Out of the blue

Years back, I wrote a post about being almost magically saved from a dog attack. I was out running early today and grunted past a spot that often reminds me of another somewhat less dramatic appearance of a sort of savior.

My first day of cross-country workouts at the beginning of my junior year in high school. I’ve been persuaded to go out for the team because I’d done well in an intramural meet in the spring, but I know nothing at all about the sport. We’ve been sent out on a 1.5 mile loop. We’re perhaps a quarter of a mile into it and I’m laboring along 50 or 60 yards behind the veteran we all expect will be our number one runner. Seemingly from nowhere, a graduated runner I know only slightly appears from I know not where, in street clothes, on my right shoulder.

“Drop your arms,” he says, striding along with me. “Swing them like this.”

Then, rapid fire: “Hold your hands like this. Drop your chin. Breathe through both your nose and mouth. Relax.”

Finally, he points to the runner out front. “You’re better than he is. Go get him.”

Then he drops off my shoulder and peels away. Gone. And to my knowledge, I’ve never seen Bill Brown again.

As for the runner ahead, I went and got him.

Life is funny. It was a fluke that I learned I had some ability to run, and without this deus ex machina assistance, I might well have just shuffled dumbly along in the ruck for a season and turned gratefully and permanently back to baseball in the spring. Which is another story altogether.

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