AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Kicks off Race Weekend with 5K and 10K

By: Don Norcross

With a sliver of the moon hanging in the sky and the famous Rocky statue off in the distance, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia weekend kicked off Saturday morning with the 5K and 10K.

In the City of Brotherly Love, famous for its LOVE statue, there was plenty of affection for locals near the front of the 5K pack. Temple graduate Alex Izewski, 24, won the men’s 5K in 15 minutes, 48 seconds.

Faye Hellman, 33, of Philadelphia won the women’s 5K in 19:01.

Izewski, who ran a 10K personal best of 29:58 at the Penn Relays, was lured to the race by family.

“My parents are out there,” Izewski said minutes after winning. “I thought I’d join them.”

Hellman is an attorney specializing in contract negotiations. Her passion, though, is running, evidenced by her side gig as assistant men’s and women’s cross country coach at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Regarding her coaching job, Hellman said, “That’s how I actually make a difference in the world.”

On a sun-kissed, warm morning with music filling the air, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series atmosphere was in full bloom.  Elvis was in the building, in the person of Henry Chan, a 56-year-old computer software engineer from San Diego. As if wearing a blue velour outfit, Elvis pompadour and playing air guitar weren’t enough, Chan was the man, in part because he ran barefoot.

The most common line he heard from spectators: “Where are your blue suede shoes?”

J.T. Roth flew in from Green Valley, Ariz., carrying a large United States flag for the 5K.

“For the men and women who make us a better country,” said Roth, who’ll also tote the flag for Sunday’s 40th AACR Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

With a brand renowned for bringing entertainment to road racing, guitarist Kent Grantham was strumming cords at the start, a member of the band Big Unkle.

Regarding the unusual nature of a playing before 7 a.m., Grantham said, “I just realized I’m here.”

Louisville’s Andrew Carnes won the men’s 10K in 31:31. An exercise science professor at Ballarmine University, Carnes is gearing toward clocking a fast 10K and picked Philadelphia for good reason.

“I know with Rock ‘n’ Roll you never have to worry about course accuracy or organization,” said Carnes. “They’re always very efficient.”

Adrienne Viola, a medical Ph.D. student at Rutgers, won the women’s 10K in 39:40. Viola, 27, took to road racing late, not running competitively in college. She was a high school sprinter.

Her first road race was a marathon.

“Crazy, I know,” she said.

The AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia party kicks into high gear Sunday morning with the event’s 40th half marathon. Like the 5K and 10K, the half marathon starts near the footsteps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

The stars take center stage Sunday. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar will toe the line, pushed by American Jordan Hasay, who finished third third year this year at the Boston Marathon.

America’s best long-distance runner, Galen Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist, will be the favorite in the men’s half marathon. He’ll be pushed by fellow 2016 Olympic marathoner Jared Ward.

By the end of the weekend, nearly 18,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes will have taken to the streets of Philadelphia. From the steps of the art museum, to Market Street, City Hall, Falls Bridge, along the Schuykill River and back to the art museum, near the George Washington statue, Washington proudly riding atop his horse.