This is my second KQED Perspectives piece. It’s based on an original blog post of the same name. It felt timeless so I thought I would try and make it work in audio essay form. It aired on KQED Public Radio on October 3, 2016.
Last Sunday I was in Golden Gate Park standing in the middle of the intersection at Chain of Lakes and John F. Kennedy with one of my course monitor crews for the Kaiser Half Marathon. The number of runners had dwindled considerably and I was waiting for the sweep vehicle to pass so I could combine this crew with the one I had a half mile west since I still had inbound runners heading to the finish at that location.
I saw a motorcycle cop driving down the course, the first vehicle I’d seen on it since the race started. I waved him down to ask him if he was the sweep or knew how far back the sweep was. He stopped next to me and I recognized him immediately.
Last summer I was working the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon for UltraSportsLive operating the camera position at the Legion of Honor. This policeman was the same officer working the event who had gone out of his way to get me and a couple of the race management security folks coffees and scones. It had been a very early, very cold morning and I think he felt bad for us. He was so nice. I remember the incongruity of this big guy in full motorcycle officer kit, sitting on a giant police Harley-Davidson, taking our coffee orders like a Starbucks barista. “Do you want whipped cream with that mocha?” I’m not even kidding. I’m sad to say it was a forgotten memory until this moment. I was so happy to see him.
It’s that time again when one tends to reflect on what has transpired over the past year. My season was over after Rio Del Lago and I’ve gotten lazy and fat living in sweatpants and a hoodie while my eating habits turned into that of an adolescent boy. Some call it recovery, others a break. I call it the Third Circle of Hell. Regarding running, along with the not-much-doing it, there is the not-much-thinking it, and the not-much-writing it. Try as I might I can’t seem to write a proper “year in review” post. Instead, I ended up here.
In 2013 a drinking fountain was installed on top of Cardiac Hill, one of the infamous climbs on Mt. Tamalpais. It’s dedicated to local runner Sam Hirabayashi. I like to think of it as the Magical Fountain. It seemed to appear out of nowhere one day to provide cooling sips of water after a tough, often hot, climb. I didn’t know the story behind it until recently. I had read a New York Times article written by Sam’s widow Eve Pell about their touching love story then discovered through my trail running friends that the fountain on Cardiac Hill was Sam’s.
I’ve never written one of those “my year in running” reviews. I thought I’d give it a shot but as I was looking over my writing I realized I had essentially done that already with the posts I wrote around Javelina so rehashing my races felt redundant. I did, however, set a Personal Record in terms of the number of blog posts – ten related to running and one obituary to a cat. My previous PR was five in 2013. Considering it takes me much longer to write a report than it does to do the actual race, writing has become a significant part of my overall running experience. I thought I might try and throw a spotlight on that instead.
For Pauline, Mark, Kirstyn, Reese and Alyse. And most of all, for Paizlie.
It wasn’t love at first sight when I met you. I thought, oh, you’re cute but I didn’t give you much thought afterwards. Just another pet in the family menagerie. It wasn’t personal. You see I’m allergic to cats and even the hairless ones like you affect me. That’s why I rarely picked up your big sister, Zadie, and always closed the door to the bedroom in case either of you decided to go in there.