My friend the runner ... my runner the friend

Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009

I have a friend who runs. Well, actually, I have a runner who "friends."

His schedule is such that when we can get together it is at the head of some trail or along a highway, doing something that was feigned to be in the interest of running, but instead winds up being the interest of, well, other things.

Last weekend, for instance, we searched for poop. Seriously. He needed various animal excrements to complete a Noble Prize-worthy experiment on garden fertilizers involving the various gastronomical passings of the animal kingdom. This is due to the fact he is a high school teacher with a high school daughter and high school science projects sometimes require things like that.

A text from the top of Mt. Juneau on a Friday said he was running on the Perseverance Trail, which he decided to finish by heading up Mount Juneau, over the ridge and back down Granite Creek trail. And "Oh yeah!" said the text, "I found some great deer and goat droppings. You want to run East Glacier tomorrow?"

I want to train as he does. He has run the Boston Marathon and a gaggle of other such events. I want to do a marathon before I turn 50. So I hang on his every word and agreed to a glacier trail run. He brought his dog, a known bear sniffer, and enough plastic bags to fill his runner's backpack. I believed we would be powering up the inclines and gliding down the declines and bantering back and forth like friends do. Instead, I found myself falling over his stooped body while rounding a sharp turn. He was excitedly pointed out an ominous pile of something in our path.

"Look at this," he non-texted. "Dog? Or Bear? What do you think? It's late in the year you know, not a lot of berries about ... no, it looks like dog."

And off he went. These brief stops and starts would allow me just enough time to catch my breath but not recover enough to get in any significant dialogue. This continued for four miles before a whitish pile of rotten fish parfait caught his attention. After stick prodding and fly swatting, it was noted to be of bear quality and of salmon origin.

Now came the decision part. Do I risk our friendship by putting in my two-cents? I do.

"You cannot put that in your pack," I sternly advise. "I cannot follow you for 10 more miles with THAT scent tripping me up."

We mark the spot, which will add miles to our return, and are off again.

"Good suggestion," my runner says. "There has to be bigger and better looking scat ahead."

At some point our run has to end. Darkness is setting in and the stop and start of science is becoming numbingly cold. I have learned of mineral contents, nature's nutritional compounds, and eco-green composts. I have been shown stretches and handed-dried fruits. I have monitored a GPS and texted locations to those at "bear base" back in the city. I have learned to run another trail, albeit often a half-mile behind a treasured cargo of Black-Bear-Ala-Salmon-Molt, and I have laughed and sweated with a friend while running, err, a runner while friending.

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