Bradley, a former South Philadelphia member and now longtime returning alumni, believes his arc has been simple: “I started at the bottom, and I’m working my way up to the top.” It’s a trajectory that applies to so many things in his life, and exemplifies the positive ripple effects of determination, support, and community engagement that form the foundation of Back on My Feet. But it was anything but easy.
Back in the summer of 2018, Back on My Feet volunteers first met Bradley at the city shelter. He was no runner at the time — not that that matters — but it was clear he had the passion and determination to help build himself a better future. That matters a lot. “Before Back on My Feet, my life had not much going on,” he says. “I was trying to put everything in perspective” and find a path forward.
Circle Ups as Key First Steps
Back on My Feet’s walking and running groups, known as Circle Ups, helped Bradley find perspective almost immediately — as a measure of fitness, but in a larger sense, a measure of progress, and an offer of community. When the group covers one mile today; then a mile and a quarter tomorrow; those incremental steps symbolize the belief that no distance is insurmountable and a brighter future is attainable. “My first day with Back on My Feet was exciting, just getting to know everybody,” Bradley says. “And learning the athletic world was exciting.”
The passion for forward progress stuck: Over the six years that followed, Bradley has now run two marathons, and multiple 50-mile races — solid ultramarathons. He’s participated in Phildalphia’s treasured, 40-year-old Broad Street Run through the heart of the city. His training has taken him up and down the East Coast: “My favorite Back on My Feet memory was running at the beach in New Jersey,” he says. “I had the time of my life.”
More Impactful Progress Behind the Scenes
Those running and walking groups might be the most outwardly visible part of the Back on My Feet program, but they’re only a key first step. For dedicated members like Bradley, Back on My Feet mentors then work with members on life skills including résumé writing; financial planning; apartment leasing; and more.
And as impressive as Bradley’s running distances are, they’re not as important as what he’s accomplished outside of the running groups: He’s earned his drivers’ license. He’s found work, and found a place he enjoys living: “Since I started out in a shelter, I guess my biggest achievement was finding my own apartment and finding employment,” Bradley says. “Back on My Feet was pretty much so involved in my career, hopefully buying a home, and now that I’m successful, thinking about retirement one day.”
Peace and Understanding
It has been an honor to be part of Bradley’s journey. Through Back on My Feet, he says, “I accomplished finding time and patience, peace and understanding, and planning and organizing.” He’s won medals, but also proved to himself that he can overcome negativity challenges, and take care of his responsibilities. Grateful for Back on My Feet’s impact on his life, Bradley pays that forward by continuing to support the South Philly team as an alumni member. “I hope that day never comes that I’m not with Back on My Feet.”