It all started with a little orange pedometer. After several months of taking at least 10,000 steps a day, I decided to "kick it up a notch" and attended a workshop at work that, as cliché as it sounds, changed my life.
The class was Energy for Performance, or 'E4P' as the cool kids call it. It focused on three key areas: nutrition, exercise, and mental approach. But at 54, I really didn't think significant change was in my immediate future.
Oh sure, I used to be in decent shape--I even ran the Philly Marathon in 1987. But that was a few lifetimes ago. A quarter century ago. And many, many cheesesteaks ago. During the E4P class, I got a serious wake-up call in the form of a small printout. Just a piece of paper, with several important numbers--my weight was 193 and my BMI (Body Mass Index) was 32. But it was the word in all caps that really jolted me: OBESE. That was it. Ring! Ring! I made the decision to lose weight, get back into shape, and get healthy.
I started running and joined the fitness center at work (thank you, GSK!). My first day, I laced up my new Asics, strapped on the heart monitor that I received in the E4P class and bolted out the door. It would be my longest run that week--a total of three minutes. That's three minutes straight, without stopping. I kid you not. The next week, I increased my time to four minutes, and each week I increased it by one minute. After five months, I was up to running 60 minutes. It was time. I needed a goal. I had to enter a race.
In my younger days, I loved the Broad Street Run. The 10-miler was a Philly tradition, and the course is flat, and almost downhill. The last time I did the run, the finish line was in JFK Stadium. History note--the stadium, famous for the Live Aid concert, was demolished in 1992. I told you it's been a while. But, in my new-found enthusiasm, I decided to do it again, this past Sunday.
The weather was perfect. The atmosphere was amazing, with strangers, children, Temple University cheerleaders, bands playing music, and hundreds of volunteers passing out Gatorade and water. I even got to high-five ex-Governor and Philly celebrity Ed Rendell. They lined the street with cheering, homemade signs, support, and words of encouragement.
It was that enthusiasm that allowed me to finish in a respectable 90 minutes, crossing the finish line not far from our new building at the Navy Yard that will be completed by the end of the year.
But I was only one of 38,000 stories among the 76,000 shoes beating the asphalt on Sunday morning. There was a much greater cause. Stop diseases. Many were running in memory of loved ones who had died from a multitude of diseases, including cancer, muscle diseases, Alzheimer's, and heart disease.
Some were running in support of loved ones who are suffering now, and many others were running to keep themselves healthy in the hope they never have to suffer. At mile marker number eight, I passed Methodist Hospital, where I was born. I thought of my mom, who passed away six years ago from a truly devastating disease, tuberculosis. It made me proud to work for a company that is trying to eliminate diseases.
With the Navy Yard in sight, I saw a small boy hold up a sign that read, "Worst parade ever." Sorry, but I disagree.