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Block by block: Local runner is first to cover every street in Milwaukee

The City of Milwaukee has 1,424 miles of paved streets, according to the city's Department of Public Works. And before Thursday, no known person had proof of covering every one of them by foot.

When Chris Ponteri ran the one block that is E. Curtis Place, wedged between N. Farwell and N. Prospect avenues, he became the first to accomplish the city-wide feat of more than 1,500 street segments.

From W. County Line Road to the north, to N. 124th St. to the west, to W. Aspen St. to the south and N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. to the east, Ponteri has covered them all; every cul-de-sac, stroad, short street, alleyway and avenue.

Ponteri moved to Wauwatosa about two years ago from the small southwest suburb of Wind Lake, where he had run every street (easily, he admits). "When I moved to 'Tosa, it opened up the world to me," he said.

It took him about four months to run every street in Wauwatosa. Then all the streets in Elm Grove, West Milwaukee and Butler. But the City of Milwaukee proper was a different beast.

"I run a lot of miles. At some point, you’re looking for new challenges," he said. "I’ve pretty much done everything I could imagine." That includes finishing the Boston Marathon and a sub-three-hour Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon about 15 years ago.

The 56-year-old isn't your average runner. His goal is to run a whopping 80 miles, six days per week. Ponteri said he ran more than 4,000 miles in 2021, including about 40 unsanctioned marathons. A financial advisor by trade, he was also race director of the now-defunct Milwaukee Running Festival.

Ponteri and his group of running buddies discovered the CityStrides website, which connects to the GPS data recorded by watches and workout apps, and tracks which streets have been completed.

"It was such an incredible experience running through all the neighborhoods in Milwaukee," he said. "Covering it on foot, you see things that nobody sees driving."

His favorite neighborhood was Wedgewood on the far southwest side of the city, where he said "the streets look like alleys and the houses look mid-century modern." He even has a favorite intersection: S. 51st Street and W. Oklahoma Avenue.

It took about a year and half to knock out Milwaukee. As for his next challenge, Ponteri is more than halfway done running through West Allis and has set his sights on Brookfield. But he's not interested in covering all of Milwaukee County due to its long rural stretches. "I’ll stick to the cities," he said. "There is nothing better than running in urban neighborhoods."

88Nine Social Media Manager | Radio Milwaukee