ONE MAN was running his 64th marathon, the other was running his first since he got a prosthetic leg. For both, finishing yesterday's Philadelphia Marathon was an achievement.
When William Reynolds' son Malachi, 6, rode his bike for the first time this summer, the father of four ran at his side. And that would not have been possible the previous summer.
Reynolds' story, like the legend surrounding the 26.2-mile races called marathons - a messenger ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in 490 B.C. - involves a war.
It's been more than a decade since an IED gravely wounded the Army vet outside Baghdad, leaving his left leg a few inches shorter than the other and with greatly restricted movement after more than 20 surgeries to restore blood flow. For 9 1/2 years, he could cycle, but not run. An amputation came about two years ago after complications.
But since then, he's become more mobile, and considers the procedure a great success, allowing him that special moment with his son.
"I was able to regain symmetry," said Reynolds, 34. "Running was one of the things I couldn't do."
Fourteen months ago, Reynolds began to run again, trying to reignite a dream from college to complete one marathon a year. He ran the Army 10-miler in D.C. last month as marathon training that could also help ingratiate himself with friends who run.
"I just wanted to be a part of it," he said yesterday.
For the final mile of the Philadelphia Marathon yesterday, Reynolds carried an American flag before finishing his first marathon with the prosthetic limb with a time of 4:09.
It was great weather for runners, he said, with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees.
"When we did get a sweat going, there was a nice, cold breeze," he said.
About three hours later, while Reynolds was soaking in an ice bath, Marshall Keith Gardner, 67, of Richboro, Bucks County, crossed the finish line to a cheering Mayor Nutter and checked it off: his 64th marathon.
"The exercise is good for you," Gardner said. "I'd rather be vertical than horizontal."
Gardner, a graduate of George Washington High School in Bustleton and St. Joseph's University, is a veteran of marathons in Philly and New York City.
He's run the Los Angeles Marathon twice, and likes to brag that he and marathon legend Bill Rodgers were born only a week apart. He jogged 3 miles of the marathon in 1987 while chatting up Ed Rendell, back when the politician was gearing up to run against Wilson Goode in the Democratic primary. The race stretched from Independence Hall to Temple University's satellite campus in Ambler then.
And although his wife wasn't there to cheer him on yesterday, they used FaceTime to stay in touch periodically throughout the run. She's not one for waiting: Back in 1981, she left him to drive himself home after she got tired of waiting for him to finish his first Philly marathon.
Since then, he's run with a cassette player and an iPod, and recalls an odd encounter with a guard at Liberty State Park weeks after 9/11: The guard mistook the cassette player for a weapon.
And Gardner had some wisdom he wanted to impart to runners.
"Even though I'm slow, it's important to finish," said Gardner, who planned to take the Regional Rail home to Richboro. "Unlike team sports, you can't bench yourself."
Yesterday's race was won by Teklu Deneke of Ethiopia, a resident of Flagstaff, Ariz., who crossed the finish line at 2:17:44. Coming in second was Kenya native Abraham Rutto, of Roxborough.
Gisela Olalde Granados of Hermitage, Tenn., took home first place in the women's marathon with a time of 2:40:05. Philadelphian Margaret Vido was second, clocking in at 2:44:40.
And Brian Lang of Philadelphia broke the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon run dressed as Santa. He beat the record of 2:55:53, crossing the finish line in 2:54:02.
On Twitter: @JBrandt_TU