A Somerville dad is pounding pavement—and learning about his city along the way.
David Lewis is a lot of things. He’s a dad, an experienced litigator and a Somerville resident of more than 20 years. But one thing he says he’s not is a serious runner. “I’m the proverbial dad with a little kid, who’s ten pounds overweight and trying to get that down so you don’t get the wagging finger from your doctor,” Lewis insists with a laugh.
So you might be surprised to learn that he has a somewhat “serious runner” goal: to run every single street in Somerville.
About a year ago, Lewis found himself feeling a little listless. Before the birth of his son, he used to run a lot. But between working and raising a family, he was lacing up his sneakers less and less frequently until he had almost stopped entirely. “I was like, ‘Okay, I have to change my motivation. My circumstances have changed,’” Lewis explains. He needed a reason to start hitting the streets again, but he also wanted a program that would work on his time and his terms—something flexible enough that he could set it aside on busy weeks and return to it when he had the time. Having lived in the city for close to two decades, he figured, why not run every road in town? So he printed out a map of Somerville and started with the streets closest to his house.
To accommodate his schedule, Lewis likes to run on weekend mornings. He’ll form a general idea of the streets he wants to hit, fire up a running app on his phone to track his progress and get to stepping. Once he’s finished, he fills in the day’s progress on that Somerville map, which he keeps on his fridge.
He’s also a firm believer in multi-modal transit; the red dots on the map are stations for the bike-sharing system Hubway. “I started doing this thing, and I’m in terrible shape,” Lewis jokes. He could run the streets near his house, but as he expanded into Central and East Somerville, he realized that he was spending a lot of time (and energy) just getting to and from those streets. The Hubway stops have been a crucial component of his strategy.
Lewis says he enjoys these workouts because they take him down streets there would otherwise be no reason to see. “If it’s not the fastest way and it’s not a shortcut, unless you were lost—or trying to do what I’m doing—you’d never see them,” he says. But on each weekend run, he learns something about the city that he didn’t know before. In fact, the reason for his runs has almost evolved over time. He used to return home, tired and sweaty, and let his wife, Christine, know if he had seen something cool. Now, he pounds the pavement purposefully, looking for unexpected landmarks throughout the city that he can share with Christine and their son. After one early April run, he sent a text with some of the things he noticed: “a couple of beautiful farmhouses on Adams, a bunch of sideways houses on Partridge that have been renovated differently and several houses here and there that still had their barn in the back.”
“You never know what you’ll find when you start going down roads you’ve never gone down before,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun, but you’ve also gotta pay attention.”
Overall, Lewis says Somerville is a great place to run. The density of housing means that it doesn’t get too windy in the winter. There’s the Community Path, which he—along with many of the area’s runners, cyclists and pedestrians—hopes will eventually get longer. Of course, there’s also the huge hill that runs right down the middle of the city. “Looking at the map, I’m like … definitely some of those sections I’ve gotta fill in I know are really hilly,” he says. But hills aside, he hopes to finish up later this spring or early summer. He’s planning for his very last run to wrap up at Assembly Row—and to celebrate the accomplishment with a little party in the beer garden at Slumbrew’s American Fresh Brewhouse.
And after that? Will he run every street in Cambridge? Or Medford? Boston?
“Actually, the other day when we were at a cocktail party … somebody was like, ‘Wow! Which city are you going to run next?’” Lewis laughs. “I was like, ‘Whoa. Stop.’ I’ve lived here, and this is where I’m going to run. I don’t really have plans to do another town.”
This story originally appeared as “Pounding Pavement” in our May/June print edition, which is available for free at more than 150 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.