Monday, December 8, 2014

BAND OF BROTHERS

We fought, we clawed, we strongly disliked each other.

We were bad asses.

In distances from the 5K to the marathon, we traveled, like gypsies, from our home base in Pennsylvania, to races in New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Maryland, and D.C.

5Ks were smoked in the 15-minute range, half marathons were under 1:10, and marathons dipped into the low 2:20s.

And lest you think I'm sitting in my recliner, picking these times out of the air, or exaggerating, even by a second, check results from the Boston and New York City Marathons, The Philadelphia Distance Classic, and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in Washington, D.C.

Although we lived 100 miles apart, a gritty, tough runner from south central Pennsylvania, John Ausherman, and I seemed to encounter each other at every big race. In Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C., we always seemed to finish seconds apart. He'd take me in one race, I'd edge him on another.

We rarely spoke, as we were fierce rivals.

Twenty two years ago, on a Myrtle Beach vacation, we randomly encountered each other, along with our families. We spoke, trained together throughout the vacation, and, today, I am privileged to count him among my dearest of friends.

We get together several times a year. Our wives are like sisters. We have attended each of our daughters' weddings. My son thinks of John as a father-figure, and I think John's children: Lindsay and Tommy, as well as his son-in-law, Ray, are among the finest folks on this planet. Lindsay and Ray's daughter, Riley, is an adorable little girl, who possesses her parents' pleasant demeanor as well as their sense of humor.

Mark Will-Weber was one of the Lehigh Valley's finest runners. My rivalry was never as intense with Mark as it was with John because, frankly, Mark usually kicked my butt in races.

We became and remain friends. Mark went on to distinguish himself as a respected coach and the author of several running books.

His latest work, however, is not a book about running. It is a book about presidential drinking habits, entitled, "Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking."

Last week Mark held a book signing at a running specialty store in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, called Runners Inn.

In a gesture of remarkable friendship, Mark reached out to me and asked if I would join him to sign and sell my books, "Personal Best," and "Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes,"www.muldowneyrunning.com with him. We spent the evening reminiscing about our glory days of running, as well as signing our books.

Friendships forged on the roads, trails and in races are friendships that last a lifetime. My friends, like John and Mark know the value of hard work and dedication. They applied it to their remarkable running careers, and they have applied it to their lives. What's more, they continue to pay it forward and to pass on their running legacy. Mark continues to successfully coach runners, and John Ausherman dedicates many hours each year to conduct the Tom Ausherman 5-Mile Run, in honor of his father, held each year in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Running is more than a sport, it is a brotherhood and sisterhood.

If you appreciate and cherish your running friends as I have, you will possess true, loyal friendships for the rest of your life.
John and Lindsay Ausherman-Richards
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