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January 18, 2007

Runner Dorothy

Once again, I have a few random thoughts to address before today’s post.

I realize that I’m developing a habit of doing this. Just think of it like reading a magazine, where you have to scan through the letters to the editor before you get to the real articles. At least I don’t make you flip through 30 pages of clothing and perfume ads before getting to the post.

And if you’re the kind of person who skips past the letters to the editor, feel free to scroll down below the asterisks, and rest assured that you aren’t missing anything monumental. (Come to think of it, you can probably jump to the very end, and still not miss anything important. Sorry, I’m rambling already. Off we go … )

• First, thanks to everyone who responded to my MLK post. Those comments are probably the closest thing to enlightened discourse you’ll ever find on this blog. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the next time, because I can only venture toward the fringes of civility for so long before I start itching for my comfort zone of neuroses and trivialities. Speaking of which …

• Remember how I said I didn’t want to get The Game angry at me, because he looked like a total tough guy? Well, it turns out I don’t have to worry about that for a while, because he’s currently preoccupied with beating up David Beckham. I know, you think I’m kidding – but read this story. It’s almost too funny to be believed.

Seriously now - who would have guessed that The Game even followed professional soccer? And how exactly does Beckham’s arrival in town threaten The Game’s street cred in South Central L.A.? There must be more to this story than we’re being told. I just hope that if these two guys ever do get in a fight, somebody nearby will have enough common courtesy to film the thing on his camera phone so I can watch it on YouTube.

• This pains me to say, but my first thought after hearing about Ryan Hall’s record-breaking half-marathon was, “Wow … I wonder what he’s been taking?” I’m not aware that anyone has openly asked that question yet - but it seems to me that anytime a middle-class white guy from California suddenly smashes the best times of all but the most elite East Africans, it’s a legitimate point to contemplate.

I truly hate the fact that I’m so jaded about this whole drug situation - I’m one of the biggest track fans around, and I can’t even enjoy the standout moments anymore. This kid could be the next Steve Prefontaine or Frank Shorter, but will always have a cloud of suspicion around him. What a mess.

• Finally, I find myself in a television dilemma. For the past two years I’ve heard nothing but praise and fantastic reviews of The Wire; but since I don’t get HBO, I was never able to watch the show. Then last week, BET started airing the series from season one, and I’ve recorded them on TiVo.

The problem is that they’ve run the first four episodes over a span of one week, and I’ve been too busy to actually sit down and watch them. So now, at 90 minutes per episode, I’m almost 6 hours behind before I’ve even made it out of the gate.

The only other times I’ve been in this situation have been: 1) During the Summer Olympics, when I taped eight hours of track events each day, so I could watch every qualifying event leading up to the finals, and 2) When I inexplicably had to work on the day of last year’s National Spelling Bee, then stayed up past midnight watching 5 hours of preliminaries before viewing the final rounds.

The importance of the Olympics is self-evident, and if you read this blog during the summer, you know how I feel about spelling bees. So here’s my question: Is “The Wire” in that same category of must-watch television? Will it justify the kind of time investment that I’ll need to catch up? I’d be interested to hear recommendations from anyone who has seen the show. And keep in mind that twice-weekly, two-hour American Idol episodes started this week as well – that show definitely factors into the equation. It’s getting to the point where I’d have to be the Dean Karnazes of TV watching to catch up with everything over one of these upcoming weekends.

(My goodness ... that’s over 700 words of intro. I guess at some point these ramblings should probably be a whole separate series of posts. Feel free to suggest topics. Meanwhile, let’s get to the main article. )


Today’s “official” post is a goofy bit of creative writing that appears in Thursday’s Monterey County Herald, about a group of rookie marathoners. For non-locals, Del Rey Oaks and Seaside are small towns neighboring the Monterey Peninsula. And if, after reading the piece, anyone can think of a better name for Scott, I’d love to hear it. I couldn’t think of anything that came close to rhyming with the word I wanted.

Running Life 1/18/07: “Dorothy from Del Rey Oaks”

This story may sound familiar; it’s the story of a lady we know. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call her Dorothy, who lives in Del Rey Oaks.

Dorothy was approaching middle-age and had just been through a messy divorce. Her self esteem was extremely low. She had gained weight over years and felt depressed all the time. She had no close friends to talk to other than her dear Aunt Emily.

Her only enjoyment came from walking her little dog Bobo around Roberts Lake in the morning before work. She would sometimes get lost in thought on her walks, and gradually started walking longer and longer distances.

One morning during her walk, Bobo broke loose from his leash. Dorothy ran to chase him, and made it halfway around the lake before a jogger helped out by scooping Bobo up and waiting for Dorothy. Dorothy could barely thank the man because she was so winded from the running, but afterward she felt exhilarated from the chase.

The next day Dorothy and Bobo saw the man again. She didn’t want to slow him down, so she tried jogging alongside him so they could talk. His name was Scott, and he worked as a night watchman. Scott said he wanted a better job, but his opportunities were limited because he dropped out of high school. He thought if he was only a little smarter, he could finish his education someday to advance his career.

Dorothy enjoyed the conversation and didn’t even realize she had jogged for about 20 minutes.

