Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Memories of my first running partner

I just got a call from a good friend. We were in grad school together and have been buddies ever since. His wife (Lysa, the woman who crewed for me for a week in Nebraska this summer) had run into someone at a meeting who knew another friend of ours from grad school. This person broke the news to Lysa that our mutual friend had died this summer due to injuries suffered in a cycling accident. This mutual friend, Deb J, was my very first running partner.

Deb J and I had decided to take a PE class while in grad school, primarily to get out of the classroom building and library where we spent most of our day and to get the blood flowing a bit. It just so happened that our PE instructor was a big fan of running; thus two new passionate runners were born. Deb and I trained for our first marathon together. Our training runs, done with her dog, Rocket, pretty much showed us how we could do everything wrong (too much mileage too quick, no fluids, running in the heat of the day, going out to name it...). In our first half-marathon, we were lapped by the winner of the marathon. But we kept at it, much to the amusement of our grad school buddies who watched us go down stairs backwards after our marathon debut. And we did have fun. She used to live at the top of a hill - there's nothing quite like a long run, ending in a hugely long climb, followed by a collapse on a lawn with a friend at your side and a cold beer in your hand. We (the grad school gang) did a lot at Deb's house - seeing as how she was the only one of us who actually owned their own place...lots of wine, lots of cooking - she even taught me how to make runzas!

Time and life moved us in different directions after grad school, with Deb eventually heading to California. But we stayed in touch. While I continued with the long runs, she took up cycling and swimming and cut down her mileage, putting marathoning on hold for a while....until running Chicago in 2003, 23 years after our first marathon. She was thrilled! After Chicago, she ran Big Sur, beating her Chicago time by 5 minutes - again thrilled! And with plans to run more marathons...perhaps even a marathon we could run together if we could get our schedules in synch.

Finally, last spring (2006), we were able to run together once again when Deb made a quick trip through Boulder. What a delight. There's nothing quite like running with a long-time running partner; and there's really nothing quite like running with your first running partner. Especially a running partner who has seen you through a degree, a career launch, the purchase of your first house (we got lost during the run when I tried to take her by the house we were going to buy), relationships, the adoption of your first dog...

Deb's last email to me was in May, when she offered me a hearty "you go girl." She said my upcoming run made her want to retire but that she would substitute biking to cover the distance I would be putting in each day...that she had been riding "to the coast and back" on weekends. I cannot believe that she will never come back...

1 comment:

J said...

Ohhhhh... I am so sorry to hear of your loss.