It might not be food but it could be food for thought.
We all know edibles like cheesesteaks and pretzels are synonymous with Philadelphia.
But can a race like a marathon capture the imagination of a city the way those two iconic treats have?
Well, we’ve seen how the Boston and New York marathons have become woven into the fabrics of those two metropolises.
Some would contend Philly, which returns this Sunday to the streets of the City of Brotherly Love, is climbing toward that status.
With 10,000 participants in the marathon alone (and a total of 30,000 if you include the half-marathon, the 8K and some smaller events), Philadelphia is now ranked eighth in the country for size of field.
Why is it gaining in popularity?
The Philadelphia Marathon has been around in some fashion since 1954 but it seems like its flat, fast, scenic course is just starting to attract the world’s attention.
Last year, 42 nations had runners at the starting line plus all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Unlike Boston and New York, Philadelphia still has some home-grown winners. Five of the last 10 male winners and three of the last five female winners have hailed from the United States.
For Bucks County runners and spectators, it’s an easy race to attend. There’s plenty of parking, not a lot of traffic to and from and no hotel stay is needed.
Joe Holton of Furlong will be running in this Sunday’s race. He’s run here three times in the past five years and keeps coming back for more.
He says there’s a certain Philly flavor that makes the 26.2-mile test a lot of fun.
“One of the highlights for me is running down Main Street in Manayunk around the 20-mile mark,’’ he said. “The party atmosphere makes you feel like you’re running through a rock concert and it is the perfect send-off for the final 10 kilometers back to the Art Museum (finish line).
“This is also one of the spots on the course where you are likely to run by an unofficial beer stop. I have yet to partake during the race, but I always appreciate the offer.’’
Holton ran his first marathon here in 2014 and sounds like he’s sold on this venue as his favorite “hometown’’ race.
Those with ties to Bucks County have had success in the Philadelphia Marathon over the years.
On the men’s side, Dave Patterson (who spent 15 years as athletic director and assistant principal at Pennsbury High School) took home honors in 1976 (2:24.59) and 1981 (2:17.25). Dr. Ira Meyers of Warrington finished first in 2:25.25.
On the women’s side, Jan Yerkes of Buckingham won back-to-back titles, taking honors in 1981 (2:39.11) and 1982 (2:34.28).
Janet Lewis, former race director for the Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Winter Series, is also making a return trip to run in the Philadelphia Marathon. Her first one came in 2007.
“I had such an amazing experience that year and qualified for my first Boston,’’ she said.
“I hadn’t planned to run this year. In fact, I did Boston in 2008 and swore I’d never do another marathon. I really struggled with my running in the heat and humidity this summer, so I wasn’t getting in ‘quality’ long runs. Rather, I was looking forward to running some fast 5Ks and 10Ks. Then the weather broke and I had a couple of really great long runs where I just felt really good — and just decided to go have fun with the race.
“So I don’t have any big goals for Sunday. I plan to run with a pace team and just try to enjoy it. The course is great and because I live in the city, I had a chance to run lots of the course in my training. I love going by the (Philadelphia) zoo and up into the (Fairmount) park. The crowds are amazing throughout most of the city, but this year will be extra special since the course runs one block from my house and I will know a ton of the people out along 6th Street!’’
Dave Lubbe, a Bucks County Roadrunners member, chose to do Philadelphia this Sunday as his first marathon.
“For me, I wouldn’t have considered any other race,’’ Lubbe said. “ It’s Philly or nothing. I’ve been a spectator numerous times and now I’ll be running with several of my running friends, two of which are traveling from South Carolina. I’m looking forward to the same energy I felt last year in the half-marathon, and every year that I run Broad Street.’’
Dashin’ thru the Lights 2-Miler, 7 p.m., Yardley (sold out). Contact www.runsignup.com
Thursday, Nov. 28
Bucks County Roadrunners’ 30th anniversary Thanksgiving Day 5-Miler/5K/1-Miler, 9 a.m., Langhorne. Contact www.runsignup.com
Saturday, Nov. 30
Jingle Bell Turkey Trot 10K/5K, Doylestown. Contact www.scoogieevents.com