The last time I’d been in Philadelphia was a long four years before. I’d been on a mad dash cross-country drive with my older son to get to Philly to see a contemporary circus arts show my aerialist daughter was involved in. We managed to squeak in a few tourist-y things while we were there, and one of those was to run the Rocky Steps. Can anybody visit Philadelphia and not try to recreate one of those scenes from Rocky and all the sequels where Sylvester Stallone caps off his grueling workouts by racing up the 72 stone steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art?
Even though I was in jeans and sneakers, I think I needed a break or two to catch my breath before we reached the plaza where Rocky would turn and gaze out over the Philly skyline. Put another way, my son’s a smoker…and his lungs were still holding out better than mine! As I posed afterward for the obligatory photo with the bronze Rocky statue just east of the steps, I mulled the thought that the next time I came to Philly, I ought to try to run up the stairs in spike heels. It had only been a few years since I’d published my first book, Running with Stilettos, and it seemed like a cute idea.
Somehow the idea always contemplated a little pre-planning. Like spending some serious time on an elliptical machine. Or getting my bike out of the back of the garage and riding it more often. Or losing, say, twenty pounds. As a matter of fact, plantar fasciitis has been a major problem that has slowed me down over the past year. It’s finally getting better again, but I joke that I’ve become a master at secretly balancing on one foot in high heels when I go to court.
But until a week ago, another trip to Philadelphia hadn’t been anywhere on my horizon. I’d actually bought—and then sold—an elliptical machine in that time! And then suddenly, in a matter of days, my daughter and I were hastily planning a road trip to her former digs in Philly, intent on retrieving the rest of her belongings before winter. She’d moved as much of her stuff back to Wisconsin as she could fit in her boxy car a couple of months earlier, but her cold weather gear and untold other flotsam hadn’t quite fit.
And so, after a flurry of last-minute details such as lining up a kennel for the dog, and a friend to feed the cats, and driving to an author gig in Illinois the day before for Indie Author Day…I threw a few traveling clothes into a tiny bag. And tossed a pair of maroon spike heels in on top. They had been a fortuitous impulse buy just a couple of weeks before. I’d walked into a department store to get some makeup…and these shoes were exactly at eye level as I walked past. Somebody ought to be getting a marketing bonus for that.
And so the bat-out-of-hell drive began, with 800 miles under our tires that first day. We actually spent a total of only 29 hours in Philadelphia, during which we (1) retrieved her stuff, (2) hiked in the Wissahickon Gorge with the son I’d done the first road trip with,
(3) toured the Eastern State Penitentiary,
(4) visited the Museum of Art, and (5) got together for dinner with my son at the Trolley Car Diner before heading back out on the road.
And, of course, conquered the Rocky Steps.
I’ll admit to some trepidation as we parked the car and approached the staircase. Who wouldn’t? My spike heels were just a bit shy of three inches tall. Not the highest heels I’d worn since buying my first pair at the age of 48, but not exactly walking shoes either.
I kicked off the sneakers I’d worn from the car, and put on the high heels. Then I handed off my purse and the sneakers to my daughter, who promised to keep the video rolling. Good grief, I hadn’t quite thought this through. Not only could I have used a few weeks of cardiovascular work beforehand…I could have used some makeup! And hairspray! And earrings!
A buff young man roughly the age of some of my kids, in a T-shirt and jersey running shorts, rounded corner at the edge of the steps and flashed a big smile as he proceeded to bound up the stairs like a gazelle. “Hah,” I thought to myself. “No way you…or Sylverster Stallone…could do this in high heels!”
And so we began. As I neatly picked my way up step by step, one foot in front of the other, it felt like a slow but respectable jogging speed to me. Slow jog—brisk walk—I am not going to argue that I was at a run! And when I was on the flat sections that broke up the staircase, yeah, I walked!! So sue me.
But the fact of the matter is, I made it! By the time I got to the plaza—which is where Rocky traditionally jumped around and celebrated in the movies—I was finally winded at last. Even though I hadn’t first run through miles of Philly streets and jumped hurdles over park benches on my way there. I give Sly Stallone so much credit for those park bench hurdles!!! So a couple of minutes passed before I caught my breath and headed off to conquer the rest of the steps. Yeah, I think they leave the extra steps out of the movies.
So, all in all, was there progress made since the last time I visited Philadelphia? Yes! I can now say that I’ve both navigated the Rocky Steps in spike heels, and that my lungs were in better shape this time around.
But I’m also already plotting my return. Chief on my new goals are to quicken the pace up the staircase, and to actually make it all the way from the sidewalk at the bottom to those extra steps and all the way to the museum doors in one fell swoop without stopping to catch my breath. Still in spike heels, of course.
In the meantime, we’re still working on unpacking the car with my daughter’s belongings in it. But I’ve certainly got a little extra spring in my step!