A pack of runners moved along Third Avenue and stopped outside the old Metropolis Theatre in the Bronx, where resident history buff Pedro Rivera reached for his iPad.
He turned to his fellow runners and read passages from the history of the theater, which opened in 1893 and was all but demolished in the 1940s. All that remains is the building’s façade.
The runners meet every Tuesday as Bronx Sole, a group started last fall by Justin Mashia, 37, as a way to promote healthy living, but also to introduce Bronxites and other New Yorkers to the borough’s history.
“People have a terrible vision of what the Bronx is,” Mashia said. “The Bronx to me is the friendliest borough, but we get a bad rap. I think we can change that if we take it one Tuesday [run] at a time.”
The runners meet off of the 149th Street subway stop. They run between three and four miles at a comfortable speed, with a pacer in the back to make sure no one is left behind.
After the runners snapped a few photos of the Metropolis Theatre, they moved on and stopped at Deegan’s Rock, a marker that honors Major William Francis Deegan — a World War I veteran, architect and local politician — near the southern entrance to his namesake expressway.
“I used to meet people at that rock; I didn’t know who the person was behind it,” said Rose Garcia, 33, a marathoner and lifelong Bronxite who moved to Sunnyside, Queens three years ago.
Garcia said she keeps coming back for Bronx Sole runs because she learns the stories behind the buildings and other landmarks that she saw growing up in Hunt's Point and near St. Mary’s Park.
“The best run was probably when we went by my mom’s house by the Bronx Brewery in Port Morris,” she said. “We saw a building that my brothers and I always used to look at.”
Monique Nives, 34, traveled from her Brooklyn home for the second week in a row to run with Bronx Sole.
“It's pretty amazing how he's created his own niche to make it interesting for people who may be new or old to the Bronx, or for those who might not know their own history,” she said, adding that her family first stopped in the Bronx after moving from Puerto Rico.
Nives noted that the runs also show how the Bronx is changing.
“You don’t know what was there and what isn’t there any longer,” she said “I see all of these buildings going up and think ‘wow, where are all of these people going to go?’”
Mashia hopes incorporate groups that walk as well and encourage families to come out to exercise together. Down the road, he’d like to start a nonprofit brick-and-mortar location to offer fitness classes and movie nights for neighborhood kids.
Bronx Sole meets at 6:15 p.m. every Tuesday outside of G Bar, 575 Grand Concourse (at the northwest corner of 150th Street). More information can be found @bronxsole on Instagram and https://www.facebook.com/bronxsole/.