True Bonds

I drove into the far parking lot at Carroll Community College and parked my car. I was there fifteen minutes early for an 8:30 run with Steve Moore.

I needed the extra time to ready myself, so I got out of the car and did some drills. Then I set off for a jog around the large building.

It was a Sunday morning, and no one else was there to see my stiff shuffle. The rigidity gradually release it’s hold, and by the time I returned to my car I was moving more fluidly.

I was finishing a few more drills as Steve pulled his car next to mine. He gave me an exuberant greeting; a reception he offers everyone he meets.

I first met Steve in the summer of 2014 when he joined my Flying Feet Running Program. He was the most accomplished runner in the group, but that didn’t stop him from connecting with everyone else. Like me, Steve appreciates our sport at the deepest level, and every dedicated runner, regardless of speed, has his admiration.

We spoke about how the morning had gone so far as we began our run. We moved across the parking lot and onto the grass field leading to the YMCA. Then we began looping around the gravel trail there.

Steve let me set the pace, well aware that I would fade quickly if he decided to hammer.

It’s probably hard to find an experienced runner who doesn’t exude a certain level of passion for running. But I’ve only encountered a handful that immerse themselves like Steve and I do. We are keen observers of the local running scene but even more enamored with running history.

As we ran, we talked about how Emil Zatopek redefined training for distance runners with his performances at the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games. We admired Steve Prefontaine for helping us see that racing can be a form of expression, and agreed that runners like Frank Shorter, Bill Rogers and Craig Virgin make us proud of our American running heritage.

We spent time celebrating the regional elites of years past, when the number of competitive runners far outnumbered those of today. We theorized why our sport can’t duplicate the same depth now.

We wondered whether the recreational tone of today’s races represents progress or regression, and found reasonable arguments on both sides of the discussion.

After becoming bored running in a circle, we ran back onto the grassy fields, then out in the direction of Westminster High School. We moved together on the grass along Old Washington Road, not paying much attention to the cars that passed us, but very attuned to the words of one another.

Steve still has competitive aspirations, some unfinished business if you will, and he has set a few goals he’s itching to accomplish. And yet, every time he reaches consistency in his training something sidetracks his efforts.

He’s had recurring calf strains, bronchitis and even walking pneumonia, all perfectly timed so that just as one issue is resolving another issue crops up.

And so we commiserated and reassured one another as we moved around school drives and grassy fields.

Almost two years ago now, Steve opened Run Moore in downtown Westminster, giving a gift to a community that needed a specialty running store. When you visit, the first thing you’ll receive is Steve’s warm greeting, followed by a deep interest in your individual needs.

Run Moore has quickly become the heart of the local running scene, a place where runners go just to talk with other runners. There are organized runs from the store as well, and many new running friendships have grown through Steve’s efforts.

Before our run ended, I asked Steve how his store is doing. He wonders how I’m doing with Flying Feet. We talk about the success and the challenges, both respecting the investment the other is making in the sport we love.

We ran back to our cars and then stopped, pacing for a few minutes before reaching for our drinks. As Steve climbed into the car to rush toward the obligations of the day, his parting words were as cheerful as his greeting. And then he was gone.

It doesn’t matter what you know or what you’ve accomplished before a run starts, the effort will make it clear that you have limitations. When we run together, we share our strength and our frailty, and become a part of a community that offers both encouragement and compassion.

This seems unique in a time when divisiveness feels widespread, and I wonder why runners connect so easily. Perhaps is difficult to pass judgement on someone else when your own weakness is on display. Maybe it’s because true bonds are formed when you struggle beside someone else.

Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for my running friends.

When you go to Run Moore, the first thing you’ll receive is unconditional acceptance, followed quickly by an offer to help with whatever your hoping to improve. You might see me there too, asking Steve for his perspective, or planning our next run.