Julie 101

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Electric Run Philly 2013

*Apologies in advance for the length of this post!*

Anyone that knows me, knows I’m NOT a fan of running.

My 101 in 1001 list even includes “Run one mile without stopping” as a goal, that’s how much I hate it. A mile really is not a lot.

However, I see how many of my friends enjoy it and how great they look and feel as a result, so I thought maybe with some work I could learn to love it. I signed myself up for the Electric Run taking place in Philadelphia on Saturday July 20, 2013. The Electric Run is a nighttime 5k run with light installations and electronic music being pumped on speakers throughout the course that according to their website, “will keep you energized and moving to the beat. You’ll run, walk, and dance through distinct lands with lights and music custom mixed to match the mood of the lighting elements.”

If ever there was a 5k that was built for me, this sounded like it! Nighttime means cooler weather. I love electronic music. I love glow in the dark and neon stuff. And the race date was far enough out from when I signed up that I would have time to train and get comfortable.

Well, friends, everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did.

I’ll be the first to admit that my life (once again) got crazy and overrun with things I had to do. I didn’t really start to focus on training until 3 weeks ago. Then, I moved, and that week was crazier than I thought it would be – training window was down to two weeks. Now, I will say that at the beginning of those two weeks, I could not run a mile – and at the end of the two weeks, I could run three. But this was running on a treadmill, and I did not understand how different that is from running on pavement. Which brings me to the next problem:

I did this run with 4 people who are “runners”, and I was told that the terrain was difficult even for them. The course went through Fairmount Park and went from a paved surface to dirt road to gravel path to grassy field. Along those paths, there were fist-sized rocks, tree roots, and other natural obstacles. I rolled my ankle and twisted my knee (of course the knee that was injured years ago and still gives me problems). Add the factor of hills into it (why didn’t I think about this possibility?), and it was extremely hard for me. The other problem I experienced (which is my own lack of training) was the number of people on the course – people stopping in front of you, slower people than you in front of you, faster people than you behind you, having to weave in and out of people – it’s really hard to get your stride with all those people around! I understand this is normal for a race, I just wasn’t prepared for it.

This run sounded SO awesome, when I signed up for it. The course, though, was disappointing. Here’s a list of some items that you might expect to see on the course, directly from the electric run website:

Each event is unique and features 5-7 lands and features.  Depending on the event you participate in you may experience many of the following:
  • Glowing neon trees changing colors to match the music
  • Tunnels with dancing patterns and figures on the walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Lakes and rivers glowing in other-worldly hues
  • Tunnels of light created by a rainbow of lasers
  • Glowing arches and columns
  • Neon saguaro cactus
  • Red rock cliffs glowing in psychedelic colors and patterns
  • Glowing arches changing color in tempo
  • Colored fountains dancing to the beat
  • Entire buildings lit so brightly that they can be seen from space
  • And so much more.

Ok, there were some lit-up trees, and 2-3 installations. One installation had umbrellas in the trees that were lit up. One installation basically had paper lanterns in the trees. There were a couple of “photo stations” but I wouldn’t call them “lands”. These installations were very small/short to run through, and the music was only at the stations – not pumped throughout the entire course. I really feel that I could have set these things up for myself in my parents’ back yard and seen the same thing. The biggest thing we saw were the arches at the end of the course, but I think they were supposed to do more than just be blown up and lit white. (on the Electric Run facebook page, it looks like the photo below, not boring white) In between each installation, the course was usually pitch black and silent, which made it really difficult to run (especially with thousands of other people!)

The weather  report said for over a week that there would be an evening thunderstorm – but the website clearly stated the event would be rain or shine. As we waited in the start chute, there were some lightning flashes – but our wave (the third wave of runners) was sent off into the course before anything really happened. As we made our way through the course (my one friend with me stayed for the duration, bless her heart) and neared the tail end of it, there were runners running the opposite direction of the course. We were very confused but kept on running (and walking). We reached the final area of the course, with the white arches, and I ran the whole length of it to the finish line. As we came across the end of the course, a man was standing there telling us the rest of the event was cancelled, the free concert was cancelled, and that we needed to head back to our cars by order of the City of Philadelphia Fire Department, due to dangerous lightning.

