I’m walking on the sidewalk adjacent to the track with an old guy. He appears to be crazy fast, that weathered aura of 70-mile weeks for 70 years. And he’s not pleased.
The track’s locked, something that lately has become the rule rather than the exception. I just came back from checking to see if the secret back gate was open (it was not) when I encounter him in his futile effort to get in.
It’s his first time here. He’s heard about it from some fast friends and was hoping to take it for a spin. I tell him the story of how it increasingly stays locked. Liability concerns or cost-cutting or vandalism or evil monkeys or whatever. I say it’s a shame because so many people come here. Gold medalists, slow walkers, gazelles, special needs. I tell him about the Nike Oregon Project guy doing 800s recently, and what a joy it was to share the track with someone who flies.
He nods and says he’s from Oregon. Knows a lot of the guys. Says he was friends with Bowerman, who tried to talk him into selling some goofy waffle shoes he had just invented back in the old days. I had a wife and kids, he says. Didn’t do it. He shakes his head and seems to drift away for a moment.
That’s the thing about the track. You’d think it’s dull, same monotonous thing every day. but it’s not. It’s like a coffee shop. There’s almost always a surprise, an adventure. You go there never knowing what you’ll find.
Lately, all we’re finding is a lock.
He points out that runners are a timid lot, the least likely people to cause harm. We need more tracks, he says. I nod and shrug and that’s that.
He says thanks as we reach the parking lot. “Bastards,” he says again softly, and takes off running south in an easy stride.
I get into the warmth of the car and wonder if it will ever be back. Twenty years is a lot of memories. I thought it would never end, but I suppose everything must. Still, DNFs hurt.