Charles Street Runner Jogs His Commute and Inspires

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Every weekday, I make the bleary-eyed drive down Charles Street to take my kids to school.  For years, one sight has made me curious: a shirtless runner heading south in bike shorts with a long braid down his back. Oh, and he’s always carrying a briefcase.

Last week, I got the nerve to stop and speak to this fit soul, shaming me from the comfort of my cozy car and grande soy latte.

He’s Theodore “Ted” Houk, M.D., an internist who runs 5.5 miles from his Lutherville home to his office in Towson. He gamely conducted a quick Q&A.

How many years have you been doing the run to work? I bicycled from 1992-6, and have been running since November 1996.

What health benefits have you noticed? I had gained weight with a shorter commute [from Lutherville] than the 13 mile circuit from Hampden (I lived there during residency training at Union Memorial), so I switched to running [from biking].  I also realized I couldn’t wimp out just because of weather. Patients tend to say “it’s too hot, it’s too cold,” 48 weeks a year, so I like to have them see me setting a good example. Biking had more of a wind chill, so running with less clothing was necessary for heat control.  At first, I was trying to prevent heart disease but even 20 minutes twice a day  is equivalent to an antidepressant. Beyond six miles, you’re guaranteed the runner’s high; people have run on broken displaced fractures with all the endorphins floating around.

Was biking too dangerous? I was never struck but a car came within six inches. Bad weather meant bad visibility, so I resolved to hunker down under a space blanket if caught in a downpour.  Now I am farther from traffic and running against it.

Ted laughs off the price of gas.

Where do you change for the office? Do you have a shower at work?  I just lock the door and strip. If it’s 78° out I’ll rub down with alcohol.  If I sweat, it’s clean because I’ve showered at home.  Motherly nurses have seen fit to take a sniff and pronounce me fine. Actually, one sniff of pheromones in male sweat make women calm and happy all day. Happy to provide them. As you can imagine, I’ve lost any sense of embarrassment years ago. Beyond nine miles anybody would have ammonia on his/her skin from normal metabolism so a rub down is de rigeur.

Do you only run from April to October? No, I made sure I ran eight miles in Snowmagedden to have bragging rights. It was almost a white-out. I took pictures and posted them on The Sun‘s website. The snow was driven horizontally and the deer left big holes in the snow where their legs couldn’t touch down to the ground. It really never gets colder than 10-17 F when I wear cotton, wool and windbreaker layers.

Have you had any reaction from the commuters along Charles Street?  People beep and wave, I wave back.  Sometimes people say they are inspired to exercise.

Is there a runner you spot every day on your travels in your neighborhood? Let us know in the comments.





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  1. What a great story — I see him every day at the top of Charles Street where I pick up the beltway and have always wondered who he was! Thanks for posting this.

  2. I worked with Dr. Houk many years ago at Union Memorial when he was a resident. It’s always fun to read a positive story about someone from the past.

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