In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, staff writer Fabian Loehe lamented the state of the biker-runner relationship in this, the city of brotherly love. According to Loehe, the Kelly Drive loop, one of Philadelphia’s greatest outdoor assets, is in a state of tumult, plagued by rowdy riders wreaking havoc on the 8.4-mile stretch circling the Schuylkill River from East Falls to the Art Museum.
This morning I set out for my last brick workout before the Ironman – a three-hour bike ride, followed directly by a one-hour run. My original plan was to head for Valley Forge. I estimated an hour and a half of travel time each way, with the biker-friendly tow path serving as the ideal location to test out my new aero-bars.
I must have been riding harder than usual, because I hit the turnaround at Betzwood – the southern edge of Valley Forge park – after only 61 minutes in the saddle, and when I made it back to Manayunk I still had a solid hour of riding to cover. Thinking back to Loehe’s article, I decided to test the waters. Out to Valley Forge, I didn’t have a single negative interaction with a fellow rider. But Kelly Drive is different. Knowing full well the animosity that exists between bikers and runners on the Drive – having experienced it wearing both hats – and knowing just how much each group distrusts the other, I set out to ride around the loop once, smiling or saying hello to every person I passed. I would become a Kelly Drive ambassador, forging friendships between the two species.
Or so I thought.
Overall, the runners responded pleasantly to my hellos, if a little surprised to find what I’m sure looked like one of those pain-in-the-ass intense riders waving hello and wishing them a good morning (after all, I had my aero-bars, my clipless pedals, the one bike jersey I own, and my (or Brent’s) super cool biker shades on… I mean, I would have been intimidated by me). My fellow bikers, though, racers and tourers alike, seemed dubious of my advances. The men in particular appeared unsure of what to make of the smiling rider, making eye contact and offering pleasantries as she pedaled past them at 18 miles per hour. Mind your own business, they seemed to be thinking. Leave me alone and get on your way.
I finished the loop and pushed up the Ridge Avenue hill, bewildered by my encounters during the previous 8 miles. Sheesh, if these folks can’t even trust one of their own, how are they ever going to start coming around to the runners?
I ended up back at my house after 2 hours and 56 minutes, laced up my running shoes, and headed down to Forbidden Drive for a 6.5-mile run to the Valley Green Inn and back. I plodded along at 8:30 a mile, bopping to my music and smiling at the friendly faces of the dog walkers, baby pushers, runners, and, yes, bikers (including my very own rabbi!) with whom I shared the trail.
And I thought about the morning. What makes Kelly Drive bikers so different from the perfectly pleasant people at Valley Green and Valley Forge. Are they all downtown residents, in such a hurry to get to where they’re going that they can’t be bothered with anyone else? Has everyone on Kelly Drive had enough bad encounters to make resent their fellow outdoorsmen (and women)? Can’t we all just get along?
As I rounded the corner to my block, 53 minutes and change later, I realized – I think too much. I need to start training with friends again!
13 days and counting to Ironman Wisconsin…