Meet Eddie Gieda, a musician and DJ who’s run 511 days straight in memory of his wife.
• On running in Philly: “I see foxes all the time, I don’t know if people are aware of this, but they leap out in my path fairly often.”
• On the death of his wife: “The lump in the back of my throat never dissipates, it just becomes part of your identity.”
During many long nights spent talking with each other in their Center City studio apartment, Eddie Gieda’s wife, Amanda Medina, often spoke of how she longed to travel to India.
“I remember telling her ‘Babe, I love you, but India is not something I’m very interested in. You go and I’ll hold the fort down in Philly,’ ” Gieda said.
But when Medina died in a traffic accident in 2019, just a month shy of the couple’s two-year anniversary, Gieda — who, along with his wife, practiced Hinduism — decided to fulfill her wish and take her ashes to India, where he spread them in the sacred Ganges River.
While on the monthlong trip in February 2020, Gieda, a longtime runner, traversed India’s crowded streets in sweltering heat, past temples and ancient sacred sculptures. It was there, in the land his wife loved but never got to see, that running became something more to Gieda, something akin to devotional prayer.
“It became evident running was taking on this other spiritual aspect it hadn’t before,” he said. “I made sure when I got home the first thing I did was lace up and get another run in and keep this streak going.”
Gieda started by running 13 miles a day — the equivalent of a half-marathon — for 100 days straight. Now, 511 days into his streak and averaging about 11.5 miles a day, Gieda doesn’t know when it will end, but he does know it’s brought him closer to the city, to himself, and to his wife.
“The best way that I could honor my wife is to continue living in a capacity that’s dignified and she would be proud of,” he said. “This not only honors Amanda, it benefits me and makes me into a better man.”
Gieda, 43, grew up in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and became involved in veganism, Hinduism, and social justice pursuits at a young age, when a group of Hare Krishna devotees gave him a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and a vegetarian cookbook during a middle school trip to Washington.
“It was an epiphany, a watershed moment where I became open to a much larger world,” he said.
After graduating high school and touring with a band for a while, Gieda moved to Philly to attend Temple University, where he graduated with a sociology degree in 2003.
While at Temple, Gieda began DJing at clubs around Philly and became a vocalist for the hardcore band, An Albatross, which toured around North America and Europe and which he still performs with today. He took up running to stay in shape for the band and became an avid runner after completing his first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon, in 2013.
Gieda and his future wife, a yoga instructor, ran in close Philly circles and skirted around the idea of dating for a while (”We were both really bad at flirting”) before they had their first date over a vegan dinner at Charlie was a Sinner.
“We fell in love right away,” he said.
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One Sunday in 2017, while the couple was hanging out at Tattooed Mom, they began talking about the “mounting in intensity of our mutual admiration” and decided to get married.
“I remember weeping tears of complete joy at the table,” Gieda said. “We were both slathered in tears.”
Two weeks later, they married at City Hall and celebrated with dinner at El Vez and a Violent Femmes and Echo & the Bunnymen concert at the Mann Center.
Their life together in their tiny apartment was simple. They didn’t own cars, computers, or a TV.
“We had two chairs that faced one another, and we spent a tremendous amount of time talking about life and getting deep on things,” Gieda said.
On June 17, 2019, Medina was out with friends when Gieda got the call that his wife was in an accident. Within an hour of arriving at the hospital, he was told she would not survive.
The pain Gieda experienced was so paramount he thought it might swallow him. At times, he prayed it would.
After spending three days in the same clothes, with no desire to eat or drink, Gieda decided to go for a run (“At least when I get back I’ll be able to get a drink of water down,” he said to himself).
“I can’t speak enough about how it served to balance me out and get me through that day,” he said. “And that became a two-year therapeutic journey for me which I am still on.”
When Gieda returned to Philly from India after releasing his wife’s remains last year, he came back with a “wild sense of rejuvenation” and believed a world of opportunities awaited him.
“But the gods had something else in mind,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine hit shortly after his return and left Gieda, who DJs at places like The Dolphin and The Barbary, without any band or DJ gigs.
At the invitation of his Hindu teacher, Gieda moved into the Temple of the Lotus — a multiuse complex in Graduate Hospital consisting of a temple, yoga studios, and meditation rooms — and began helping run her Aromabliss line of oils and body treatment products.
Wanting to practice social distancing but also committed to his running streak, Gieda would hit the pavement around midnight during the height of the pandemic. Major roads were so deserted he ran down the middle of them, and while he encountered few people, he saw life everywhere.
“I was seeing deer at the sports complex. I was seeing foxes all over the streets, and raccoons,” he said. “There was this wild rebirth of animals I’d see all over the place.”
As restrictions began to be lifted this year, Gieda started running during the day and created a challenge for himself: to try and get lost in Philadelphia.
“I’d run in any one direction and see where I’d end up,” he said. “It was so much fun.”
Given that Gieda is covered in tattoos — including the words “Born to run” on his collarbone — he tends to stand out wherever he runs. But no matter where that is in Philly, he said he’s experienced “nothing but love.”
“I get a lot of shout-outs,” he said. “I feel like Philly has such a resilient connection to sports, whether it’s boxing or baseball. ... If you’re training for something, almost every Philadelphian thinks that’s badass.”
Gieda doesn’t know when his running streak will end, but when it does, he’ll celebrate with a vegan cake and a couple of nonalcoholic beers. He’ll take some time off, but inevitably, he’ll lace up his running shoes again.
“Running has always been the counterbalance to almost everything else in life,” he said. “It levels me out and soothes out the jagged edges of my psychology.”
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