The Cat Born to Run
A unique feline's pastime turns into worldwide attention on rescue cats.
Susan Logan |
Posted: February 20, 2014, 3 p.m. EST
When Michael Greenblatt went for his morning run one day in November 2008, he didn’t expect a new best friend and running partner to show up in his life. The traveling fitness trainer from Ocean County, N.J., also didn’t expect his new best friend to become as high-profile as the celebrities and athletes he’s trained for the past 25 years.
Greenblatt befriended the tiny kitten he saw on his doorstep. Photos Courtesy Michael Greenblatt
Roadrunner and Greenblatt shared a love of running.
Roadrunner has run more than 20 courses with Greenblatt.
Black cats have always had a special place in Greenblatt's heart.
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When he stepped out of his home that day he noticed a kitten across the street staring at him. "She was beautiful,” he says of the black kitten who stole his heart. "She just kept staring at me.”He found out from the woman who owned the house and had been feeding her, that the kitten had been abandoned there in a shoebox.
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The next morning when Greenblatt went for his run, the kitten was on his doorstep and followed him. She began meeting him every morning at his usual 5:30 running time to join him on his runs over street, sidewalk, beach, jetty and boardwalk. Thinking this was highly unusual, he asked veterinarians and local SPCA staff if they had ever heard of cats who do distance running with humans. They never had.
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A lifelong cat lover, Greenblatt fell in love with the kitten. "I love black cats,” he says. "All I knew growing up was black cats.”This little black kitten reminded Greenblatt of two he had when he was a boy and made him think of his mother, who also loved black cats.
He convinced his neighbor that he was going to keep the kitten and brought her to the SPCA to get spayed. The staff there estimated that she was born on Apr. 30, 2008, a significant date on Greenblatt’s calendar. "I got chills going through me,” he says. "Apr. 30, 1999, is when my mom passed. My sister said, ‘See, Mom sent you the best present.’ It cheers me up on the saddest day of the year for me.”Wanting to come up with a unique name for his unique present, Greenblatt began calling her Roadrunner.Together Greenblatt and Roadrunner have run more than 20 different courses over the past five year. "We do all different types of workouts,” he says. "We have easy and long runs; some days we run in the sand. She runs on the boardwalk and the beach. She leads the way.”Roadrunner also gets days off. "Being a fitness trainer, you have to monitor your athletes. You can just tell when she’s tired.”With two sets of stairs and a big corridor in his home, Greenblatt set up an indoor course for days when the weather doesn’t permit outdoor activity. "There’s a lot of good workouts we can do inside.”
Greenblatt’s top priority is safety. "My eyes are always open,” he says. "From Day One Roadrunner’s safety and health come first. We go very early in the morning. We’re out running before the garbage trucks, school buses, before everything. On the rare occasion, the second I see anything – a car, a bike – I scoop her up in my arms. I’m always aware and we haven’t even had one close call."
After Hurricane Sandy, Greenblatt and Roadrunner were displaced for 100 days and had to relocate. During this time, Roadrunner ran daily – on a big backyard deck at the house where they stayed. The boardwalk has been rebuilt since the hurricane and the pair were able to resume their usual routes. "It’s so quiet when we go out at that time of the morning,” he says. "It’s very peaceful down there.”
Greenblatt had a website created for Roadrunner. In Feb. 2011, a writer called to write a story for People magazine. Then on Mar. 1, 2011, Roadrunner appeared on AOL'S newsfeed as one of the top ten news stories in the world. That same night, Roadrunner’s YouTube video received more than 150,000 hits and Greenblatt received more than 500 positive messages from people all over the world.
Several rescue organizations posted Roadrunner’s story on their websites, because the feline sensation has brought worldwide attention to rescue cats. A Facebook fan page followed. The Associated Press contacted him, which led to stories that were published in Taiwan and China. In Sep. 2011, Animal Planet featured Roadrunner on "Must Love Cats.” Two months later, St. Louis-based Purina Pet Care made its own Roadrunner video, Greenblatt’s favorite to date. Recently she landed an advertising gig for a cat supplements company and she also has a literary agent. A children’s book is in the works.
"This all is very flattering,” Greenblatt says. "Even though she’s become an international star, more importantly, Roadrunner is my best friend and she’s my companion whom I love with all my heart. Roadrunner’s safety and health come first. I love her like family. I’d protect her with my life.”
What does she do besides running? "Her most favorite thing to do is sleeping on my chest,” Greenblatt says. She flies into the room at bedtime and Greenblatt better not be late, because when he is, she lets him have it. "If it’s bedtime she starts meowing like there’s no tomorrow.”
Roadrunner also loves the car and Greenblatt has driven to 15 different states with her. "I’ve never seen a cat like the car this much,” he says.
"What makes Roadrunner so unique is that many people have cats who follow them, however, Roadrunner leads the way and I follow her,” he says. "She’s the boss.”
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The Cat Born to Run