Vol. 16, No. 13  June 19 - July  2, 2003


For Norwood Man, Running is a Way of Life 


It was tough catching up with John Brady, who many residents will recognize as the man they often see running swiftly around Williamsbridge Oval Park. 

But when we finally did, we learned a lot about how this native of County Meath, Ireland manages to run 40 to 60 miles a week, most of it in the Bronx.

Brady, who will turn 55 in a few weeks, started his routine simply over 20 years ago. He was 60 pounds heavier then than he is now and eight inches wider around the waist. He began working out at Jack LaLanne on West 231st Street in Kingsbridge (now Bally's). His running regimen grew from there. 

For Brady, running's big selling point is its simplicity. "I like the idea that you can do it any time of day and anywhere you go," he says.

And Brady does seem to run anywhere and everywhere he goes. He runs six days a week. Because it's so near his Perry Avenue apartment, he often takes off around Oval Park. He used to run inside the park but this year's awful winter made the paths difficult to traverse so he took to the street instead. It's two-thirds of a mile around the Oval, Brady estimates, so 12 times around translates into eight miles. Running on the upper path inside the park is about three-fifths of a mile. 

Once a week, Brady, a concierge in an Upper East Side apartment house, runs home nine miles from work. He crosses the bridge into the Bronx and runs all the way up the Concourse from the very bottom of the borough. 

He also runs around the Jerome Park Reservoir and along the running paths in Van Cortlandt Park. But Brady's favorite run is one he tries to do once every week on his day off from April through November. He runs six miles out to Orchard Beach along the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway, twice each way on the boardwalk there (each direction is one mile) and then six miles back for a total of 16 miles. 

"I always consider that a good accomplishment," he says.

Brady, who lives by himself in a neat, sparsely furnished apartment across from St. Brendan's Church, says he lives a simple life in which his daily running clearly plays a central role. 

In the long hallway entrance to Brady's apartment, almost a dozen pairs of old running shoes are lined up neatly against the wall. This is what you might call John Brady's trophy case. Each pair represents three months of hard running. If they had odometers, each would show a reading of about 600 miles. After that, when the air bubble in the heel is shot, Brady retires them -- though he might occasionally wear a pair for walking. 

Brady ran the New York City Marathon a few years ago and clocked in at an impressive three and a half hours. But Brady doesn't have much interest in competition; he takes greater pleasure in his own routine.

That routine includes his usual eight-mile run, followed by some sit-ups and push-ups, a shower, dinner and then a cool-down walk. When his schedule permits, he prefers to run in the morning when it's cooler. As for food, Brady says, "I eat anything," though he makes sure to get a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables every day. 

For the runner starting out, Brady's impressive regimen might seem a bit daunting. But Brady has some good advice for the beginning runner. He advises people to "start off light" and build up slowly. "Don't overdo it," he says. "Always leave room so that you could have done a few more laps."

Good running shoes with a bubble or shock in the heel are important. And, of course, make sure they're a good fit. He shops for his sneakers at James Shoe Repair on East 204th Street in Norwood and at Sports Authority. 

But the most important thing is just getting out there. In addition to getting in shape, Brady said the biggest benefit of running is just feeling good. "It kind of clears your head," he added. 

Though many local residents run, Brady is still a standout in the neighborhood. Everyone has seen him running at one time or another. 

He says neighbors often compliment him. "You're the king of Bainbridge!" he's been told. "You're an inspiration!"

And his distinctive gait is hard to miss, even at a distance. Once when he was running on the boardwalk in Daytona Beach, Florida during a vacation, a man who first spotted Brady coming toward him from far away told him: "I knew it was you from seeing you run on Bainbridge Avenue!"

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