Scott and Dorothy began jogging together every other day, and soon ventured out on the Monterey recreation trail. One morning in Monterey they stopped upon a runner who seemed injured because of his stiff-legged stride. He wasn’t really hurt, but asked if he could run with them for a bit.

He said his name was Tim, but in high school, his track teammates called him “Tim the Man” because he used to be so fast. Tim explained that his joints occasionally felt stiff at the beginning of a run, but after he warmed up he would be fine. Dorothy noticed that he seemed to take in a lot of fluids when he ran.

Tim became a running partner of Scott and Dorothy. Tim had a sensitive side to him, and explained that he also had gone through a bad breakup. Sometimes he felt like his heart had been ripped right out of his body.

The group began meeting on weekends to run longer distances together. One Saturday, they ran all the way to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove and stopped to look at the view. Bobo walked over to a man sitting in the grass, who started yelling profanities at the dog. Dorothy confronted the man, who apologized and began to cry.

He said his name was Leon, and he had just settled in Pacific Grove after living for a while in Africa. He had a job as a safari guide, but failed miserably when he realized he was terrified of almost all animals – even little dogs. Leon had lashed out at Bobo so he wouldn’t appear too cowardly.

Dorothy, Scott, and Tim asked Leon to join them on next weekend’s run. The four became close friends and running partners.

One January morning, Dorothy showed up with entry blanks for the Big Sur Marathon at the end of April. Her three partners had the following reactions:

Scott said, “I’m not smart enough to train correctly.”

Tim the Man said, “I don’t know if my heart is strong enough to do it.”

Leon said, “I’m scared that I might not finish.”

Dorothy said, “I hear that the Chairman of the Board, Hugo Ferlito, has run all 21 Big Sur Marathons. He stands at the finish line and helps hand out medals on race day. The guy’s some kind of running wizard. We can probably learn something from him.” Finally her partners agreed to enter the race.

Scott did some research and mapped out a training plan, even getting advice from some of those small, skinny runners he knew from the local running guild. He realized the group had to increase their training right away to have enough time to prepare.

They ran together for the next three months, and when the training miles got difficult, they came up with a mantra to help them continue: “Follow the hilly black road! Follow the hilly black road!”

Finally, marathon day arrived, and it was one of the worst weather days in Bug Sur history. The wind seemed strong enough to make houses fly. It was like a tornado out there! Dorothy commented, “Bobo - We’re not in Del Rey Oaks anymore.” It looked to be a real witch of a day.

But Dorothy and her friends persevered and finished the race. Scott had a smart race strategy of running easy in the early miles. Tim used a heart rate monitor to ensure a solid effort throughout the race. Leon showed great courage to battle through “the wall” at mile 22.

They all finished with their hands in the air and big smiles on their faces. And Hugo Ferlito, the wonderful wizard they heard about, handed each of them a finisher’s medal.

After the race, Dorothy realized that she had lost 25 pounds and regained her self esteem. Tim the Man felt like he was falling in love again. Scott returned to school, passed his high school equivalency exam, and enrolled in classes at Monterey Peninsula College. Leon took a job working with sharks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Later that summer, they saw Hugo the Wizard running on the Rec Trail. They all graciously thanked him for the gifts they received.

And the wizard told them, “I didn’t give you anything that you didn’t already have inside you. It just took you 26.2 miles to find it.”


Annette 1/18/07, 10:45 AM  

That is too funny! "The hilly black road"? Oh my gosh! :) I've said it before, but, your mind works in mysterious ways. :)

As for a rapper vs. soccer player fight. . . . weird.

stronger 1/18/07, 11:46 AM  

You can turn anything into a life lessons running story. I love it!!

olga 1/18/07, 12:50 PM  

Wow! Did you really come up with it? Are you sure you are a computer job guy and not a writer? This was great, thanks!

Anne 1/18/07, 4:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne 1/18/07, 4:12 PM  

Very clever. I see where Scott's name may not be a perfect fit, but he fits the story perfectly.

craig 1/18/07, 9:39 PM  

That's what I love about visiting here Donald. You always lead me down paths I'd never travel otherwise sometimes several in one post. I enjoyed all of them.

Backofpack 1/19/07, 9:00 AM  

I'm a little slow today, I didn't really catch on till I got to Leon, then suddenly it clicked! Hilarious!

Karen C in Calgary 1/19/07, 8:34 PM  

I actually do hum a simliar tune on trail races "follow the orange-flagged trail" to myself.

Next time I do a hilly black road I'll be grinning about your funny story.

momo 1/22/07, 8:40 AM  

this is great, thanks for the good thoughts this morning!

IM Able 1/22/07, 9:48 AM  

Could Scott's last name be Crowe?

angie's pink fuzzy 1/22/07, 8:15 PM  

aww, how cute! it took me till leon to figure it out. love the hilly black road - i'm so going to use that :)

(and thx for the mlk link, that was awesome)

Spokane Al 1/22/07, 9:16 PM  

I suggest you try Netflix or some other online movie provider to catch up on The Wire. Then you can watch the episodes at your own pace.

Spokane Al 1/22/07, 10:06 PM  

Nevermind - you already have it covered with TIVO.

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