This letter is long overdue. You’ve been with me longer than my 35-year-marriage. Longer than my affection for the music of Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys. And longer than all but few of my relationships.
We’ve always been somewhat of an odd couple. I was a chubby kid who couldn’t even make it around the block that first time I tried to run. I can mark the specific house where my burning lungs and dead legs forced me to stop. But I looked up to my friends who ran cross-county in high school and wanted to be like them.
I think I came along at the perfect time in the development of running in the United States. I never until recently thought about how unusual it was that I was a fan of runners and running at a young age. Sure, I knew the household names like Prefontaine, Liquori, and Shorter, but I also knew the less well-known athletes like Wottle, Wohlhuter, and Waldrop.
When I asked the coach if this 5’11”, 180-lb ninth-grade shot putter could run the mile, I had no delusions that I would ever compete to win. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be fun to spend practice running. And it was.
I couldn’t afford the Jim Fixx best-seller “The Complete Book of Running” when it hit the shelves in the late 1970s, coinciding with the running boom, so I would stand for long periods of time in the student book store and read it. At that time, I had walked on to the UNC track team in the discus, mainly because it was wondrous to me to experience in a small way the same environment as Jim Beatty, Tony Waldrop, and Reggie McAfee.
One late night in 1980, I heard Bill Rodgers on The Larry King Show on radio and an idea was born, that I might one day run a marathon. By the end of the decade, I had run three, and I thought that would be the end of it.
But you were going to remain a part of my life. Even when I became passionate about other sports like rowing and martial arts, I never took time off from running.
When my daughters got older and there was a bit of a hole in my life, you were there. I spent more time than ever on the road. I believe I listened to all seven Harry Potter books while running.
I like to say, “Friends are the family you choose.” A few years ago, I found my family in the form of a training group sponsored by our local Fleet Feet store. My training partners are now my closest friends.
After 43 years, I think it’s safe to say you will be with me forever. When I feel down or when I feel happy or when I want to visit with a friend or if I need time alone — you will be there. And if the day comes when I can no longer run, I will be grateful for every minute spent with you.