Climbing the hill, climbing the curve

Here’s hoping we all can catch our breath soon

Jenckes Street hill in Providence
Jenckes Street hill in ProvidenceEdward Fitzpatrick

PROVIDENCE - A blog for hard-core bicyclists describes the Jenckes Street climb as “one of the hardest hills in Rhode Island.”

The section from North Main Street to Benefit Street is actually Star Street, and it has the steepest section, the Brentacol blog notes. But after the benefit of a respite on Benefit, you face an unrelenting rise to Prospect Street on Providence’s East Side.

In all, the climb has an average gradient of 12.1 percent and a maximum gradient of 23.4 percent. According to the blog, writer H.P. Lovecraft lived on this street. And for a runner, it can be a real horror show.


But I decided to run up it the other day. After being cooped up amid the epidemic, I needed to get outside, charge, and recharge. And as I started the ascent, I couldn’t help but think about that daunting coronavirus slope.

By now, we’re all too familiar with the image of the mountain-like COVID-19 curve -- and its grim implications.

Certainly, I would have welcomed a way to flatten the slope ahead of me. The climb brought on symptoms that would signal trouble in another context: shortness of breath, pain, fatigue.

Part of me wanted to stop. But I also wanted to get to the top. I wanted this to be over.

I thought of all those Rhode Islanders, fellow Americans in other states, and people around the world who are battling this frightening and too-often deadly virus. I thought of the uphill battle their families and friends are waging, frantic with worry, uncertain about the future, gripped by grief. The Jenckes Street hill didn’t seem so daunting.

Eventually, the grade eased. I reached the top. I caught my breath. I made it home.

I returned hoping we all can catch our breath soon. I hope we all make it home safely. I hope this is over soon.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com