Race #39 – Running Philly’s 76 for “Back on My Feet”

Race #39: The Philadelphia 76 Challenge

The Cause: Back on My Feet, a nonprofit organization that got its start in Philadelphia, my hometown. This running challenge is tied up in hometown pride for me! If you haven’t heard of Back on My Feet, you need to. Especially if you: are a runner, have a heart for the homeless, and believe in the power of running to change lives.

Now, I’ve worked with or written about a zillion nonprofits over the years. And this vision statement is one of the most powerful ones I’ve ever come across. Check this out:

“Back on My Feet seeks to revolutionize the way society approaches homelessness. Our unique model demonstrates that if you first restore confidence, strength and self-esteem, individuals are better equipped to tackle the road ahead. For all in need, we aim to provide: practical training and employment resources for achieving independence; an environment that promotes accountability; and a community that offers compassion and hope. For all with the capacity to serve – volunteers, donors, community and corporate partners – we seek to engage you in the profound experience of empowering individuals to achieve what once seemed impossible through the seemingly simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.”

I first became aware of Back on My Feet through several podcasts and/or articles in running magazines. What a great way to transform lives, utilizing the power of running and goal-setting.

The Philadelphia 76 Challenge was organized by Philly Races, who also put on the Philadelphia Marathon and Broad Street Run. But like most sporting events in Philly, it wasn’t without controversy.

So, earlier this year, during the pandemic, an awesome Philly-area runner developed a route tracing the outline of the city that equaled 76 miles, obviously a special number for Philly. So when this Philadelphia 76 Challenge came out, describing it as a virtual run based on the city lines, lots of Philly runners cried foul and wanted to see the original 76 runner, Michael “Gagz” Gagliardo credited. Everything’s apparently been ironed out now, but for a while, things were tense especially on social media. You can read more, here.

That’s Philly for ya.

Anyway, I was super excited to support this great cause, and to reclaim a little of the competitive aspect of racing that we’re all missing and craving right now. This event challenged runners to log 76 miles during the month of July, and my goal was to finish in half that time. Which I’m excited to say, I did. I logged 76 miles in 18 days, two and a half weeks, which snagged me a finishing place of runner #190 out of 890.

Ring the bell! July 18, after a HOT 10-mile run to cap my 76 miles.

During my final run on July 18, I listed to the Marathon Training Academy podcast. I have loved listening to Angie and Trevor Spencer for several years now. The subject of their latest podcast was especially appropriate, as Coach Angie tackled the topic of “You Can Do Hard Things” with both practical and motivational advice. She referenced former Navy SEAL Jocko Willick and played this clip:

Willink is pretty intense!

Part of the podcast audio also included Willink saying, “Now, I don’t mean to say something trite; I’m not trying to sound like Mr. Smiley Positive Guy. That guy ignores the hard truth. That guy thinks a positive attitude will solve problems. It won’t. But neither will dwelling on the problem. No. Accept reality, but focus on the solution. Take that issue, take that setback, take that problem, and turn it into something good. Go forward. And, if you are part of a team, that attitude will spread throughout.”

Angie also referenced a great quote that spoke to me:

Sometimes you get to choose your battles and sometimes they choose you.

Runner Gabe Grunewald, who died of a rare form of cancer at age 32 in 2019

Life is a blessing. The ability to run is a blessing. The capacity to help others is a blessing.

76 miles. Done.

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