News & Community

Meet the Runner Who Has Wandered Every Street in Baltimore

Michael Lisicky recently crossed off the final stretches of his eight-month endeavor, which allowed him to get more deeply acquainted with the city's many neighborhoods.
—Photography by Josh Taff

Amid the bustling chaos outside Lexington Market, Michael Lisicky double checks his phone for today’s route. On this warm mid-February afternoon, the 59-year-old Baltimore Symphony Orchestra oboe player plans to jog three miles—a mishmash of alleys and lanes—crossing off the final stretches of an eight-month endeavor to literally run every street in Baltimore.

“Clay Street runs behind [what was once] Hutzler’s, which is a fitting start; that place redefined my identity,” says Lisicky, referring to his well-received history of the iconic department store, founded at the corner of Clay and Howard streets by German-Jewish peddler Moses Hutzler and his son Abram in 1858.

Donning a black hoodie, gray basketball shorts, and a shiny pair of blue Brooks running shoes, Lisicky smiles and takes in the crowded scene—the Metro and Light Rail commuters, the market’s lunchtime customers, random sidewalk salesmen.

“A guy asked if I was looking for bottles. I don’t even know what he meant. I patted him on the back, ‘No, not interested,’” Lisicky recounts before scrambling down Clay and veering onto Kimmel Street, revealing a Strawbridge & Clothier tattoo on his bulging left calf. (His mother worked for the retailer.)

He is nothing if not diligent. Since he began last July, Lisicky has stumbled across several hidden streets that Google missed, adding them to his personal city map (see above photo). His knowledge of Baltimore’s quirkily named streets has grown as well. He’s intentionally ending his ritual with a sprint up Dark Lane, which is squeezed between high-rise apartments and the City Office of the Public Defender and certainly getting less sunlight now than when officially named in 1817.

Later, he’ll be greeted by his wife, Sandy, and BSO musicians Karin Brown and Ivan Stefanovic for a celebratory toast of 12-year- old Glenglassaugh single malt Scotch. Done, but not quite.

“I’ve still got to go back to the intersection of High and Low streets and take a photo,” Lisicky says with laugh. “Sounds manic-depressive, right?”

He also likes the names Scrabble Alley, Yell Street, and Fear Avenue, and he loves Shakespeare Street in Fells Point and Lollipop Lane in Bolton Hill. The redundancy of Concrete Road and Asphalt Street made him chuckle during a trek through industrial Curtis Bay, as did names of some of the drinking establishments there, including Jim Dandy’s Tavern.

But more than getting familiar with the streets themselves, it’s been getting acquainted with the city’s neighborhoods and people that has been the most fun and uplifting.

“How many people know of the Hyde Park community?” Lisicky asks. “I’d been down Park Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road, doing what I call ‘grid filling,’ and I end up in this tight-knight community with these beautiful homes. The sun is out and the big green space is like an oasis, and there’s this church [St. Ambrose] that towers over it.”

Rain, sleet, sun, or snow, Lisicky has run through Baltimore’s thriving and struggling sections alike, including the Linden Heights Avenue block where firefighters Rodney Pitts III and Dillon Rinaldo died battling a rowhouse blaze last September. “I know that street, that’s a hard street,” he says.

Just north, he recalls running across an 8-year-old youngster, who asked if he was exercising, and his sister, who wanted to know his name. When Lisicky told them, the boy said that there were lots of Michaels in his school. Right before Lisicky turned to continue his run, he apologized for not asking the boy his name. “Beethoven,” the kid replied.

“I didn’t want to pull the whole symphony card thing, so I’m like, ‘I know Beethoven. Do you know about Beethoven?’” Lisicky recalls. “He says, ‘Yes.’ I said I play music by Beethoven with violins and trumpet. A good stready rhythm was very important to Beethoven. He seemed curious and interested. It was a wonderful small connection. I felt his energy with me the rest of the day.”

Along the way, Lisicky maintained a blog and gained some local media and television coverage. At the end, he occasionally got recognized on his daily excursions. Two weeks after completing his ambitious and heartfelt project, however, he admitted to feeling at loose ends. It’s natural, of course.

“I’m going through a letdown. It’s not the same, by any means, but almost like a post-partum depression,” says Lisicky, during an uphill jog from Little Italy to Patterson Park. “I only feel better when I run.”

On cue, a man steps down his Bank Street rowhouse stoop and waves and yells to Lisicky. “Hey, aren’t you the guy who’s run every street? Love it, man. Inspiring stuff.”