I have never really thought of myself as a runner. I am someone who enjoys physical activity and exercises, like dancing and doing yoga. But before last semester, I had never enjoyed going for a long run. I constantly blamed it on my lack of stamina and short attention span.
For years, I attempted to stay in shape by running on the treadmill, the elliptical and various other machines that got me nowhere, with nothing except a world of frustration and horribly sore knees.
Last year, when I was a freshman at Peabody, I overheard a floormate bragging to her friend about this “amazing, beautiful, scenic,” run she had taken to the Philadelphia Art Museum the day before. She described the view from the steps and how stunning Kelly Drive looked with the flowers in bloom. With such an impressive review, I decided I had to attempt this seemingly perfect route.
The perfect day came. It was about 72 degrees and sunny with a pleasant, warm breeze that begged me to come outside. I slipped into the appropriate attire: some leggings, an old, red T-shirt that reads “Lenape Track & Field,” which I chose to fool those around me — I didn’t attend Lenape High School, nor did I run track — and my beat up, white Adidas training sneakers.
After fumbling to untangle my “non-tangle” headphones and make it down the steps without my nervous legs giving out on me, I took a deep breath and started off on my way down Broad Street.
After the first three blocks, my wheezing and red face gave me away as the girl who was trying to be a runner but obviously was not. Even with the concerned glances from those around me, I continued down Broad Street past Morgan Hall and watched my form in the reflective windows of the downstairs food court.
I didn’t look too pathetic. So I carried on.
I jogged past Fresh Grocer where an older woman in a green minivan almost hit me as she pulled into the parking lot. Then, I went a little bit farther and crossed the street by the Dunkin’ Donuts on Broad and Parrish streets. I jogged in place as I waited for the light to turn because I had seen other people doing the same thing and assumed the jog-in-place was protocol. Luckily, I made it across without facing another near-death experience.
I made it to the intersection at Broad Street and Fairmount Avenue, where two roads split and traffic lights faced in uncertain directions. I maneuvered through the stopped cars and looked down Fairmount Avenue. I was immediately intimidated. The end was nowhere in sight.
I seriously considered calling it a day and walking home to eat a snack and watch some Netflix from my comfy bed. But I was in too deep and I was dedicated to completing the mission.
As I jogged down the sidewalk, I tried to take in my surroundings and focus on not lip-syncing Drake’s “One Dance,” which I had turned up loud enough to drown out the sound of my own wavering breaths. I spotted a dog walker with three dogs: two labs and one unidentifiable breed that looked like a mop. I wondered if they’d been traveling as long as I had been.
I passed Tela’s Market & Kitchen near 19th Street and thought about all the times I sat in there to enjoy my favorite veggie chili. Couples and families filled the tables both inside and outside of the adorable corner spot. I noticed them, while I hoped they wouldn’t notice me and my lobster-red face that, by then, matched my shirt.
I crossed 19th Street and fiercely concentrated on my footwork on the cracked sidewalk. The uneven, jagged sections of cement where roots of trees had lifted from below the surface created an extra challenge. I’m known to be clumsy, so it took some serious focus not to lose my footing and roll an ankle. Before I knew it, I was in front of OCF Coffee on the corner of 21st Street and Fairmount Avenue, right across from Eastern State Penitentiary.
OCF is my happy place. I found it years before I came to Temple, and started making weekly trips from my home in New Jersey to get my favorite caramel latte and sit in the window to watch the dogs and their people running by. Now, I was the one being observed.
With only a couple of blocks left until I reached my final destination, I took a couple of deep breaths and picked up my pace. It was now in my field of view. I could see the vibrant garden and stone wall that lined its side and the Rocky statue standing tall in its bronze glory.
The air smelled crisp, and a faint aroma of lilac floated by. I took the steps two at a time on the way up until I reached the front of the building with its white columns stretching seemingly to the sky. I turned around and looked over the vast landscape of this beautiful city.
I sat down and the steps, and the cold stone sent a chill up my spine. I caught my breath as I ogled at the fountain and the city skyline in the near distance. I had finally made it to the “amazing, beautiful and scenic” Art Museum destination that I had set out for.
After a final glance at the picture perfect view, I started off to retrace my steps and head home.