Steve picked me up this morning at 645. Anytime we do a race together it’s assumed he acts as my driver. We talked about how nice it was to sleep in this morning, as getting up at 530 is sleeping in to me! We headed out to the Travis County Exposition Center for the Decker half marathon. It actually is closer to my house than town lake. For those not in Austin, Decker is a race that has been around forever just a little bit outside of Austin. It’s one of just a few local races not on the same downtown loop that every other race is on. It is a series of rolling hills, and in runner lore is much to do about nothing, in my opinion, as the hills really are not bad, but the fact that the weather almost always is, it is a somewhat notorious race. It is also one of my favorites, as there are no bands on the course, no cheerleading squads, no cowbells, and themed water stops. All these have their place, but Decker is just a nice country run on a cold day for the most part ( and you get a great shirt and post race goodies most years).
Anyhow, I decided a while ago to toss any goals out the window and run with Steve as a fun run. Steve is moving to Tennessee in just a few days for a new job. It has been a little sudden…I think he just found out less than 2 weeks ago. To say Steve will be missed by me is an understatement. We’ve become the best of friends over the years, even if we are a slightly odd pair. Ever have those friends that just “get you”? There are many examples. Steve recently invited me to play a game he and his brother play where they read the NY Times wedding pages and pick the most obnoxious couple. I’d been playing that game on my own for years! Little did I know he was doing it all along. Another example, we both go back and forth on our favorite Woody Allen movie…which is perhaps our all time favorite movie. He leans a little more towards Annie Hall, and I lean a little more towards Manhattan. One of my favorite runs with Steve was a couple years ago on New Years Day. I mentioned I was reading a book I just kinda stumbled on about Cooperstown, a sea monster, a running group, and a young archeologist. It wasn’t a best seller, it wasn’t on any lists. Turns out he was reading the same book! It was a really cold day and we didn’t see any other runners. Just two friends having an informal book club meeting while covering 14 miles.
We’re both misfits when it comes to the Austin running scene. We aren’t in anyone’s group, our running clothes don’t quite match, we never have the latest gear, and things like getting shoved at the water stop at town lake or being asked if you run the Daisy 5K each year (an all womens race…a strange thing to ask a man), are the kind of things that happen to us. But I think our running philosophies are similar: Forget all the races, the gadgets, and the fancy training groups. Just give me a nice pretty morning, a few miles and some good conversation with a friend. Throw in breakfast with some good coffee afterwards, and you have one of life’s greatest pleasures.
So Decker was a really good run. We engaged in our usual scavenger hunt (on the list this year: a barefoot runner, a runner in 5 finger shoes, a group of men with terrible bedheads, someone actually visiting the self promoting chiropractor at the race check in, to name a few). We laughed at inside jokes, and laughed at ourselves and made fun of how silly it seemed to be running into a strong headwind on a 40 degree morning. Steve appropriately rolled his eyes as I requested a bathroom stop at mile 2, and I appropriately responded with a laugh when someone asked Steve “Are you Mark Richards?”….I also said, “oh no, Mark is much faster.” We finished and got out quickly and Steve was kind enough to indulge me in stopping at a Starbucks, even though he would never go to one voluntarily.
So yes, running in Austin will never quite be the same for me. A few years ago I met Steve through Stephanie who told me she ran with a really fun group of engineers and that I should join them. I later found out “really fun engineers” is an oxymoron. Somehow we morphed in “The Sisters”. The only real criteria to being a sister is the ability to really laugh at yourself…and Steve and I do that more than anything.
I could go on and on. But I’ll wrap up by saying a good friend really is hard to find, and I look forward to meeting up at our next race.
Good luck in Tennessee, Steve.