An amazing thing has happened over 30 years with the Broad Street Run. It has become more than a footrace.
For thousands, this 10-mile run through the heart of Philadelphia represents a refusal to surrender to infirmity or disability. It's a celebration of achievement on the journey to health and happiness.
Here are some of their stories.
On New Year's Day, Christine Meyer, a physician in Exton, "woke up feeling crappy: fat, tired, and depressed."
"I could not get my aunt off my mind," she said.
Her aunt, Venis Fanous, had just been diagnosed with colon cancer at 59. "Not only is she a sweet person," said Meyer, "but she is an outstanding, compassionate, and lauded physician. She is the reason I became a doctor."
For months after the diagnosis, Meyer was desperate to do something. On New Year's Day, she had a revelation: "I would train for and run Broad Street in her honor."
Meyer also recruited others for a team. It has grown to 47 runners on Sunday, and they have raised more than $55,000.
"If we had more teams like ours," she said, "cancer would not stand a chance."
Noreen Sullivan, 51, of Hilltown Township in Bucks County, ran Broad Street in 1995 and 1998, the last time when her son was 4. He was diagnosed with autism the year before.
"Since then," she says, "the two of us have battled autism and alcoholism. I gained 50 pounds, suffered depression, and fought repeatedly for services for my son."
He is 6-2. She is 5-2.
"I have been told often to place my son in a residential facility due to his aggression," she said.
Not on her life.
In October 2011, she joined a health club and hit the treadmill, first a walk, then a jog.
"Having spent more time in the back of ambulances and in ER's, having been shipped off to detoxes, psych hospitals, and rehabs, I certainly did not expect to run again, let alone 10 miles," she said. "It's important because I need to prove I am strong . . . [and] that I can take care of him.
"I want my son to see me finish. He is very visual. He will be watching and be proud."
Syreeta Bacon, 38, of Philadelphia, was diagnosed with diabetes at 18. "Although warned over and over again," she says, "I was a lazy diabetic. I didn't watch my sugars or what I ate."
Last May, she was hospitalized on her daughter's 13th birthday for gallstones. "I had to have surgery," she said. "What hurt most of all was seeing my daughter's sad face on her birthday when her mom was in the hospital."
"After my recovery," she said, "I attempted to run across the Ben Franklin Bridge. I was out of breath after 20 seconds. But I finished and have just kept at it. I ran my first 5K in February. I have lost 43 pounds and now call myself a runner."
She is nervous about Broad Street. "I'm up to about 8 miles," she said. "I'm doing it because it is a few days before my daughter's birthday and I want to show her that I will do everything in my power to be around for every one."
Elizabeth Schu, 23, of Media, tried to kill herself in November. "I self-medicated all the pain I had in my life by using powerful, addictive drugs," she says. "Looking in the mirror was not possible without tears, because I knew I had nothing left to live for."
She finished first in her age group in the Broad Street Run at 15, and second at 16, she said. "From the time I was 15 to 19, I ran 8 miles a day. My parents split up around this time, and I went away to culinary school."
She couldn't deal with the changes, put on 50 pounds, drank, did drugs, dropped out of school.
When her suicide attempt, she took this as a sign. "I cut out the drugs completely and the day I did that I ran 3 miles." She kept running, getting stronger, and set her sights on Broad Street.
Running, she said, "makes me feel great about myself." She is euphoric to have endured "my horrible past" and come out running!"
"I'm gonna keep this short and sweet for comedic effect," said Edward J. Gallagher III, a dean at Girard College. In an e-mail, he wrote:
January 6th-Got Dumped January 7th-Started Running February 6th-Registered for Broad Street.
April 4th-Down 35 lbs, Loving Life, and Training for Broad Street.
May 5th-Finish Broad Street under 90 Minutes with a Sombrero and a Smile - (Sombrero in honor of Cinco de Mayo, red socks in honor of Boston.)