Sunday, January 19, 2014

FIVE DECADES

Whether you are a beginner or a veteran of the sport of running, there is one common thread. In this sport, you will make friendships that will last a lifetime.

In my book, "Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes," www.runningshortsbook.com, I begin with a chapter entitled, 'Cast of Characters,' in which I talk about some of my oldest and dearest running partners who have helped to shape my running career, but who have also become woven into the fabric of my life. Over the years we have celebrated births, graduations, and weddings of our children. We have grieved together at the loss of loved ones. We have celebrated triumphs and tragedies, as well as brushes with death. At the same time, we have remained fiercely competitive. When the gun sounds, our friendship is temporarily suspended, only to be resumed at the post race celebration.

This morning I ran with my oldest continuous running mate, Brian Tonitis. Fresh out of college, we began running together in 1978, so our training runs and races have covered five decades.

What's more, in a span of time from 2010 to 2012, I logged more miles with Brian's son, Matt, than with Brian. Matt and I ran the Philadelphia and Boston Marathons together. Runners are generally good, hard working folks and productive members of society. Today, Matt Tonitis is a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police. I pity the criminal who thinks he will run away from Matt.

Through 20-mile runs, during brutal speed workouts on the track, in blizzards, through inferno-like heat, we have been out there. Today, Brian and I met at "The Stump," a street corner that had formerly been home to a large oak tree, which had been cut down, reduced to a stump, and has, with the years, eroded away, but it's still "The Stump" to us. Someday, like The Stump, we, too, may be cut down, reduced, and will fade away.

Until then, we'll run.

                                                                      Matt Tonitis