Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Run Down Memory Lane

Tomorrow I am running the 10 mile Broad Street Run. It will be my 4th time (and 1st time post-babies).   My ob/gyn has assured me that my uterus will not fall out. So, I'm set.

The Broad Street Run is a lot like an actual marathon, for a non-runner like myself.  It's also like watching my life flash before my eyes.

The journey begins in North Philadelphia, at Broad Street and Somerville. A gospel choir greets me as I set off on course, laces on my sneakers bound along with the knots in my stomach. The African-American ladies in the choir, dressed in sparkling white robes, remind me of my baby nurse, who lives just down the block, and the hymns she sang to my newborn babies.

I approach Cecil B. Moore Street with caution and pride. I can feel all eyes on me as my Criminal Law professor grills me in front of two hundred classmates. "'Judge' Heenan, did the defendant have the required mens rea (state of mind) to be convicted of rape in the state of Alaska?" My head and body start to ache, imagining how long 10 miles really is. I remember wanting to drop out of law school after the first week. I decide I can stick out this race, just like I stuck out those three grueling years.

A drunk dude cheers for the runners as he stumbles home from a bender the night before. I think about the hundreds of subway rides I took to and from law school and the characters I encountered along the way. "Fine oils and incense!" one enterprising young guy would call out, strutting his way from one subway car to the next. I think now maybe I should have purchased some. Just because. Outside on the street, there is a male runner dressed in drag, juggling oranges.

I approach Broad and Girard and pass the high school where I first met Antionette, when she was just 15, a freshman. I was in my early 20s, determined to be a mentor, and I strolled through the metal detectors at her high school's entrance, trying to forget how many people had once referred to my own high school as a "country club." Who would have thought that more than a dozen years later, Antionette and I would be bound for life. As I run by her school, I remember taking her to buy her prom dress, attending her college graduation, and rocking out with her on the dance floor at my wedding. I am like a proud parent when I realize how far she has come from this humble place; this high school that could not break her spirit nor cage her expectations, no matter how many bars were on the windows.

Next, I run pass Vine Street and imagine zipping down the road, over the bridge and straight down to the shore. I think about the time before SPF60, bike helmets, and seatbelts.  I feel my hair blowing in the wind with my dad driving his convertible like he was still on the AutoBahn, singing Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier at the top of his lungs. On a constant loop for the entire hour.

I pass by Broad and Chestnut, where I spent 4 great years at my former law firm. It's the place where I met some of my best friends and encountered some of the most bizarre circumstances one can imagine. Bunny rabbit with a grapefruit sized goiter in its neck hopping around at work? yes. Mailroom guy selling sex toys on the side? Check. Fox vagina soup at happy hours? Frequent point of discussion, yes. Pinatas and blindfolded partners in the main conference room? Yes, on more than one occasion.

Okay, I'm moving right along. Wait! How can I forget the restaurant where I met my husband on the day that we discovered I was pregnant for the first time?

Next, I'm at Broad and Walnut, right down the street from where I used to call home. I had my first date with my husband at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square and 9 months later, married him right across the square.

I'm racing past the Italian market now, the route Rocky ran. I'm thinking of all of the dinners my family has shared at Villa Di Roma, one of my sister's favorites.  Next, it's on to Broad and Oregon and Pop's Water Ice, which I ate religiously and almost exclusively in my first trimester of my first pregnancy.

A little further down, I pass by the neighborhood where my husband grew up and where my in-laws still live. It is a place where tradition is alive and warmth is all around. The butcher still delivers meat door to door, people mark their parking spots on the street with lawn chairs, and Santa Claus is well represented on Christmas Eve (and even entertains the wishes of Jewish girls). I think about the gatherings, holidays, and endless laughter that has imprinted this part of Broad Street on my heart and soul.

The soles of my feet are now burning.  I pass by Broad and Snyder, the stadiums of Philly legends and on to the Naval Yard and I spot the FINISH LINE!  I remember how proud my parents looked at the finish line the first time I ran this race.  My mom begged me to never run Broad Street again, just like she begged me not to do penny-drops off the swing-set when I was eight and not to go skydiving when I was older.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I look at my friend, Bess, next to me, who is the reason I am running this race; the reason I am running period. I am not a runner, but she has convinced me (and half the city of Philadelphia) that indeed I can be a runner, if I just put one foot in front of the other.  And that is exactly what I am doing.

The finish line is a miracle, like a sunset over Positano. But, I never for a second forget that it's not the destination that matters.  It's always about the journey.

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