All North Austin residents have seen the exuberant Running Man at the intersection of Rundberg and Lamar: he has run and danced every afternoon at that corner for two years. On a mission to make at least one person smile per day, Broderick James is a figure of hope and inspiration to many. As he comments on his Facebook page, “I run to show that I am opposed to poverty, stress, depression and obesity. I will continue to run until my mission makes a significant impact in my community.”
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, ex-military Running Man moved to Austin 6 years ago. Tormented by an ugly divorce and a criminal background, he struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide. Running turned his life around, and he has focused his life on being a source of optimism and positivity in North Austin. “I gave up on a lot of my dreams, but this is, to me, redemption… my resurrection moment to give back, and I look forward to that,” he says. He runs twenty miles a day in four hours, all year round. He learned his drills while serving in Iraq, so the heat of summer is no deterrent.
When asked about his choice of locations, he comments, “When I first moved here, Rundburg was the first area people warned me about; that this was where the ‘hood is, where the drugs are. When I started running, someone gave me the name Prime Time, and so I chose the area that was the ‘most watched’ area. People are so negative about this area, and I want to be in this neighborhood so long that instead of talking about this place with negativity, when you think about Rundberg, you think about Running Man.”
Of his message, Running Man says, “A lot of people in poor areas, they haven’t been empowered… [They’re] not accustomed to seeing somebody do something different, express their individuality and personality and be free about it. I love expressing myself and I want to see other people be unafraid. I think we live in a world right now where people are afraid to express themselves, because they’re afraid of what people will say about them. I love people to create conversation about me.” He comments that he’s “very fortunate, very grateful” to be able to support himself through a small family inheritance and thus focus wholeheartedly on his mission.
An ardent Christian whose mother is a pastor, Running Man says, “It’s what I do when I’m not out here that makes me so impactful… and able to penetrate so many people’s hearts. When I’m home, I’m constantly trying to get to know god more.” Running man’s spiritual beliefs influence his musical tastes, as well; he listens to “inspirational and positive music” when he trains, including bands like the Black-Eyed Peas and Creed.
Running Man is particularly interested in providing positive role models for at-risk youth in North Austin, and in 2010 founded an outreach group called Prime Time Kingz and Queenz with the mission “to infuse change and form a unity among the youth of Austin, TX”. The group holds a weekly meeting called “Global Minded” to “instill unity among young people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds” on Friday nights at the local McDonald’s.
Aiming to inspire by example, Running Man comments, “I try to keep my pants up, and try to dress neatly – stay well groomed – because I’m sorry to say that the image of my Black men is that we are thugs – that we look a certain way – and I want to change that whole landscape; I want to create a whole new image for our young men.”