Rusty Burrell, like most of the other 27,000 runners who completed Sunday’s Broad Street Run, went out last week for a few final practice laps to make sure he was ready. Except his tune-ups included a basketball.
Burrell went viral on Sunday after finishing the 10-mile race dressed like Allen Iverson while dribbling a ball the entire way. The 36-year-old from Richmond, Va., says he’s not the best ballhandler, but he corralled the basketball on Sunday just like he did during his practice runs.
“I definitely didn’t expect this kind of attention, but it’s been fun,” said Burrell, who recovered Monday from the race while watching footage of him posted all over social media.
He ran Broad Street in 2019 dressed as a Star Wars stormtrooper so his daughter would be able to pick him out of the crowd and ran a race last week in Virginia dressed like Washington Nationals star Juan Soto.
Burrell, a Washington sports fan, needed something for Philly and figured Iverson — who grew up in Virginia and played college basketball in Washington at Georgetown — would be a hit.
“We have love for him down here the same way that Philly does,” said Burrell, who finished the course with an average mile of 9 minutes, 15 seconds.
He purchased an A.I. jersey and 76ers shorts online and matched the uniform with Iverson’s signature headband and arm sleeve. Burrell’s hair normally is braided like Iverson’s, and he made sure it was fresh for his eighth Broad Street Run. Dribbling the ball was a late decision, but Burrell knew it would complete his wardrobe.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Burrell said of dribbling a ball from North Philly to South Philly. “I was going into it thinking, ‘I’ll start with the basketball, but once I start hating it, I’ll ditch it or carry it.’ But it wasn’t too bad. People kept asking me during the race if I was going to keep doing it, and I told so many people that I was that I felt like I had to show up with my basketball at the end.”
Burrell ran his first Broad Street in 2012 as a way to visit his brother-in-law from Philly. He works as a software developer and brews beer in his garage as a hobby. The hobby — which Burrell calls “Rusty Barrel Home Brewing” — has been successful enough that California’s Stone Brewing has brewed a couple of his recipes.
He stopped dribbling Sunday only when he went through the course’s water stops and mostly used his right hand but used his left when fatigue set in. Burrell was afraid of bouncing the ball off the feet of other runners, but he avoided any blunders. Those practice dribbles paid off.
“A lot of people were trying to call me for traveling and carrying,” Burrell said. “There were a lot of requests for crossovers, so I tried to do that. A lot of people were taking selfie photos and videos while they were running, which I was surprised by. It was fun. I was glad I didn’t trip anybody.”