Last year's winner of the inaugural Love Run, Bill Ling will be back for this year's race on Sunday, March 29 to defend his record, but this year he is more concerned about helping other runners cross the finish line than in being the winner again.
In 2014, two weeks before the Love Run, Ling, who lives in Clementon, NJ, was feeling so good about his training that he made a bold statement on his Facebook account boasting that he was going to win this inaugural run, and true to his word, he went ahead and crossed the finish in one hour, 14 minutes and 19 seconds, becoming the first Philadelphia Love Run champion.
When asked about his big win in a phone interview, Ling said, "It felt awesome. I trained really hard because it was my first official half marathon and I wanted to make it special."
"This year though I am going to be a pacer," he explained. "I had my turn winning. This time it will be more satisfying to see other people achieve their goals."
As marketing events coordinator for Bryn Mawr Running Company, and as a running coach, he has been concentrating more on helping others prepare for the Love Run.
"I will be in the pace group with one of the guys I am coaching. I feel a big responsibility to be there with him," he added.
This doesn't mean that he has been slacking on his own performance though. Ling hasn't stopped running since he started in high school. "I run a lot with friends and with running groups," he said. "The Philadelphia running community is really strong."
Since last year's Love Run, he has done the Boston Marathon and this November he hopes to run the New York Marathon.
The biggest challenge he has faced preparing for this year's Love Run is probably the same obstacle all runners have been met with as they prepare for their first spring race: the weather.
"With an early spring marathon, you have to put in winter training, and the snowy weather meant a lot of missed days," he said. "That is why it is so impressive that the Love Run draws such large crowds when you think about the difficulties in winter training."
Ling is looking forward to be back to the Love Run again. "I want to encourage other people to try to beat my record. If each year, a new runner is able to beat the previous year's record, it means the race is getting more competitive. It will be really cool to see even if I am the one being beat."
For live coverage of the 2015 Love Run, visit philly.com/ontherun.