See how they fly like Lucy in the sky
See how they run
— the prophet lennon
I know now what it must have felt like to be Ed McMahon.
We’re on the track. Mo has veered off to do the dirt road loop, leaving me alone on the Gumbo 5K track course. Nobody is here, I guess because it’s Tuesday and school just started, or maybe everyone is sticking close to a fallout shelter. Just in case.
I’m toodling along at 13:20 pace. Trot the straight, walk the turn. Trot the straight, walk the turn. Things are going OK.
And then I’m joined by a skateboarder.
I’ve had a lot of running companions on the track, but this is my first cowabunga experience. It occurs to me that the sign doesn’t specifically outlaw skateboards. But he just rides across the track and parks it on the field before peeling off layers of clothes till he’s down to just his shorts and shoes. I watch as he jogs slowly up the field and back. Hard to tell how serious he is.
And then an old guy walks on to the track. He’s maybe 70, wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and khakis. Big El Señor hat. He’s got a pretty strong walking pace, but I steadily gain ground.
Skateboard Dude, meanwhile, is running some serious intervals, so I guess he’s legit. And then, he fishes around in his backpack and pulls out a parachute.
It’s the silly little thing you tie around your waist and run with to create resistance. I guess they must work OK, but I always thought maybe just run a little harder and achieve the same thing. But then I still have memories of the daily 20 mph Corpus headwind, so I guess I’m prejudiced.
So there we are. I’m in Lane 8 running 13:20s, Walking Hat Guy is in Lane 5 walking a little slower, and Parachute Boy is tearing up the football field. We all continue.
Walking Hat Guy is about a half a lap ahead of me. He starts looking over his shoulder to see where I am. Parachute Boy is dragging his parachute up and down the field, working way too hard for before noon on a Tuesday. Hat guy glances over his shoulder again to see where I am again. And again.
At this point, I’m weirded out. Why does he keep looking back at me? Yes, I’m stunningly attractive, but I’ve taken care not to wear a provocative outfit, and i’m projecting an air of unattainability. It’s not like we’re running the same pace and pseudo-racing. There’s no reason to be watching for me. And yet, he keeps glancing back.
It takes me maybe a lap to finally pull up even with him. Seeing that I’m there, he breaks into a huge smile. He points at Parachute Boy and says:
“Think he’s ever going to get that kite to fly?”
I long for a snare drum to perform a proper rim shot, but it’s so impractical to run with percussion instruments. Unless maybe a triangle counts? My mind races. I can come up only with:
“I hope not. Then we’d have to catch him.”
We both laugh, and I kick it up a gear to drop him. But I think about it for the rest of my run.
We’re such solitary creatures. We want to run alone, immersed in our thoughts and our own little world. But now and then, you just need a sidekick, our own personal Ed McMahon to hand you the Carnac envelopes. I was his. A good joke is terrible thing to waste.
Skateboard Dude packs his parachute, the old guy grabs his jacket and heads back to class. I finish the last couple of laps, and Mo comes back from her loop run. We stretch a bit (if Mo yelling at me to stretch while I say “blah blah Fluffy” counts as stretching), and then sit in the glorious quiet of the track.
As we walk off together, I tell her “Hey. I have a funny story.”
Maybe running is a team sport after all …