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Sunday, September 21, 2008

ING Philadelphia Distance Run

Catherine came back to town last Tuesday to prepare to run in the ING Philadelphia Distance Run; a half marathon race set right in the heart of Philadelphia. She has won the race 6 times in the past so what better place to capture her running than in her adopted US home town. On Friday there was a press conference as well as a question & answer session. On Saturday there was another q&a. Afterwards, Catherine signed autographs and customized each one.

It was wonderful to listen to her encourage the children she would meet. I met some children who were so inspired by Catherine's words that they actually signed up right then and there to run in the kids race! It was awesome to see their reaction to meeting a running star! On Sunday morning we woke up at 5am and Lisa called all of the runners to wake them up so they could have their tea and get ready for the race. For the women, it was Catherine, Irene, Caroline and Neriah scheduled to race and for the men, Nephat. We boarded a bus along with all of the elite athletes and headed to the starting area which was at Eagan Square in front of the art museum. It was a beautiful morning for running! We made our way to the elite runners hospitality tent and there is where the runners prepared for the race.

Everywhere I looked I saw athletes stretching, warming up, having tea and mentally getting ready. At 7:30 Lisa and I made our way to the starting line and got in the back of the women's press truck which was a pick up truck. We had canvas camping type chairs to sit on and I set up my camera and waited for the air horn to signal the start of the race. There were almost 15,000 runners, all of various ages so it took quite some time for everyone to get started but the elite runners were at the front of the pack. The race course was absolutely beautiful!

The starting point is right on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway which is lined with all of the flags from countries around the world, from there the course goes through a few city streets, then back up the Ben Franklin Parkway and up the West River Drive which borders one side of the Schulkyll River and then across a bridge to the other side of the river and down Kelly Drive (named after Grace Kelly who was from Philadelphia) and ends up back at Eagan Square on the Parkway. It was a little cool and bright and sunny and it was fun to be able to film the race from directly in front of the runners. At about the 11th mile we had to pull away from the lead pack in order to be able to make it back to the finish line in time to watch the winner cross.

Catherine, her body still recovering from the Olympic marathon, came in second
with Irene behind her in third and Neriah in fourth! After the race Catherine was scheduled to start one of the kids races so we made our way to that starting line and she gave a little speech and blew the air horn to start the race for the oldest group of kids. It was a one mile race and both Catherine and the winner of the half marathon, a woman from Russia, held the tape for the winner to cross! After that we were directed to an area in front of the art museum for the awards ceremony. I was disappointed because I wanted to film the kids race for the 10 year olds as I had interviewed a set of twins the day before at the expo and wanted to film their race. However, I did not want to miss the awards. It turned out that they did not present the awards for almost 45 more minutes and I would have had time to film the kids race but it was too late. At the awards, each of the top 5 male and female places received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a statue of the liberty bell and the winners also got a wreath placed upon their heads.

Catherine spoke about how it was being back in Philadelphia and that hopefully she would run again and try for her seventh win! After the awards she stayed for a bit and signed more autographs, mostly for people who wanted her to sign their bib. As we walked back to the bus a few people stopped her to take a photo with her and just before getting onto the bus, a young girl who was probably around 12 years old approached and asked for a photo with her. She posed with the young girl while the parents took the picture and when they were finished, Catherine handed the girl the bouquet of flowers she had just received and told her that she too will win races one day. The girl was so touched and was visibly blushing! Overall, it was a fun weekend, I got some nice footage and I even got a bouquet of flowers as Irene presented me with hers when we got on the bus! It was her first half marathon and she was very pleased to have come in third! I am extremely appreciative of Lisa for allowing me to share her room and keep me from having to make my way into the city and find parking at such an early hour, to Matt Turnbull from Elite Racing who is the elite athlete coordinator and Dan Cruz the media coordinator for providing me with a press pass and access to all of the areas including the press truck; and to Zeke Zucker for his aid as well!

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