Local Legend: Meet Charlottesville's Running Man
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Meet Philip Weber of Charlottesville…aka the Running Man...aka the British Bulldog. “I guess I’m a bit of a celebrity…not intentionally, but that's the way it worked out,” he said.
You may have seen him around, the mysterious Running Man has been pounding the pavement since the late 1980s. Through the years, Weber slowly worked his way from 3 miles to marathons. He runs more than 5,000 miles a year and has become a constant in the community.
He is extremely recognizable by how much he runs, and how little he wears, rain or shine. He's been out in his short shorts, sporting unique facial hair, for decades.
“I’ve got a bit of fame for running without a shirt in the snow,” he said. “I like to stir up trouble so I got these (British flag shorts) at the Ragged Mountain Running Shop. I would run these right around July 4, just to cause controversy, and then I got the reputation as the British Bulldog.”
For Weber, running marathon distances in one day is normal. He sometimes runs a half marathon in the morning and a half marathon in the afternoon, just for fun. “Maybe 30 kilometers 4 days in a row, and other days 25 km per day, and maybe one day of 20 km for rest,” he stated.
The Running Man says running a full marathon is no big deal. "I’ve run four of them in under three hours...or five…and one of them just over three hours. That was just after I broke my foot.”
He says the pace isn’t exhausting. "People say that but no, I just push myself. The advantage that I have is that I don't get injured with a lot of miles and so I can catch up to the fast boys and the rabbits at the end of the race."
His mileage amazes even people who work with Olympians, like Mark Lorenzoni, the co-owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop. “Oh my gosh, so 5,200 miles a year! I mean, think about what that is - that's 100 miles a week,” he stated.
Lorenzoni says Running Man brings an odd sense of comfort, he's a constant you can count on in a community that's constantly changing.
“There’s new buildings, there's new styles that people are wearing. This guy? Nope. The Running Man is still just chugging along, running. It's like the Energizer bunny. You know, has the Energizer bunny changed ever in all those commercials over the years? No, still the same.”
Weber is 55, he's never been married, or been a father, but he says he is in a relationship of sorts. “I would say I’m married to my running and to my textbooks.”
The bachelor loves Albemarle County’s rolling roads. “I kind of feel like maybe I’m in a landscape painting or an Ansel Adams. Maybe a runner's worldwide angel shot. After 16 or 17 miles, you've got the breeze flowing through you and the bales of hay in the background and it takes on a mildly surreal character,” he stated.
He says it is lonely sometimes, “I really don't have any friends or I really don't know anybody,” but he has a unique way of looking at it. “If you think you don't know anybody or don't have any friends, there’s probably somebody in one of those cars going by quietly who will come up to you and say ‘I see you all over.’ Those are my friends, even though I don't know their names.”
Weber says he has made friends along Rugby Road. “I don't even know the names of these fraternities but there sure are a lot of nice boisterous young men to motivate you to run. They would help me blast off down this road,” he stated. “It kind of spreads like a fire. You have 1, 2, 3, 10, 20, 30 voices and it just builds and makes the hair on your neck go up.”
He hopes the motivation is mutual. “I think it's important to impact the world in a positive way and that's something that I’m able to do now,” he said. “Even if people are out partying - to remind them that there's another world besides kegs of beer and fifths of liquor.”
Protein drinks are his drink of choice, but he also has a 7 gallon Gatorade bucket which he sometimes fills with Hawaiian Punch. “It’s got the same stuff that Gatorade has in it but it has more carbohydrates. So it's underrated actually as an after-running drink,” he stated.
For Weber, other running essentials are petroleum jelly, duct tape, Shoe Goo, and cotton string. He says that is what holds his life together.
He collects shoes that are thousands of miles old and operates on them daily. "These are dead and so are the ones that I’m wearing, but I had to revive them,” he said. “As far as the heels, if you just keep repairing the heels everyday you can extend the life of them.”
To make time and money for his high-mileage habit, Weber says he saved up money after graduating from the University of Virginia where he studied chemistry and music. Now, on top of running about 100 miles a week, he works 10 hours a week making audiobooks for the blind.
Weber has about 125,000 miles of progress down and who knows how many more to go. He's deeply motivated to run, but can't tell you why with a straight face.
"Because I wanted to be a professional athlete and make a million dollars. And so, since I couldn't be a professional baseball player, I took this up," he said with a smile.
His dream is different now, but very alive. “I haven't yet won a major marathon but we're still working on that. It's a work in progress.”
While he trains for that win, he says the short shorts are here to stay, but his future look may still surprise you. "I have the constantly changing facial hair and I used to have long hair and now I'm a skinhead, so stay tuned for the next episode of the Running Man."