Kenney: Philly should embrace the Marathon and Unity Cup (guest column)

Some of my best childhood memories are of my time spent playing in the streets of South Philadelphia.

My siblings, friends and I started games using whatever was lying around the neighborhood, usually a broomstick and a ball. For me, and for many Philadelphians, sports — whether it was playing street hockey or getting together to watch the Eagles — is how we met our neighbors and made new friends.

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Run Like Mike

That tradition continues to this day with Philadelphia’s Marathon Weekend and, for the first time, the Philadelphia International Unity Cup. The Unity Cup, the country’s first amateur citywide soccer competition, will hold its championship game on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Citizens Bank Park.

Philadelphia’s Marathon Race Weekend will take place on Nov. 19 and 20, though registration for runners has been extended to Nov. 11. Since 1954, the Philadelphia Marathon has sought to highlight all of our city’s diverse neighborhoods.

This year’s half marathon run will feature a course change to spend extended time in Fairmount Park – recently named one of the American Planning Association’s Top Five Best Public Spaces in America. For citizens who wish to see even more of the city, we’ve added the Rocky Challenge, which allows runners the opportunity to tackle both the 13.1 mile half marathon on Nov. 19 and the 26.2-mile full marathon Nov. 20, back-to- back.

Our city’s children also have a chance to take part in the excitement of the Philadelphia Marathon. The Kids Run Fun and Toddler Trot will be held on Nov. 19. For those searching for a more relaxed experience, half and full mile distance runs will take place the same day, with volunteer opportunities available for the entirety of the event weekend. Runners can also register for the Rothman Institute 8K on a course that features both the stunning Ben Franklin Parkway and scenic Schuylkill River on Nov. 19th.

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Philadelphia Unity Cup

If running isn’t your preference, the Unity Cup final match and festival are free and open to all those willing to enjoy them. This matchup between the Ivory Coast and Liberia is the conclusion of a citywide sporting event that brought together Philadelphia residents representing at least 32 different nations. The Cup has previously been recognized by the White House for its innovative approach to celebrating cultural diversity, an honor well deserved by the dedicated players, organizers and supporters who worked to make the event a reality.

A “Gateway of Nations” Tailgate Party complete with delicious food trucks and entertainment will precede the Cup. Entry and parking are free. Prior to the game, at least 20 immigrants will also take the oath to become a U.S. citizen during a special naturalization ceremony.

With this in mind, I sincerely encourage anyone – young or old, longtime resident or new – to take part in this year’s races, and to stop by the Unity Cup. Citywide sporting events like Marathon Weekend and the Cup are a chance for us to celebrate what makes Philadelphia great and to connect with new friends and neighborhoods.

I’ll see you there.

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