OK…viral may be too strong a term, but in the world of ultra running, landing on page one of the Wall Street Journal, being on the ABC News website and showing up in a nationally syndicated AP news article is pretty much as viral as it gets. This is the inevitable place you land when an idea is just that stellar – and “The Rocky 50k” was just that idea.
The concept, like catching magic in a bottle, all started when ultra runner and TrailAndUltraRunning.com writer, Rebecca Schaefer, read a Philadelphia Magazine blog article by Dan McQuade. Dan, a long time fan of the Rocky Movies, dissected the route that Rocky ran in Rocky II. Pieced together from the various backdrops the route totaled almost exactly 50k. In comes Rebecca “I read it the day it was published and couldn’t get it out of my head. I emailed Dan within hours and asked for his blessing.” This ‘blessing’ was to put on a race based off his article. After receiving that she had a Facebook Group up within 24 hours.
After reaching out to various people she decided on the ‘Fatass’ format of no entry, no fees, no support. Even as an unorganized event, planning still took some time. “I would say I put in 5 to 10 hours per week for the 2 months leading up to the race.” And what was her favorite part of putting the race together? “Interacting with people in the group and then seeing how excited and thankful people were.”
Fast forward to the day of the race and with all the buzz around a supposed underground event the weather co-operated, “We got really lucky. Friday it had dropped 30 degrees and raining and on Sunday we got 6 inches of snow. Saturday we had no rain and was 30 to 40 degrees, perfect for the gray sweats.” But where were the people? 20 minutes before start time there were only 6 to 10 people…and she still felt that would still be a success if only that many showed up. However, with only 10 minutes to go people started pouring in – arriving in cabs and getting dropped off by cars. The run totaled 150 participants.
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Photo Credit Jose Magos & Robin Arzon
One of those runners was Robin Arzon from New York City. Originally from Philly, Robin traveled 100 miles from New York City and brought three other runners with her; two of which had never run an Ultramarathon. “I told the newbies that this was the moment to raise the bar and meet it! Eye of the tiger, my people.” As Robin and her crew ran, her uncle biked the entire course and served as crew. Robin went on to say, “Being from Philly, it was cool to see the city stand up. Random people on the street totally got it. The Rocky ethos met ultra marathon miles. That says it all.”
I asked Rebecca if she knew who had traveled the farthest for the race, “We had one guy come from Arizona.” Additionally, she knew of people from St. Louis, New York City, Baltimore and Scranton.
I wondered with all the media hype if had she heard from the city. Her answer was a quick, “No” trying to maintain the fatass anonymity. When I asked if she had given any thought to next year she said, “I’ve had to…people kept commenting about next year’s race while we were running.”
Finally, I asked if she thought Rocky would be proud? “Yes, because it was a fatass, we pushed ourselves to new places. It fits the theme of the movie perfectly.”
So very cool!! Good job Rebecca.
Good article Mark. You might want to fly out east next year and bring it!
Another reason for people showing up at the last minute was the subway line schedule. It was either 10 min before or few minutes after the start.