#RapOnTheRun: Black Thought (@BlackThought) & GrassROOTS (@GrassRootsFound) #RootsRockRun5K Race Review #RunChat

    Photo: via @eargasmentLLC

This past weekend I was extremely grateful to be able to travel to Philadelphia, PA for the 7th Annual Roots Picnic. The event was created by the legendary hip hop band The Roots and is presented in conjunction with their brand okayplayer.com.

This is the first year I’ve attended the Roots Picnic. To top it off, I’d only seen The Roots perform live once, back in 2001 at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. The Roots held a super live set on one of the side stages in an intimate, approximately 200 person room. It was a great show, but the band has released a lot of music since then. In addition, their brand has really grown. I’d also never visited Philly and was really looking forward to spending time exploring the city, going to the events and experiencing Philly hip hop culture.

Imagine my surprise when I was scrolling on Twitter a couple of days before this weekend and saw an event link on Black Thought’s timeline for GrassROOTS Foundation’s 2nd annual #RootsRockRun5K. If y’all recall, I blogged about how hip hop helped me get fit [READ: #RapOnTheRun: How Hip Hop Helped Me Train For A Marathon] and how various artists who are a part of hip hop culture motivate me to live a healthier lifestyle.

Therefore, #RootsRockRun5K definitely caught my eye. I’d never participated in a destination race and have only ran in North Carolina events, the last being the Tobacco Road Marathon [READ: #RapOnTheRun: 2014 Tobacco Road Marathon Review #TobaccoRoadMarathon].

So I decided to run #RootsRockRun5K while in Philadelphia for the Roots Picnic.

According to GrassROOTS’ website, one of the foundation’s purpose is to support women and girl’s health and well-being. It is a community-based organization that offers educational and recreational services to disadvantaged girls and women. #RootsRockRun5K is a community run/walk event to support GrassROOTS community health programs in Philadelphia. 2014 is the second year the event was held.

The #RootsRockRun5K start and finish line was at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown. I missed the pre-registration deadline and arrived early on race day. Race day registration was very smooth. As a community event, I expected the race fees to be lower than a major race, and they were. It was only $30 on race day to sign-up and run the event, but that didn’t include a t-shirt though. You could however buy one for $10 (the pre-registration was $35 and included a shirt). I already have plenty of race t-shirts from previous events, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to not get one.

Once I registered and received a number, I was sent to pick up a race bag. It was crowded and a bit hectic at the swag bag table. One of the swag bag table volunteers wasn’t the friendliest and pretty rude, but everyone else I encountered had great attitudes. This include the folks at the hydration and food station, vendor tables and chip timing station.

The Good:

Since I’d arrived so early prior to the start of the race, I had a chance to stand around, check out the crowd and take in the scene. There were lots of children and families in attendance. Even though GrassROOTS focuses on health issues for disadvantaged women and children, I noticed a lot of males (men and boys) who were participating. The crowd was also mixed with people from various cultural backgrounds. There was a DJ who kept folks hype by playing both old school and new school jams (including The Wobble—it’s rare to go to an event and the Wobble not be played AT LEAST once).

Philadelphia’s BlackGirlsRun had a very heavy presence at #RootsRockRun. As I’ve blogged about previously, BGR has a very positive presence at racing events I’ve attended in my homebase of Raleigh-Durham, NC. Philly was no exception. I love that their members are always warm and welcoming, even to women who are not a part of their group. As I’ve seen at races in NC, there were BGR members posted along the #RootsRockRun race route and finish line who cheered and encouraged everyone.

30 minutes prior to the race start time, there was a community pre-race warm up. A certified fitness instructor lead the race participants through a series of pre-run stretches. After that, a yoga instructor lead a pre-run yoga session that included poses to help further warm up our muscles. These two things were something I’d never experienced at previous races (even smaller community based ones) and really enjoyed it.

The race route went through Germantown. It is a beautiful neighborhood (albeit a bit hilly) with plenty of shade and great scenery. I had a chance to take in a part of Philadelphia and view it on foot. I wanted to take more pictures while running, but didn’t want to chance affecting my chip time. Y’all can check out this video and a couple of pictures I posted of the race route on Instagram here.

