AFTER THE FINISH OF THE RACE, PARTICIPANTS
WERE ABLE TO WALK AROUND THE CITIZENS BANK PARK
FIELD FOR A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY AT HOME PLATE.
THOMAS E BRIGLIA/PHILLIES PHOTO

Inaugural Phillies 5K Draws Huge
Crowd; Phanatic Leads the Way!

BY JACK HEATH

PHILADELPHIA, PA--Not many first-time races could attract 3,100 runners. Then again, not many races have the popularity and the backing of the Philadelphia Phillies. This year’s inaugural Phillies 5K held March 26, attracted 3,100 entrants and the online registration closed in a reported 12 hours.

  • And this is before most of the online registrants knew that the race would include:
  • Being led at the race’s start by the incomparable Philly Phanatic.
  • Phillies Ball Girls cheering on the runners at the finish line.
  • A walk around the Citizens Bank Park field after the race with a photo-op at home plate.
  • Phillies Announcer Dan Baker reading out the race award winners along with signed Phillies items as prizes.
  • Sub-freezing temps at race time.

The less than ideal weather conditions did not seem to bother the sea of red runners, most wearing Phillies shirts and jerseys of their favorite players, from enjoying the inaugural Phillies 5K in the least

The first male finisher was 25-year-old Mike Zeberkiewicz of Philadelphia who covered the South Philadelphia course, which circled the stadium complex, in 17:00. The first female finisher was 33-year-old Lynn Knothe of Wilmington, Delaware in 19:31.
One of the race’s spectators, Bill Reifsnyder, is no stranger to great running performances. Reifsnyder, a three-time All American at Bucknell, was a two-time National Champ in the marathon and was ranked as the second best road racer in the country in Runners World’s 1991 rankings. He still has the third fastest 10-mile and 25K times ever and liked what he saw of this first-year race: “The Phillies 5K is unique because it gives runners and Phillies fans an opportunity to connect with their team in a unique way, before the season begins. After a long winter with no baseball, Phillies fans are ready to put on their red and support their team. Being able to combine two of their passions--running and baseball--and then actually get onto the field is a thrill for everyone. In fact more than a handful of runners exhibited their passion by wearing the entire uniforms of their favorite players, substituting running shoes for spikes.”

After the race more than a few “Roy Halladays” or “Shane Victorinos” could be seen strolling on an un-crowded Ashburn Alley or warming down while taking pictures strolling along the warning track of Citizens Bank Park.
Les Marella owner of the race timers, L&M Sports http://www.lmsports.com/ was also impressed by the first-time race, and gave much of the credit to Mary Ann Gettis, Manager of Marketing Initiatives for the Phillies.

“The Phillies 5K went superb for a first-time event; especially because Mary Ann had her finger on the pulse...she did it all. You would have thought she had been a race director many times over. There were 3,100 pre-registered runners and they could go higher but probably only with changes between the one- and two-mile area--the park down there off Pattison Avenue where the runners turned into got a little too crowded along the narrow road around the park.”
After the race, the Phillies Mary Ann Gettis graciously talked to Runners Gazette for her thoughts about the race.

JH: What were your goals for the inaugural Phillies race?
Mary Ann: Our goal for the inaugural Phillies 5K was to combine many of our fans’ love of running with baseball.  Whether you are a casual or serious runner, you were given the chance to kick off the season with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.  Most importantly, net proceeds from the event benefitted Phillies Charities, Inc. http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/phi/community/charities/index.jsp.

JH: Did the race achieve these goals?
Mary Ann: We were very happy with the outcome of the event. As usual, our fans came through by braving the cold weather on race morning.  They came dressed in running gear, Phillies gear, and even full baseball uniforms, ready to hit the ground running behind their fearless race leader, the Phillie Phanatic.

JH: How did the registration process work; how long did it take the race to fill?
Mary Ann: Registration launched at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, January 4 on Phillies.com. We reached our limit of 3,000 runners in less than 24 hours. 

JH: How many entrants would you like for a future race--is there anything that may be different?
Mary Ann: We are still discussing future plans for the Phillies 5K.

JH: I can’t remember seeing so many smiles on runners faces at a race--what do you think are some of the things that made this inaugural run so enjoyable for the runners?
Mary Ann: I agree, especially considering it was a very cold morning!  I think runners enjoyed this event because it was a unique race in many ways, including the course, location, guest appearances by the Phanatic and Dan Baker, and also because the race ended with a “photo finish” at home plate.  The opportunity to walk on the warning track on the field is rare so it was a nice to be able to see the runners enjoy this special perk.  

JH: I thought two of the many things that made this race unique were having signed Phillies items for prizes, and having Dan Baker announce the awards; will they be part of future races?
Mary Ann: The ability to distribute autographed baseballs and bats allowed us to put a special touch on the awards ceremony.  Hopefully these awards will provide great memories of both the event and the Phillies for those who received them. Having Dan Baker as our emcee for the Phillies 5K provided the perfect backdrop for our event.”

While hits from Sirius radio played on the Citizens Bank Sound System before and after the race, probably only local runners and Phillies fans in their 40s and older remember a hit novelty song in the 1970s called “Phillies Fever” http://www.hark.com/clips/swcgwyjsyk-philadelphia-phillies-fever-fight-song. The novelty hit featured Phillies legends Larry Bowa, Dave Cash, and Greg “the Bull” Luzinski. Real Phillies fever is currently sweeping the Delaware Valley as evidenced by over 160 straight Phillies game sellouts at Citizens Bank Park, and the more than 3,100 runners and families who left the inaugural Phillies 5K with a great workout, a red Phillies 5K race shirt, and a smile on a chilly March morning.

Editor’s Note: Jack Heath is the Gloucester Catholic (NJ) Boys and Girls Cross-Country Coach and also works for Phillies Security.

MALE
Overall
Mike Zeberkiewicz. 17:00

FEMALE
Lynn Knothe 19:31