I’m not a shy person. I never have been. There’s a story my mom loves to tell about she, my sister, and I taking the city bus to the mall one day when I was very little. I think we just wanted to ride the bus for some reason and she obliged. I happily spoke to every single person on the bus. I guess I’ve always had an inquisitive mind and a zest for talking to people when I am in the mood. Or a big mouth. One of the two.
I’ve been known to try to talk to folks during races. Sometimes, I get cock-eyed looks suggesting they are actually trying to race instead of gab and sometimes I get an interesting conversation. The same can be said during long runs. I feel as though misery loves company and long runs are sometimes the equivalent of pure misery. Yes, that’s awfully dramatic but you marathoners know what I mean.
On Saturday, the S.O. and his two buddies were running a relay that was about 40 miles long. There were some folks running the entire 40 miles and some splitting with more or less runners. I chose to do my long run of 14 miles (recovery week yay!) and then head back to the car to go crew for their relay. They needed someone to pick them up and drop them off at the two exchange points. This meant I would run out on this particular trail for seven miles and then back to the car. All by my lonesome. NBD.
I started the run with the S.O. who stayed with me until it was a tad lighter out and made sure I was surrounded by other runners. I had water with me and knew there were bathrooms and water fountains along the trail should I need either (or both as it turned out).
As the S.O. moved off into the distance, around mile two or so, I ran up alongside a man moving about my same pace. I said, hello, of course and we started to converse. We started with the usual, “What are you training for?” and “How far are running today?” I let him know I was running 14. He told me 16. As we neared the restroom I told him I was going to make a pit stop. He said he’d come along. I told him no need to wait and he said, “No, I’m running with you. I’ll wait.” Now normally, I may have been a little apprehensive about running with a random man I met along a trail but he gave me no creeper vibe whatsoever and I was quite happy to have the company.
After my potty break we continued to run and talk. His name was Augustine, just like my maternal grandfather, and he was from the Ivory Coast, West Africa. He informed me that the Kenyans were the best runners in Africa. I told him I had heard that. Ha.
As we ran on we discussed the marathons we’d run and how he wants to run until he’s 70. He told me he was 50-years-old and I marveled at how great he looked. I told him the expression, “black don’t crack” and we chuckled at that. I am always in awe of people who leave their home countries and entire continents to live somewhere completely foreign. I just cannot imagine being that far from the home you knew for so many years.
Augustine was one of the most pleasant running companions I’ve ever run with. He waved and said hello to everyone we passed and told me I was awesome several times along our run. He was a breath of fresh air on a fairly muggy day. I asked him about the Ivory Coast and his family: two daughters, both very bright with one in college and one in high school. He also ran in Wal-Mart running shoes because they were cheaper and felt just as good as the brand name pair he used to run in.
We turned back toward the car and I had to stop yet again at the restroom. I told him sorry and he said, “That’s another benefit to running.” I almost stopped running. “Benefit?” I questioned. “Yes, good for the digestion.” Well, that’s a first.
When we arrived at the spot where Augustine and I both had a mile left to run, he to the north and I to the south, we high fived and were both really happy to have a mile left. We had grown quiet those last few miles and it was lovely to be running with someone who also not only was feeling the burn of a long run in Florida heat but who also knew that toward the end of said long run, silence is nice.
Augustine and I said goodbye and that we hoped to see each other again.