I'VE BEEN anticipating the Broad Street Run since January. Er, maybe
is a better word.
For me, this annual form of torture - I mean exercise - is pretty much something I have to make myself do.
But I do it, not only because I feel triumphant when I've completed it, but also because it gets me moving. Knowing how completely miserable I'll be for 10 long miles down Broad Street if I don't prepare months in advance is enough motivation to get me on a treadmill or even, gulp, running outside in the cold.
Still, no matter how I train, race day always arrives too soon. I usually have a knot of nervous tension in my stomach when I find myself at the start line surrounded by upwards of 10,000 runners, most of whom are way better at this than I am. This year will be no different. I'll no doubt try to console myself with the usual excuses about how work keeps me too busy to do better, which is such bunk.
Especially when you consider all the shoe rubber Mayor Street goes through. Formerly an avid runner, walking has become his exercise of choice. This Saturday, he plans to walk an entire marathon - 26.2 miles - in Washington, D.C., in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
Then, the very next day, he'll participate in a half marathon, during the second half of the two-day event. That means Street will be walking 39.3 miles. That's nearly 40 miles - 30 more than I'll be doing Sunday morning. And he's doing it by himself, if you don't count his security team. Street calls it "the biggest physical challenge" he's undertaken. Along the way, he has raised $2,201 in donations for breast-cancer research.
This guy gives new meaning to the James Taylor song "Walking Man," during the winter of 2005-06, Street actually began commuting by foot both to and from his home in North Philadelphia. He takes circuitous walks through Center City, past the Art Museum and even along Boathouse Row. His routes, which he asked me not to disclose for security reasons, have him walking up to 14 miles in one direction.
In October, he participated in a three-day breast-cancer walk. Because of time constraints, the mayor agreed to do only one leg of it - 20 miles. To prepare for it, various Cabinet members, including Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, accompanied him on early-morning weekend walks last summer along Kelly Drive. As a group, the officials would make their way from City Hall out toward the Art Musuem, do the Kelly Drive loop and then head back to City Hall.
"For me, I had just come over to the mayor's office," said Lori Jones, a spokeswoman. "We'd just talk, sometimes about city service things."
By October the group was ready - too bad the weather didn't cooperate on race day.
"It rained the whole time. It was the worst," Street recalled. "I've been exercising for 40 years. I've run five marathons and I have never been in an event where the weather was so ugly . . . It was terrible. We slugged through it. [But] we made those 20 miles."
Inspired, Street looked around for another major walkathon and wound up signing up for the Avon event in D.C. He estimates that his first leg of the event, the marathon, will take him about eight hours. Street could finish it in seven, but wants to go slowly because of the half marathon the next day. All this exercising has become part of who he is.
"I've just been doing it for so long. I cannot not exercise for two days," Street told me. "If I don't exercise for the third day, I can't sleep right. I cannot go three days without exercising."
I asked him what advice he has for others (that would be me) who would want to step up their game a bit.
"A significant part of the success I've had in life has had to do with my mental, physical and spiritual outlook," Street said. "I just don't know how I would have survived any of this. I don't know that I would have survived law school or any of my work . . . if I had been a couch potato."
That's something to keep in mind come Sunday. *
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