Love Note #66: "Then one day I ran the bridge" (Dan McQuade, Ben Franklin Bridge)

Dan McQuade
Favorite Spot: Ben Franklin Bridge walkway

Neighborhood: Old City-Delaware River-Camden
Address: Bridge is between Race and Vine from N. 5th Street to the river, with pedestrian walkway entrances at New (north) and Florist (south).

I am: I write things, usually for money. I have a blog and a Twitter.
Years in Philly: Native (I’m 29)
Current Home: Center City

My love note:

12 years and about 50 pounds ago, I was a pretty decent runner.

My times were never great — I won a few cross country dual meets, I never got hurt — but I was hardcore. By senior year of high school I savored every minute of every run. I loved running in the woods in Philadelphia and Bucks County, on streets near the Northeast Airport and on tracks all over. Unfortunately, running competitively for 10 or so years killed my spirit. I fell out of it in college. I found new interests. I dropped my favorite hobby for reasons I still don’t understand.

A few years ago I got fired, got dumped and, most importantly, saw an incredibly unflattering photo of myself. I’m pretty vain, so it wasn’t hard to get back into running. But even though I was running every day, I never found that perfect place to run. I don’t own a car (so no Belmont Plateau) and I live east of Broad (so the Schuylkill River trail is a bit far, too). I thought I’d be running big loops around South Philly streets forever.

Then one day I ran the bridge.

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is gorgeous, but I never realized how great it is until running over it. It opened on July 1, 1926 to rave reviews as the Delaware River Bridge; the chief engineer, Polish-born American bridge maven Ralph Modjeski, was born exactly 122 years before me. The view of the skyline from the middle of the bridge is the best in the city, but the scenery from the bridge is great, too: The backsides of buildings, a baseball stadium and nicer-than-you-think Rutgers-Camden campus in New Jersey.

I’ve been running the bridge almost every day this summer. I dread it a little every day; my shins do even more. I only have to go through Washington Square, past Independence Hall and down Fifth Street to get there, but some days I step onto the walkway and already feel defeated. It’s steep. The first incline on the Philadelphia side goes up forever. Unlike running on streets, though, there’s no opportunity to slack. It’s a straight shot to the top, no stopping. And, yes, the runner’s high from going up and down and up and down is unmatched.

The Ben Franklin Bridge is this city: Beautiful and formidable, underrated and unmatched. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s really nice out today and I’m headed out.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Delaware River, Old City 11 Comments

11 Responses to Love Note #66: "Then one day I ran the bridge" (Dan McQuade, Ben Franklin Bridge)

  1. Bob Bruhin

    Love that walkway! I can’t understand why there aren’t always many, many more people out there.

    Very nice shots!

  2. Katie

    Awesome love note, and these photos are stunning.

  3. Aaron Bauman

    I read this post, and then I ran the bridge (well, half of it at least).
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Emma

      Yay. I hope you went at sunset


    Just saw this… Great photos Dan!


    I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this
    post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my
    difficulty. You’re amazing! Thanks!

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    If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me
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    Superb blog by the way!

  7. Philadelphia Traveling Mom

    What a fabulous post. Exactly how I feel about the bridge, and as a metaphor for our underrated, under appreciated, thoroughly all-right City.

  8. Jo

    Beautiful shots from the bridge! I grew up in Bucks County and now live near KOP Mall. A couple years ago I ran the “Run the Bridge 10K” on a very cold and windy November morning. Relitively new to running it was a challeange for me but I didi it and it was great. Your photos reminded me of the many things I still have left to do on my bucket list and the other races I want to run. Not so easy at 51. Thanks for the inspiration. Jody P.

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