It's the most popular 10-mile race in the nation. Randy LoBasso digs for its spiritual meaning.
To figure this out, he conducted studies which assigned adults with “major depressive disorder” into four groups: home-based exercise, supervised exercise, antidepressant therapy and placebo pills. After four months, patients in exercise and antidepressant groups had the highest rates of remission. “Exercise,” he concluded for Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007, “was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder.”
And yet: At this point, one in ten Americans over 12 years old is on anti-depressants, a 400 percent increase since 1988. “Depression is common,” wrote Roni Caryn Rabin for the New York Times in 2013, “and our economic struggles have added to our stress and anxiety.”
When Marino, of Philly Parks and Rec, suggested that the economic meltdown of 2008 might have prompted a running boom, I thought back to that time in my own life: I was unemployed, had no health insurance, declined applying for unemployment compensation, and, well, had the time to run. So I did.
I was trying to get into freelance writing and had been pretty unsuccessful thus far, since the only things I’d penned by myself at that point had been published unpaid: a handful of opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Daily News and others for a liberal news blog. I had a couple years’ experience in a writing-based job, but was applying for local freelance gigs alongside hundreds of other out-of-work writers. I got kicked off the website e-Lance after a few months of failing query letters. I had a couple interviews for jobs in the city and outside it, all of which came up zero. Awkward, stomach-churning follow-up calls with HR departments post-two or three interviews are memories I wish I could erase.
I ate ramen noodles every day and considered asking my roommates for help paying rent. I never did. A job would always come through just in time, and by the early summer—after I’d successfully finished the Broad Street Run that May—I finally got an online writing job at which I could work up to 40 hours per week, at $9 per hour. Things began taking off a little bit more then, and I stopped running completely—only to take it back up in February of this year.
I’ve never taken an antidepressant and just recently visited a doctor for the first time since 2007, after going about five years without health insurance, then spending another 18 months putting off a doctor’s visit due to laziness and procrastination. When I really think about it, my motivation regarding the Broad Street Run might be just a general urge to get into better shape—but, you know, it might also be about death.
On my 30th birthday last summer, I had a long, one-sided conversation about dying. I know—that’s about as clichéd as 30th birthdays get, especially at 4 a.m. But it wasn’t a conversation about my death. It was mostly about my dog’s. See, my dog, Digby, is young, but I know he’ll likely die around a dozen years from now, and that’s not something with which I’m prepared to deal. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be one of those people who goes out and adopts a new dog within days of his departure, which will be a disaster.
I can’t keep that from happening. All I can do is maintain my momentum. I find that easier to do, maybe, if it’s literal.
Running this year feels much different than running five years ago. For one, I’m doing it while, if anything, over-employed—PW’s team is small and furiously busy, and I teach English, too. But running, especially with Digby, has become a new escape for me, as I train for this run and, hopefully, the marathon in November. Spending a large portion of my day behind a desk, then spending all night on a couch or barstool—or at my other desk—can make it easy to forget all the beauty this city has to offer, whether along Kelly Drive or Richmond Street, where I’ve taken to running, as well.
Running may not change the economy, stave off death or bring back lost friends. But it may help keep us around a little longer, alive and sane. It’s probably worth it.