The Bad:

There weren’t enough bathroom facilities for the size of the crowd in attendance. At races, you can NEVER have enough port-a-potties! I did see two by the start/finish line. There were also two bathrooms inside the school that folks had access too. For a race of 400+ participants (not including those who didn’t walk or run), four bathrooms was not nearly enough. Before the race started and definitely by the time my crew and I left afterwards, the inside facilities definitely needed some attention. Yuck!

The race was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. For reasons I’m not sure of, it didn’t start until 9:15 a.m.-ish. I’ve never attended a race that didn’t start exactly at the posted time. Mind y’all, I’ve only participated in seven so far (eight including this one), so maybe late race starts are more common than usual. As a runner, a lot of what you do is based around timing (pacing, race prep, etc.), so this threw me off just a bit. The organizers may have announced why the race started late—if they did I missed it. Anyway, since we were only running 3 miles, it wasn’t too big of a deal.

The Dangerous:

The race route was not closed to vehicle traffic or monitored by local law enforcement! Since this was a road race, I was very shocked. Now, as with the late start, I’d never participated in a race that wasn’t closed to traffic (excluding trail races–for obvious reasons). Even road races I’ve seen or cheered at (including smaller, community ones), have ALWAYS been closed to traffic and monitored by law enforcement.

Having an open road race route appeared to be extremely dangerous. It was within the first 1/2 mile or so that I realized the race route was open to traffic. This was at a point where we turned a corner and I noticed that we were running directly into oncoming traffic. Cars had to literally drive in the opposite lane to avoid hitting the runners/walkers coming towards them. This in turn affected the drivers, as traffic in the opposite lane had to stop in order to allow those cars to navigate around the runners. There were a few times where cars were honking at runners as well.

There were several spots along the route that did not have appear to have sidewalks, so we had no choice but to run in the road. The more residential spots had sidewalks and pretty much no traffic, so we had a choice of either the road or sidewalk. Along the spots that did have sidewalks, some were too narrow to have more than two runners on them at the same time, or uneven.

I saw a few instances where cars came close to hitting people. There was a city bus that had to move into the oncoming traffic lane in order to maneuver around runners. There were two boys run/walking the race, who appeared to be about 10 years old, who were playing “chicken” with the traffic at one point. Like they were literally intentionally running in front of the cars and then jumping back at the last minute. Stopping kids from playing “chicken” during an event is not something race organizers have control over, however the race traffic piece is.

As an aside, there were race volunteers at the traffic lights and some of the stop signs to flag down cars. To my knowledge, no one got hurt, thankfully. However if there is one recommendation I’d give to race organizers, it is to reconsider a closed and/or law enforced-monitored route for 2015. Mind y’all, this was only my experience and by no means meant to bash the event. I do believe however that a closed route would be safer for everyone. Perhaps the next event could be moved to a local college campus or route with less traffic, or a maybe local trail.

Additional Cool Highlights:

Aja Graydon of Kindred The Family Soul was in attendance and opened the race with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice And Sing.” There was plenty of water and post-race snacks available for everyone. Bananas, apples, pretzels and vegan protein powder (with a choice of juice or water) were the selections.

I loved the community feel of this years’ #RootsRockRun5K. There were lots of children who walked/ran the whole three miles. I loved to see that children were active and participating. I have family who teaches in the North Carolina public school system and have learned how important physical activity is for a child’s academic performance and overall well-being.

Overall, I’m glad I participated in #RootsRockRun5K! I finished the race at a 13:17 pace, which I’m pleased with. I loved the premise of GrassROOTS and that they presented an event that is centered around health and wellness. Since I’m a hip hop culture fan, I dig what Black Thought is doing to both give back to his local community and is providing solutions to help make it better. I like that the event gets the whole family involved. I do hope race organizers figure out the traffic/route piece.

I also ran my 600th mile of 2014 while in Philadelphia, and it was also my first destination run event. For both of those reasons, I’ll always remember my weekend experience in the city. I also had a chance to check out Hibiscus, a local vegan restaurant (I loved it!). I tried their Detox Juice, quinoa salad and hemp+spirulina protein bread. If I decided to attend the Roots Picnic in 2015, I’ll most likely participate in the race again.

Y’all can stay tuned to my Twitter (@nancioishiphop), ‘Gram (@nancioishiphop), Facebook (Nanci O Is Hip Hop) and the blog for all running updates.


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