Nearly every day for a year and a half, Chris Ponteri woke up at 4:30 a.m. He pulled on his sneakers and tucked a piece of paper with handwritten instructions in his pocket. From his home in Wauwatosa, he headed east in the darkness toward Milwaukee, sometimes driving to a distant starting point, other times taking off on foot from his front step. Either way, he’d run at least 9 miles as the sun rose.
On Nov. 17, he finally reached his goal: running every block of every Milwaukee city street, from the North Side stretches of Good Hope Road to the courtyard that runs through the Pabst Brewing complex to the lakeshore piers and the South Side’s College Avenue. “I really fell in love with urban running,” Ponteri says. “You see the sights and [learn] the character of each neighborhood.”
Ponteri, 56, works as a financial adviser and has been running long distances since he was in his early 20s; he even organized the first Milwaukee Marathon in 2015. His interest in obsessive urban treks was sparked four years ago when a friend introduced him to CityStrides, an app that logs runners’ routes. Living in Wind Lake at the time, he decided to run every street of the exurb, “which wasn’t a big deal,” he says. “There are like 50 of them.” His move to Tosa two years ago prompted him to take on the big city.
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Ponteri’s morning runs became increasingly byzantine as he snaked his way through more of Milwaukee. “It was very labor-intensive,” he says. On one run down a side street near Appleton Avenue, he found an 8-foot-high fence blocking the way – turning around and coming at it from the other end would waste 4 miles of his run, so he jumped up and climbed the thing.
After Ponteri finally hit every block, covering the 1,424 miles (or roughly 54 marathons) worth of paved streets in Milwaukee, he shared the results on Twitter. He was shocked at the outpouring of interest and admiration. “It seems like it inspired a lot of people,” he says. “I think people were kind of moved by someone doing this because there are so many areas of Milwaukee people consider dangerous, and I tried to show people that maybe you should open your mind to these neighborhoods.”
Having hit his MKE goal, Ponteri has turned his sights on West Allis. He hopes to have the roughly 200 miles of Stallis fully trekked within a few months, and after that, he’s not stopping – it’s on to another city.
Four of the runner’s favorite spots in Milwaukee
“This neighborhood has a lot of character. The houses are a little different, with a midcentury look. The sidewalks go through the backyards.”
51st and Oklahoma
“A lot of South Side neighborhoods like this make you feel like you
went back in time.”
Roosevelt Grove/Sherman Park
“This area’s really special. People keep up their houses nicely. Really, the whole Northwest Side is worth exploring.”
“You get to see the oldest parts of Milwaukee here.”