The Special Value of Friends
By Gordon Cherr,
The searing Tallahassee summer became just too much a few weeks ago and I succumbed to the siren call of Asheville, again, if only for a week. It seemed a good trade at the time and it was – switching the unbearable humidity and heat that makes running the flats daily from June through October such a chore with ungodly hard uphill and downhill running calculated to wreak havoc on every leg muscle from the waist down. It would be cooler and a lot less humid, but I would be worrying about bears again. Life is a continuing compromise.
We drove all day Saturday, but Sunday morning I headed for the Arboretum, in search of some missed running buddies. Much to my joy, they were there at 8:30, as always. Darryl (“Derrl”), the ringleader, was first to speak: “Boy, you got fat”. The two Nancys: “We missed you.” Janet and Melissa and Tammy: “We are gonna kill you on the hills, you flatlander” (and they did). There were others and each and every one had a greeting. As always there was no mercy on the hills but we laughed our way through the miles. There was much news to share and this run was over before I knew it. I paid but it was worth it. I have missed the gentle humor of these people.
On Sunday I saw Lloyd. Lloyd is a special runner. He is 65 years old and his body is one big artery. Not one discernible ounce of fat anywhere, he runs about 100 miles a week at his patient pace. Last year he went out to Lake Tahoe to run a three day marathon, a marathon a day, for three days. Think about it. He did that and then a 50K the very next weekend and was mad because the 50K time was not up to his usual high standards. This is typical Lloyd.
We had a great run. He toyed with me and took me up some hills in my old neighborhood that I never knew existed, he mistreated me royally. I only wanted to go for 45 minutes, but he kept torturing me for an hour and a half. I realized later that there was purpose to this. Lloyd is usually very quiet, we had sometimes run together for hours with hardly a word. But he was a chatterbox last week, and I realized when he finally said “Good-bye, maybe see you next November”, that we were both close to tears. Then later, when I stopped by Jus’ Running, to pick up some shoes, one of the two young ladies behind the counter said “Hey, didn’t we used to run Turkey Pen together, where have you been?” And I remembered her too.
Running forges friendships stronger than the mightiest steel. These bonds never end, they last a lifetime, maybe beyond a lifetime. I often remember back to my high school and college running mates. Boris, the mad Hungarian. Rose, who all the girls adored. The Rat. Swanny, who was the best runner of us all. Little Frankie. The Kid. The Walrus. Hardly do I ever have a run and not have them pop into my mind. Or those I ran with here, years ago (the names are unimportant). Now some of us are separated by distance, and a few like Tim Simpkins or Dean Chenoweth are gone from us for good, but they still pass through my consciousness often. Even when I run alone they are never far. And I am never alone. Isn’t this the same for you?
Or the friends I run with here, now. I may not see you as often as before, but I can show up at your door or you at mine, and we can pick up exactly where we were a few days or weeks ago. Thank you for the comfort you all have given me countless times, over endless miles. Even if you are not physically there busting it with me, and especially when you are.
To all of you, my friends, runners all, you are special and I owe you so much. When you see me on the roads or trails of this life, remember to wave back.