September 19, 2010 marked the thirty-third running of the ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (formerly the Philadelphia Distance Run). It was a day that old records broke. The first woman finisher, Meseret Defar of Ethiopia set a new American soil record for 13.1 mile as she clocked one hour, seven minutes 44 seconds, 1:07:44. The media was amazed because she never before ran a half marathon in her life. However, winning was nothing new for her. In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Defar won the gold medal in the 5K (3.1 miles) 14:45.65.
In discussing her first half marathon victory, the proud Defar said in broken English, “I didn’t expect to win, just to finish.”
The men’s field was also exciting as the first place finisher, Matthew Kisorio of Kenya set a new event record, 1:00:16.
As top athletes battled to break existing records, fellow race competitor Howard Walker of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, had a tough battle of his own.
Walker, who finished the race in 2:09:20, has had Multiple Sclerosis for nearly a year.
‘I’m glad I can still run,” said the 43-year-old Walker.
During a training run last fall, Walker realized something was wrong: “One day I went out running, and I couldn’t pick up my right leg. It was dragging. I didn’t have any pain associated with it. I thought, ‘maybe my leg’s just tired.’ I ran three or four miles. A couple days later, I ran again and I couldn’t even run more than a mile because I couldn’t pick up my leg. That incident led to me seeing the doctor and learning that I had M. S. I didn’t know how to react because this was something I didn’t expect to hear.”
Walker learned about the MS KarmaStriders, a running club dedicated to racing to raise money to fight M. S. He regained the ability to run.
He avoided feeling sorry for himself.
“I’m glad that I can run for the people in this club who can’t,” said Walker.
Walker was happy with his performance on Sunday. “My goal was to break 2:10 (two hours and 10 minutes) and I did, but it was difficult. My right leg was beginning to drag near the end of the race. I had a good race. The crowd was great.”