Brucian morning

I was out before seven Sunday morning, shuffling my usual VS2, and I crossed paths with two other early morning pedestrians. Bruce 1 and I have known each other for decades. We played baseball together, and, temporarily but firmly known as Speedball, he captained my high school cross-country team when I was a junior. (Our team always arrived at away meets in style. The younger boys rode in the coach’s battered, early-’50s Buick, and we grand oldsters laughed our way along in the moving clubhouse that was Bruce’s rattletrap even-earlier-’50s Chevy hydromatic—known simply as The Bomb—urging it back up to speed with encouraging comments and body english after every stop sign or signal.) On our walks, Paul and I often pass a few semi-humorous remarks with Bruce in his front yard as he heads for his car and work. Sunday, he was out for a walk of his own, and as we passed, his question about Paul was asked and answered on the fly. (Away again, eating with Gotham sophisticates in swank New York restaurants.)

Bruce 2 I barely know, but he puts me to shame. Tall, and thin as a rail, he uses that upright, light-footed, short-striding, high turnover style you often see in ultra runners, to do his daily seven miles. He runs the same out-and-back day after day, and almost never misses. When I chatted briefly with him at the library recently, he told me he’d just taken his first two days off in almost a year. He’s vastly fitter than I am, and at least 10 years younger, but he described a familiar problem to explain his enforced rest: “I begin to feel good, I push things a little, and….” Yes, yes, I understand.

The brief encounter with Bruce 1 got me thinking about favorite running partners over the years, and I quickly defaulted to memories of running with our daughter when she was very young. She would sometimes accompany me on her first bicycle. She delighted in coasting on the hills. Down, of course, but up, too, where she giggled as I leaned in and pushed her toward the top, grunting, “Pedal! Pedal!” She began coming along on foot when she was quite small. I’d cant slightly to the right to take her little hand (a technique instituted after an unfortunate trip and fall), and away we’d go for perhaps half a mile, when she’d say, “Can we take a rest now?” and we’d walk along together chatting about one thing or another, until I’d say, “How about if we pick it up again when we get to that next telephone pole?” She’d say, “How about the one after that?” And, of course, the one after that it was. Favorite running partner? No contest, really.

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