By Matthew Giron

During a morning run with the Skid Row Running Club in early October 2017, I decided to take a shortcut by skipping the portion of the run that ‘loops’ the lake at Hollenbeck Park, our resting midpoint.  As I was approaching the 1st street bridge near the final stretch of our run I could hear Sara, a long time skid row runner, coming up from behind me bubbling over with enthusiasm.  Sara’s positive spirit radiates and is felt by anyone she comes in contact with.  She was laughing alongside her friend Megan, who was running with the Skid Row Running Club for the first time.  Megan was trying something new and different.  Sara and I began to encourage Megan, commending her for breaking out of her comfort zone.  Sara noticed that I had took the shortcut and began to ‘call me out’, teasing me for trying to be so slick and sneaky.  She was right, I had waited for the group to start rounding the lake with their backs turned before I started to run, hoping I wouldn't be seen taking the shortcut.  

As we stepped onto the 1st Street bridge I began to tell Sara and Megan how this portion of the run is very special because cookie fortunes “magically” appear on the ground.  Fortunes have appeared on the bridge going back nearly an entire year.  More appear after all of them are picked up so it can’t be some isolated event.  Some days there are one or two, while other days there may be handfuls!  I told them that for some time I have been trying to figure out the reason they appear.  I’ve been hunting for clues but can’t seem to “crack” the fortune cookie case (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

Continuing on the bridge we weren’t surprised when, naturally, we all saw a fortune on the floor.  I jumped first and picked it up and in near disbelief read aloud: “Don’t be tempted by shortcuts - They are never worth it in the end”.  We were shocked!  A few steps later Sara saw one on the ground and picked it up.  She read, “Your positive attitude is contagious”.  Unbelievable!  The relevance of the fortunes appeared to be more than just coincidence.  We started to walk to allow Megan, who was struggling a bit, to catch her breath.  One more fortune was seen and it naturally belonged to Megan, as she had not picked one up yet.  Megan picked up her fortune and she read it out loud to us: “Modify your thinking to adapt to new situations”.  Amazing!  The magical 1st Street bridge gave all three of us a personalized fortune that day.  Sara snapped a photo of us holding our fortunes at the end of the run.    

Even before the fortunes began to appear, running westward along the 1st Street bridge had always been special to me.  When I first started running with the group about one year ago my spirit was broken and I felt hopeless most of the time, as I had just ended many months of consecutive hard drug use.  It was as if I had lost the ability to see any color or beauty in the world.  In those days I remember running along the bridge at dawn, watching the sun rise over downtown, feeling inspired that the future held great hope.  The sunlight breaking against the skyline and the ‘dawn of a new day’ seemed to be symbolic of my new drug free life I was determined to create.  Watching the pastel blues and oranges of the sky frame the glass skyscrapers made me feel like anything was possible and that there was still so much beauty in my life and in the world to enjoy.  Those moments of inspiration running on the bridge meant so much to me and kept me moving in the right direction despite the struggles that accompanied early recovery.  All week I would look forward to those moments running along the magical bridge.

The Skid Row Running Club runs along the magical 1st Street bridge in all types of weather.  Light drizzle.  Scorching heat.  Pastel colored skies.  Cloudy with a chance of cookie fortunes.