A few weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, it was time for another major Northeastern city known for its history, toughness, and distinctive regional pride (not to mention accents) to hold its signature long-distance run. And Philadelphia's Broad Street Run could have been cowed, dampened, or restrained by fresh memories of the Patriots' Day violence. But it wasn't.
Runners showed up at North Broad Street and West Fisher Avenue on Sunday in the same impressive numbers that prompted the popular race to introduce a lottery system for the first time this year. And more than 32,000 went on to finish at the Navy Yard, according to the event's website - about 2,000 fewer than last year and 7,000 more than in 2011.
The 34th annual 10-mile run, sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, took place in the shadow of Boston, but it largely avoided being shadowed by it. The tenor was of "a resilience and a resolve," as Mayor Nutter put it. Apart from a moment of silence before the start of the race, the tributes to Boston were more celebratory than somber, from the red socks worn by many runners to the colorful messages of brotherly love for a sister city.
While police stepped up their presence and discouraged the use of backpacks, they avoided what could have become a counterproductive exercise in security theater. Officials managed to strike a reassuring tone that didn't discourage runners and spectators from showing up. Many participants acknowledged trepidation about their safety and particularly that of their loved ones on the sidelines, but most also spoke of a determination not to give in to their fears.
The result was that this Broad Street Run served to defy the power of terrorism to disrupt and intimidate. Such acts remain vanishingly rare in America, and their efficacy depends deeply on our reaction to them.
Philadelphia reacted the right way last weekend. After Boston, as one runner put it succinctly to The Inquirer, "It's so beautiful to see so many people running."