We made our way back to the car with only a sprinkle of rain but a few very loud, very close thunder claps. It wasn’t until I was checking facebook waiting to get out of the parking lot that we realized they had shut down the shuttle busses to take people back to their cars (we walked anyway), volunteers had just left the area without informing anyone what was going on, and the course lighting had begun to shut down while people were still running it (perhaps this is why some areas of the course were so dark while I was on it?).

Our wave of runners was the last wave of people to be allowed into the course. There were probably only 100-200 runners per wave, and there were over 14,000 people at the race ready to run. Those people didn’t even get to enter the course, they were told to just go home and it would be rescheduled. Needless to say, there are a lot of angry Philadelphians out there! A lot of us spent extra money on glow accessories, and parking was $15.00 per car as well. There was a not-at-all-well-publicized after party at a bar in old city that claimed to let runners in for free with their running bib, but people said this was not the case – and anyway, this was an all-ages run so anyone under 21 couldn’t even go.


Overall, that night I had a pretty fun time despite everything above. The run itself was not enjoyable for me but I had fun being with my friends. It was after the race that it became apparent how disorganized and poorly run this event was, and it’s kind of upsetting. They are rescheduling the race (date TBD) and I’m interested to see if they take into account the hundreds of complaints about the lighting and terrain that were posted to their facebook page. If the event is in a couple months and is moved to better terrain, I may continue training and try again. But for now, I’m swearing off running and returning to my beloved elliptical machine at Planet Fitness.

Big BIG ups to my friend Theresa who stuck with me the whole time, put up with my complaints, kept me pumped up and kept getting me to stop walking, grow a pair and run. I wouldn’t have finished without you and even though the time it took us to get through was deplorable, like you said we did finish and we had the experience! When we are old and in nursing homes, I’m always going to remember you doing this sweet warmup move:


A couple other shots from the night:








2 comments on “Electric Run Philly 2013

  1. Kim
    July 23, 2013

    Good for you, Julie! The most important outcome was that you ran past your own objections and accomplished your goal!

    I’m puzzled about why this event went so wrong. The organizers couldn’t do anything about the lightning that forced cancellation, but this post and the hundreds of unhappy comments on the Electric Run’s Facebook make clear that the event was poorly planned and disorganized, even though there have been numerous successful Electric Runs in other cities. Maybe the race concept is franchised or, for some other reason, each city has different organizers. For instance, maybe the Electric Run national staff provide the concept, promotion, and tools such as online registration, payment facilities such as credit card support, and merchandise to sell, but they recruit local running clubs to host and staff the event in each city.

    Philadelphia race managers clearly blew a number of event planning basics, most critically having contingency plans in place and all staff/volunteers trained and drilled to execute them.

    It also sounds like a poor choice of venue; the Fairmount Park trail was too rough and insufficiently lit. Many event sites are booked one or several years in advance, and Philly along with most cities has had to cut budgets and staff in recent years, so it could be that the course was in better shape when Electric Run booked than it was by race night.

    It’s unacceptable that there was no way to communicate the cancellation to everyone who was anywhere on the course. As you said to me, there should have been people with walkie-talkies all along the course who could be updated and in turn tell the runners. They may have been required to shut off the lighting if operating the power sources in a lightning storm would be risky; maybe they used gasoline-powered generators. So what was Plan B? It’s frightening and irresponsible that people working the run, whether paid staff or volunteers, left before they knew everyone was off the course.

    It’s a bummer that the event didn’t go well, but congrats to you for setting a goal, recruiting support from friends, and doing what you said you were going to do. #threerulesoflife

  2. bobby stuart
    July 26, 2013


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This entry was posted on July 23, 2013 by in 101 in 1001, Entertainment, Health, Life, Photos and tagged , , .

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