Gardner a runner with commercial appeal

Posted: April 20, 2007

Fourth in a series of Daily News profiles of runners entered in the 10-mile race on May 6.

Who: Caitlin Gardner

Resides: Oxford, Pa.

Age: 38

Occupation: physical therapist

Family: Husband, Lance (also a physical therapist); Lianna, 3; Kevin, 1.

Education: Cardinal O'Hara High, Philadelphia Pharmacy (now University of the Sciences)

TV "star": Caitlin appears in a Geico commercial with actor Peter Graves. After she and her husband wrote to Geico, thanking the company for service, she was invited to Los Angeles. "[Graves] is a fabulous man, very down to earth."

Reunited: Filming the commercial in LA enabled Caitlin to reunite with her friend, Maria, who was her inspiration for running. Caitlin: "I was a smoker in high school and in college. Maria was one of the cleanest-living people I knew in college. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 [and is doing well]. I threw the cigarettes away and decided to run the Race for the Cure. I raised $500 to fight breast cancer that year and got hooked on running."

Running debut: "It was hard, because I was still working off smoker lungs. [At the Race for the Cure] I was really emotionally moved."

Better late than never: Stopping smoking was a wise decision. "I was bent on self-destruction and didn't realize it. Now I've got those two little ones giggling and running around. I cannot imagine taking myself away from them by choosing to smoke for 1 more day."

Broad Street debut: Last year was her first. "It was hard and emotional again. I stood [on] Broad Street in a sea of people, feeling very alone. [But] I remember passing the 'Abominable Slow-Men' and laughing so hard I almost cried. I thought about Maria: She just had her 5-year cancer-free 'birthday.' There were choirs in front of the churches [on Broad Street]. It was really uplifting. When I crossed the finish line I held my arms up like I had just won the race. My dad was in the Navy, so coming into the Navy Yard was really cool."

- Bill Fleischman

MORE INFO

The 28th Blue Cross Broad Street Run, conducted by the city's Department of Recreation, begins at 8:30 a.m. at Broad Street and Somerville Avenue. The finish line is in the Naval Business Center in South Philadelphia. For information, call 215- 683-3594 or go online at www.broadstreetrun.com

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