ONE GREAT THING ABOUT RUNNING, as most runners will tell you (like one did last night at the ice cream shop) is that it’s a great stress reliever. So on Tuesday, when an annoying assignment at work threatened to turn me into a grumpy, embittered soul, I jumped ship and went to Running Lab to try on a pair of Hoka One Ones. (This is the only kind of shoe shopping I can tolerate for more than five minutes.)
Bucking the minimalist, “barefoot running” craze of the past few years, these heavily padded but light shoes are all the rage with trail ultrarunners right now. And as trail ultras are on my schedule next year, it seemed a fitting time to give them a try. So I took them for a seven-mile break-in run. It was akin to running on a trampoline, but actually felt pretty good, and it took care of the stress. After a few more test runs I will post a full review.
Wednesday morning I stopped at Zingerman’s Bakehouse on my way to the office, to properly fuel up for that night’s PR Fitness run, which promised to be even colder than the night before. As I made my way back to my car with my Enough Already bagel and hot cocoa cake, a gentleman stopped me.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I saw the 26.2 sticker on your car. What does that mean?”
Some longtime runners get tired of the questions non-runners have (click here for an amusing collection). But not me – I’m happy to talk running any time, and actively try to recruit others. (Misery loves company, and all that.) So I explained it meant I’d completed a marathon.
“Well, that solves the mystery,” he said.
Now, of course, I needed to hear more. He told me that in the summer of 2009, his son Michael passed away, and his ashes were placed in the garden of the St. Francis Church. Every few months Michael’s father visits the site to lay a fresh arrangement. That first November, he found a plastic stick in the ground by the site, on which was attached a “26.2” oval. He’d had no idea who’d put it there or what it meant. Now he knew.
The answer was Ray, one of Michael’s best friends, who’d taken up running again after Michael’s death. He’d trained all summer for that year’s Detroit Marathon and dedicated his race to Michael’s memory. So it appears that after finishing the marathon, Ray had placed the 26.2 oval as a tribute. Now that the mystery is solved, Michael’s father is going to call Ray and thank him for what he did.
So my little Chicago Marathon celebratory sticker wound up benefiting someone else. Perhaps a little vanity isn’t such a bad thing?