This past Sunday, I awoke at the crack of dawn, stood in the chilling rain for over an hour, and then ran ten soggy miles down Broad Street. The occasion? The annual Blue Cross Broad Street Run.
Founded in 1980, the Broad Street Run is now the largest ten-mile race in the United States, with forty thousand participants chosen by lottery. The race, held annually on the first Sunday in May, starts on North Broad Street at Fisher Avenue, in front of Central High School and Einstein Medical Center. The race culminates south of the stadiums at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
The Broad Street Run is a quintessential Philadelphia event, not only for the runners, but also for scores of folks who come out to cheer as the runners pass. Even in the pouring rain, neighbors lined the streets to applaud, hold up signs, offer high-fives or otherwise buoy the spirits of the runners. There is also entertainment along the way, which takes on the flavor of each of the many neighborhoods – a church in North Philly had a DJ blaring hip hop, while in South Philly a Mummers string band stood playing under a tent.
“At age 41, I chose to do something hard, and outside my comfort zone, and I did it. Each semester I push my students to do something similar in a different context, through their work in the Family Law Litigation Clinic.”
The city of Philadelphia is my epicenter. As a legal services lawyer, and now clinical professor, my entire legal career has been, and continues to be, based here. Passing down Broad Street over those ten miles, I saw all sorts of connections to my own life, as well as connections to the neighborhoods and institutions where my clients live, work, and play. Starting in front of the Einstein Hospital where my physician father had his practice most of my life, brought back memories of childhood visits to his office. At Broad Street and Erie Avenue, I could see the North Philadelphia office of Community Legal Services, the organization where I started my legal career. We ran past countless familiar institutions, from health centers and theaters, social services agencies and restaurants, public benefits offices and hotels.
As I arrived at the familiar territory of Broad and Diamond Streets, the Temple University Marching Band playing their hearts out made my own heart sing (I’m a sucker for tubas!). Temple athletes along the sidelines shouted ‘Go Owls!’ as they saw the Temple T on my soaked running jersey. Just a few blocks past Klein Hall, at the Columbia North YMCA, where I am Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board, staff and volunteers handed out cups of water as they danced to Silentó’s Whip/ Nae-Nae. The excitement continued as we passed through my own neighborhood of Francisville/Fairmount, on past City Hall, and South Philly through all the way to the Navy Yard.
This was my first Broad Street Run, and despite the rainy cold, it was an amazing experience. I was not always a runner, and in fact still am surprised to hear myself described as a runner (I am slow as a turtle!). I started running as an efficient way to get back in shape after my now six-year-old son was born. Running has become a huge part of my life. I routinely get up at 5am to join a friend to run. Together we have tackled 5K races, and even a 10K. But last year around this time, I set a goal of running Broad Street. It felt challenging and outside my comfort zone – which is precisely why I decided to do it. Training was difficult, and required prioritizing something that was not always easy or convenient.
In the days since the run, I have been reflecting on what this run meant for me. First, it felt incredible to be connected to something so big. Several other members of our immediate Temple Law community ran, including Professors Craig Green, Jonathan Lipson, Kristen Murray, Spencer Rand and Rachel Rebouche. Numerous friends, colleagues and acquaintances ran as well. But being part of Broad Street Run felt like connecting to something so much larger, a community of runners, and beyond that to Philadelphia as a whole.
My second reflection is this feels like an enormous personal achievement. At age 41, I chose to do something hard, and outside my comfort zone, and I did it. Each semester I push my students to do something similar in a different context, through their work in the Family Law Litigation Clinic. Representing individual clients in family law cases is not easy – the cases are highly emotional, often involving difficult facts – and the outcome may have tremendous impact on a client’s life, for example whether they retain or regain custody of their children. And yet each semester my students push through any areas of personal discomfort or lack of confidence, interviewing and counseling their clients, preparing them for trial, and representing them in court.
My students put in the extra hours and effort, and see the results – zealous advocacy can have a huge impact on the outcome for our clients. In doing so, it is my hope that my students discover that they are capable of doing more than they ever realized or imagined. Personally, now that I have tackled Broad Street, I know I feel capable of anything.