Five teenage girls met as freshmen at their first cross-country practice at Mount Saint Joseph's Academy in Flourtown back in 2003. They were all from different towns, new to the school and nervous, just looking to fit in.
What happened with them has happened so many times, in so many places. A bond was formed, friendships that may well last a life time.
"Back in our high school days, we bonded over Coach [Karen] Orr's merciless workouts and on long runs at Valley Green," said Genevieve O'Mara, "and that bond has remained strong ever since!"
"I have such vivid, vivid memories of our high school days at the Mount and the most fun and hilarious times with these 4 girls," said Deirdre Barr. "Lunch periods reviewing the past weekend's fun and planning the next, grueling track practices, cramming for tests… the list goes on and on."
But running was what brought them together, and what keeps them together.
They all went to different colleges, from Dartmouth to Notre Dame. Three live and work in New York, one in Boston, and one locally. They don't see nearly enough of one another, but the bond remains strong. They have decided to run together – just like back in the day – in this year's Blue Cross Broad Street Run.
"It's amazing to me that we've remained so close," said Meredith Taylor. "My college friends always tell me they wish they had [the friendships] I do."
"Running was so central to our lives in high school," said Chelsea Clark, who lives in Lower Gywnedd. "But I can't remember the last time we all ran together!"
"The further we get from our days at the Mount," said Jen Havard, "the more difficult it becomes to get five of us in one place. Being in different cities, jobs and places in our lives has made it more challenging, but each of us knows that friendship like this is hard to come by."
None of the women could recall who had the idea to reunite. "We were out to brunch at the holidays—that's really the only time each year we're all together," said Clark. "I know it started out as a joke."
Then they realized 2013 would mark 10 years since they'd all met. "And then it wasn't a joke," Clark continued. "Running a race would be the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of our friendship."
The celebration could only take place in one spot.
"Broad Street has always been on my radar," said O'Mara. "Thankfully, Meredith made the executive decision to go ahead and register us as a group."
"Philly is still home for each of us," added Clark. "It just seemed fitting to come back to run the city's most iconic race."
Another point of agreement among the quintet: they're not exactly in what they consider "running shape."
"I'm excited we have the chance to see each other," said Jen Harvard, "but I think we're all a little apprehensive of running 10 miles."
"We could have run a 5K, or a shorter race and still had fun," said Clark. "But we were looking for something challenging enough to show our commitment to each other, and celebrate what got us there—running. What better place than Broad Street?"
The plan is to congregate at Jen Havard's childhood home for a pasta dinner Saturday night, then all meet on the starting line Sunday morning – and go for a drink afterward.
For 24 hours they'll be back together, whole, as a group—like nothing ever changed.