Early Sunday morning, Ted Booth and Matt Gross hit the road from their home in Brooklyn, N.Y., to drive to Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philly.
“We knew we were in the right place when we saw the adult bookstore,” Gross, 46, said.
The men came to Philly to participate in the Fraud Street Run, an “11-ish mile” charity race inspired by the bizarre news conference Rudy Giuliani held in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping (near the Fantasy Island sex shop and the Delaware Valley Cremation Center), as news of Joe Biden’s presidential victory swept the nation Nov. 7.
The news conference originally was announced for the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City, but the venue later was announced for the Northeast Philadelphia site, instead.
Though the unexpected popularity of the run forced race organizers Jeff Lyons and Chip Chantry (hosts of the Junk Miles podcast) to make the race all-virtual — meaning anyone in the world could participate by running an 11-mile course of their choosing Saturday or Sunday — several dozen runners still showed up in Northeast Philly early Sunday to run the race as it was intended, from the “famous” Four Seasons Total Landscaping to the “lesser-known” Four Seasons hotel in Center City (making for a better turnout than the news conference itself, as one Twitter user noted).
As runners arrived on site, Sean Middleton, director of sales for Four Seasons Total Landscaping, handed out company-branded stickers. He said the news conference and the subsequent memes it inspired have brought hundreds of people to their business to take photos.
“People have knocked on our door from all throughout the world, as far away as from Australia,” he said. “I guess American politics are big all over.”
On Wednesday, two sisters, one from New York City and one from Bethlehem, Pa., even met at the landscaping business and had a full Thanksgiving picnic lunch — with champagne — outside on a blanket on the sidewalk, Middleton said. And so far, the company has sold more than 30,000 shirts with its catchy “Lawn and Order” phrase on them.
“We’re from Northeast Philly, we can laugh at ourselves,” Middleton said. “For us to come out and make a political statement as Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philly was never our intent.”
When Lyons thought up the idea for the Fraud Street Run (a play on words of Philly’s popular Broad Street Run), he thought maybe a handful of people would show up, but when he put the idea out on social media Nov. 9, the internet ran with it.
Not only did more than 2,100 people sign up to participate from around the world, but through requested donations of $10 for participation, the virtual event raised more than $50,000 for Philabundance, a milestone that was marked while Lyons was greeting participants on-site at Four Seasons Total Landscaping on Sunday.
For Sav Nop, 51, who lives less than three miles from Four Seasons Total Landscaping, participating in the charity run he’d heard so much about was both purposeful and poignant.
“My mother was cremated across the street,” he said, as he looked over at the Delaware Valley Cremation Center.
Throughout the morning, runners showed up at the landscaping business in shirts that read “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” and “Bada— things happen in Philadelphia,” as well as paper bibs they’d printed out from the Fraud Street Run website.
Many, however, decided to run to and from various Four Seasons-named businesses in their own backyard, including a Four Seasons Hair and Nail Design, a Four Seasons Bowling Center Arcade, and a Four Seasons Fitness Center.
Brian Kelley, 49, ran his course in his hometown of Hamilton Township, N.J., pausing along the way to take a photo of himself posed like Captain Morgan with landscaping equipment and another photo of a sign that read “Rudy’s Landscaping.”
“Completed my #Virtual #FraudStreetRun with 11.5 LEGAL MILES!” Kelley posted on Twitter. “Even sweated like Giuliani, who may or may not be trying to muscle in on Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s business based on the sign I saw.”
In Germany, Karsten Becker, 39, ran from his hometown in Neuenhagen to the Four Seasons Elementary School and Kindergarten in the neighboring town of Petershagen. He said while he enjoys watching what’s happening in the United States “with the same curiosity I watch monkeys in a zoo” he said the actions of U.S. presidents have long-lasting impacts, even on the people in Germany.
“The weakest link of a democracy is social contract of people to the institutions. Trump was a master in tearing a hole into that contract,” Karsten said. “That is why I participated in that run, to at least let people in power know that their behavior is not tolerated. And attacking the president’s ego by calling him a fraud might just be the right way.”
A few politicians even got in on the Fraud Street Run action. Former Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges tweeted photos of herself doing the run, as did a local congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon.
“While the annual turkey trot might have been canceled this year, I still needed to break in my new shirt,” Scanlon tweeted, along with a picture of herself in official Fraud Street Run gear.
In the spirit of the race, many runners ran less than 11 miles, but called reports of them doing otherwise “fake news.” Other participants said data from their running apps, which showed they averaged an 11-minute mile, were obviously fraudulent because they know they ran 7-minute miles.
And several people unilaterally declared themselves victors of the race, despite organizers expressly stating there would be no awards or winners.
“’We won BIG BIG win. We were fastly fast! Philly Loves US. Everyone adores us! We are the best of the best,” read one sign posted by participants in Orlando, Fla.
Shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday, after most of the crowd had dissipated, Maria Paredes and four other women from T3 Philly, a Philadelphia-based triathlon club, rode up to Four Seasons Total Landscaping on their bicycles to start their Fraud Street Run.
“You mess with Philly and this is what happens,” Paredes said. “You get a whole run out of it.”