More than 34,000 runners hit the streets for the 30th annual Philadelphia Marathon

runners start
A pack of runners waits to start their marathon. Photo credit NBC10 Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With a time of 2:35:38, Kassian Eaton, 27, of Somerville, Massachusetts, crossed the Philadelphia Marathon finish line first on Sunday in a new category. For the second year, the Marathon included a category for gender nonbinary elite runners.

Marcy Jerop Kwambai, 21, of Kapsabet, Kenya, was the first to finish among women, with a time of 2:30:53. And Benard Koech, 28, of Eldoret, Kenya, finished first among men with a time of 2:14:26.

But many runners say they felt like big winners, just by competing, even if it took them a little longer to cross the finish line.

Mark Sheats was among more than 34,000 runners who gathered in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to begin that 26.2-mile trek through the city’s streets. He said near-freezing conditions Sunday morning were not enough to slow him down.

“This is absolutely great because I heat up fast,” he said. “So it’s a little chilly, but once I start moving, I’ll be fine.”

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For Sheats who came from Lansdale, the day is all about seeing the results of months of hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s been lots of early-morning runs and late runs, because I have two young kids, so that’s how I get my time away from the kids but while they’re sleeping and stuff. So it’s roughly been 25 to 40 miles a week.”

Eric Ebinger was a little nervous as he stepped up to the starting line, but the weekend warrior from New London, Ohio, says he reminded himself that this is not his first rodeo.

“I ran in 2012 here, and just had a wonderful time. I love the city,” Ebinger said. “Came back as a personal challenge just to say, you can do this at 46.”

He says when the training challenges seemed a bit much, he reminded himself how special race day is in Philadelphia and the unique things he can only experience here: “The monuments, the river, the people, the energy that you get from the people. I don’t wear headphones so I can just listen to people. There’s just an energy in this city that is lacking in other places.”

Philadelphia Marathon
Photo credit NBC10 Philadelphia

For Kathryn Whitney, who made the drive from New York, the day is about enjoying the sights and sounds of Philadelphia.

“I’ll be taking things in as I run. I rowed in college, so I used to come down for crew races on the Schuylkill, so I’m excited to run by there,” Whitney said.

At the start line with thousands of other runners, Whitney said the butterflies started building in her stomach — but she said she’s falling back on her training.

“I did the typical three to four months of training.”

Nicolas Patel, from Jersey City, reflected on how far he has come, and how long it took to reduce his time per mile. He said it started with a new year’s resolution to run more.

“It’s just a one-day-at-a-time thing. It’s just all mental,” Patel said.

That one-day, one-step-at-a-time mentally led him to register for this year’s Marathon.

“I feel something in my stomach, because I haven’t been a part of something this big,” Patel said. “It’s a great feeling.”

And with his sea legs under him, Patel said he was just happy to run.

“Just seeing so many people just gives you that boost to finish faster.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia