Jim, our good ol’ junior high physical education teacher, loaded a bunch of us kids onto the back of a pickup truck. The driver took us four miles out into the country east of Rochester, dropped us off, and left.
A few of the older kids asked Jim what in tarnation was going on.
“You can run, you can walk, you can crawl. I don’t care,” he said. “But you have to make your way back to school.”
I had been running around (“ripping and tearing,” as mom would say) practically nonstop since about Day One, except for all the times I was sidelined with horrendous colds. Even then, I convinced my mom to let me go outside to play. Thus, the colds just worsened.
So the run back to school was actually kind of fun, though I was really sore the next day.
Then I fell in with a roguish bunch: The Rochester Track Club. Took their mid-winter Polar Bear Run, shuffling and dancing through the snow and relishing the kindness and guidance of father figures.
Running soon became an incredible spiritual outlet. It was practically an out-of-body experience, exploring back roads, gliding along in total euphoria, watching my shadow lead the way on soft summer evenings, heading out for more adventure on bitter winter nights.
I bailed up North Broadway and around Silver Lake on my annual New Years Eve jaunts - a skinny little kid in cotton sweatpants, a cotton sweatshirt, a stocking cap, a snot-filled scarf, wet mittens, Red Ball Jets tennis shoes, and a big grin on his face.
On iron-cold nights you couldn’t see the hundreds of geese gathered on the lake, warmed by the power plant. They were wreathed in steam. But you could hear them honking away, somehow thriving despite arctic temperatures.
They were somewhere out there, making a sound of home. Our good ol’ Silver Lake geese were as ‘Rochester’ as the giant corn cob water tower and the daily sound of bells ringing from the carillon atop the Plummer Building.
I circled the lake and sailed along, trying to breathe warm air through the wet scarf. Charged up the small hill on Eleventh Avenue Northeast and kept charging, in a groove and feeling fabulous, back to our familiar neighborhood. No matter that it was fifty below with the wind chill.
Bring it on!
That was long ago and far away. Quite a few pounds ago, unfortunately. And my beard went from red to white – totally skipped gray. But the runner’s spirit and the memories remain.
I can still charge around, by gosh, and feel good doing it. Sometimes I see my shadow leading the way again, we’re still truckin’, and it all comes back.
Oh man, oh man, oh man. So good.
How blessed can one guy get?
I hope all’s well with you, too, and that you have wonderful adventures and make great memories in 2018.
Thanks for reading the DCI.
Happy New Year, everyone!