A year ago, Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn, overweight and feeling it, would never have dreamed he would be competing in the Broad Street Run on May 6. Yet, here he is, and the race is looming. In this fourth blog entry, he talks about running and epiphanies. Check out all of our Broad Street Run coverage at www.philly.com/broadstreetrun.

It's not like I was staring at the heavens looking for an epiphany.

They aren't listed on e-Bay or Amazon.com. There are no apps or 800 numbers. You can't buy one with a lottery ticket. You can't find them on an Outlook calendar (January 6 doesn't count). They come without warning and they are as powerful as a lightning strike.

I have had a few.

The time, as I was being wheeled into the operating room for emergency surgery – my life on the line, that I realized it was time to marry my sweetheart Amy and have a child, who became my son Jack. The day I barely escaped death on a busy street corner in Brooklyn some 45 years ago. The day I left that tall glass of Guinness Stout on my college roommate's kitchen table in Egan, Minn. on July 4, 1992, never to touch alcohol again. The morning I turned in my Organic Chemistry final, wearing a full leg cast from tearing cartilage in my left knee during a jayvee basketball game, knowing I was giving up on pre-med, wondering where my life would lead.

This past Saturday, I had another, and it didn't hit me until a few days later.

The low-key, Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Four-mile Fun Run and Walk was held at Rowan. I signed up as a show of good faith for the university that has helped me come back from the caloric-indulgent abyss. I had seen what a breast cancer support group, Love of Linda, had done for my mother-in-law Doris a few years ago when she went through a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. (She's fully recovered and feisty as ever.)

On this sunny day, there were introductions and warm-ups and before you knew it, the race started and this eclectic group of about 40 took off, heading around and through campus for four miles. There were probably another 40 people who followed us a few minutes later in the walk.

Pink balloons guided us, as did a helpful bunch of happy faces adding encouragement at each turn.

I held up the rear, as usual, pacing myself for what I thought would be closer to the Broad Street canter, trying not to overly exert myself. Good luck with that as the temperature hit around 75 degrees.

As I huffed and puffed, I didn't realize this was a race full of women on a mission. They were cancer survivors, some two-time survivors. Maybe even three-time. They had smiles on their faces before, during and after the race. Four miles, no problem. Not after what they had been through.

It was the first race for one brave soul, having graduated from the walking portion of previous races. She had trained hard and finished strong. I seemed to be tethered to her for most of the journey, changing places a few times when I veered off course (call me Captain Wrongway Peach Fuzz. In the Associated Press Sports Editors 5k in February, I turned a 5k into a 7k).

The exuberance of these women was contagious. Like they glowed. They came in all sizes, all ages. Many brought their families, especially their mothers. It became a celebration, athletic, physical, spiritual.

I took my soaking wet black t-shirt "These Boobs Were Made for Walking" and headed back home, feeling a lot better than I did before.

Running is salvation, part purgatory, part nirvana. You get what you pay for, and you pay with sweat. You also expose your soul and challenge your mind. The people who run with you root for you, and you are all on the same team. The only opponent is inside the gray matter that's connected by the synapses.

The finish line on May 6 is in focus now. The view became a lot clearer, framed by pink balloons and smiling faces. I have been blessed. I am running again.

It has indeed been an epiphany.

Read John's previous installments:

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