COVID test that had been performed within 72 hours of race time.

Competitors also must wear masks at the starting line (at Eighth and South Streets) and after the race — though not during it, to the relief of Dieu Tran, 37, who picked up her bib at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Running with a mask on,” she said, “is no fun.”

While the city requires that masks be worn at all outdoor unseated gatherings with more than 1,000 people, the rule was deemed not to apply during a road race because the runners are spread out, city officials said.

COVID precautions for the Broad Street Run, which generally draws 10 times as many entrants as the number competing in this year’s 10K, are a bit tighter. Runners must be vaccinated, race organizers announced recently. A negative test is not enough.

The various restrictions are worth it, entrants said, if that means a return to group racing.

Tran, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, ran a “virtual” — i.e., solo — race in 2020, but she found the experience underwhelming.

”It’s not the same feeling,” she said. “Running with a crowd, everyone kind of motivates each other.”

Seh, 33, a preschool teacher, agreed. Training with her mom is fun, but running in a large group is even more so.

“Having something to look forward to,” she said, “just keeps me in shape and feeling good.”