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Saturday, September 21, 2013

The 3 Most Annoying Signs at The Philadelphia Rock And Roll Half-Marathon

Last weekend, I ran the Philadelphia Rock And Roll Half-Marathon, a 13.1 mile trek through parts of downtown Philadelphia and the bulk of Kelly Drive that finishes up right at the foot of the Art Museum. For people who enjoy running, it's a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, but for people who enjoy using city streets to get from place to place, I'm sure it's a huge pain in the ass.

This year, around 20,000 people ran it. It's pretty amazing that so many people would pay a decent amount of money -- between $75-$120 depending on when you signed up -- to do something you can do for free whenever and wherever you want. But it's even more amazing that so many would spend an entire morning standing around watching people do it.

Two guys who didn't run with their hearts.

The majority of the 13-mile course was crammed with cheering spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of a friend or family member, so they could offer words of encouragement. Many of these spectators were holding signs, too. I didn't mind the standard messages of encouragement like, "Way To Go Diabetic Karen! We're Soooooo Proud Of You !!!!" But some of the signs people came up with really annoyed the hell out me. Here are the three worst I saw this year:

3. Worst Parade Ever! I've done a bunch of these silly road races over the past decade or so, and there's always at least one asshole proudly holding up the 'Worst Parade Ever!' sign with a big shit-eating on his face -- like he just woke up that morning and came up with such a clever sign idea. But the bad parade sign is to road races what the "Call your doctor for an erection lasting longer than four hours" joke is to stand-up comedy. It's hackey, overdone and a little bit sad. I'd have much more respect for the bad-parade sign-holders if they were honest, and held up something that came straight from the heart like "Please Notice Me!" or "My Father Never Loved Me."

Photo courtesy of

2. Hurry Up! The Eagles Play At 1! OK, the sign itself isn't all that bad -- especially compared to the parade one. But if you go through the trouble to make a homemade sign and stand there holding it for a few hours, you should at least know your audience. Serious runners, the kind who run half-marathons regularly, are generally a very strange group. Just look at the way they dress. Most of the men wear shorter shorts than Miley Cyrus. Sure, out of the 20,000 runners, there were probably a few people who cared about the Eagles game and getting done in time for it. But that percentage was probably comparable to the number of black people at a Kenny Chesney concert (around the same as the percentage of the mentally stable people at a Kenny Chesney concert). Now, a sign that said something along the lines of "Hurry Up! Your Favorite Organic Farm-To-Table Brunch Spot Closes at 2:30!" would probably appeal more to the people in this select group.

1. If Your Legs Get Too Tired, Run With Your Heart! Not only is this one beyond overdramatic, it's also a bit insensitive. Just think of all the competitors without legs who must've seen that sign and thought, "What about us? We're not allowed to run with our hearts?!" The main problem I have with events like this -- and the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Distance Run -- is the people. Road races are filled with the kind of people who just take themselves and all their many causes and endeavours way too seriously. Run with your heart, really? No one in the Rock And Rock Half-Marathon is running because he's the only way news of our nation's great victory over the Persians will get to the people. We all chose to do this ... for fun.

But that's just me. Maybe the Run With Your Heart sign did have a major impact on somebody. I like to think of a ruthless, middle-aged CEO who's about to give in to exhaustion when he happens to glance out at the crowd and get the inspirational boost he so desperately needed. "Yes, yes, goddammit, I'll run with my heart," this morally bankrupt individual thinks. Rather than give up, he turns up the jets determined to shatter his previous personal best time. Problem is, congenital heart disease is a bitch, and this businessman pushes himself a little too hard. Right before the mile 13 marker, the man suffers a massive coronary, falls flat on his face and dies at the feet of a man holding a "Worst Parade Ever" sign. The spectator then put down his sign because, after all, a man just died in front of him, so this is no longer the Worst Parade Ever.

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