November 2, 2015

This Day

The boy remembers.

The date was Nov. 2, 1975. The boy was 14 and a high school freshman.

Waiting on him at home after school was a package from his much older brother. Inside the box was a pair of adidas SL-72s. Blue with white stripes. His first pair of real running shoes.

Inside the box was a note. It said, "Start running. Love, Joe." He signed it with a backwards J, a family joke because that's the way the boy had written his brother's name on one of his brother's senior football schedule when the boy was 4 years old.

The boy held the SL-72s as if they were treasures. He turned them over. He unlaced them and re-laced them so that the laces were perfectly even at the tops. He slipped them on. The size 10.5s fit perfectly.

The boy wore them outside. He walked around in the yard. He almost walked into one of the End Zone Trees (a different story for a different day) because he couldn't take his eyes off the shoes. Running shoes. Real running shoes.

JV football season was over. JV basketball season hadn't started yet. The boy had dreams of being a star athlete like his older brother, who owned football, basketball and track during his days in their small town. The boy was always dreaming.

The boy went back inside and dug around until he unearthed a pair of shorts. He slipped them on over the SL-72s, walked down the driveway and started running.

Down Chestnut, right on F down to the bottom of the hill, across North, across Jackson and up to U.S. 340. Left on 340, the boy ran, reveling in the thwack-thwack-thwack sound of the shoes scuffing along the pavement. Left on Spotswood Trail, left on Lee, right on another cross street, then left on Jackson and eventually back to F and what seemed like a Mount Everest-sized hill that led him back to his house.

The boy was out of breath. The boy had finished his first real run. In his very own adidas SL-72s. The boy was enthralled. Even at age 14, the boy somehow knew that he had found something. Or that something had found him.

The boy appeared devoid of running talent at first, but hung in there because the act of running gave him a feeling that none of the other sports provided him. Running, the boy came to realize, was special because it was all his. His losses. His wins. His journey.

Much has happened to the boy since that day. Many successes. Many failures. Many, many happy times. And through it all, Running has continued — over and over and over again — to find the boy and fill his cup to overflowing.

It's been 40 years now. And the boy still remembers.