Graceful should come naturally,

not achieved after grim struggle

but worn with casual chic

like Audrey Hepburn donning a silk scarf.


Elegance too; seemingly easy

and simple—often cloaking years

of sweat, pain and struggle—

like Misty Copeland, dancing.


Smiling, I approach the winner

while extending my hand.

Proper congratulatory phrases flow

pleasantly from my lips.



But the bit of Welsh (my coalminer grampa)

in me wants not to be pleasing.

It wants to rage against

the inevitable slowing of the pace.



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Now Jodi….

“There’s a thing that keeps surprising you about stormy old friends after they die; their silence. -Ben Becht


“It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them, but it takes an entire lifetime to forget them.” -author unknown

Two months ago, my friend died. By now, the world expects I should be “over it.”  Especially because when she died, we lived thousands of miles away.  Even when we were in the same place, the basis of our friendship was work.  Jodi was—and how I hate having to use that word– the Administrator in the PD office where I worked for about 7 years.  She kept me company in irreverent humor; she had the ability to make me laugh no matter how dark the day seemed.  She was smart and did not suffer fools, not even poorly. She had a tender side, witnessed by the many people she quietly befriended throughout her life, including other people and children with cancer, even while fiercely fighting her own.  I still find myself scanning through my Facebook posts looking for one of her wry observations before I remember there won’t be another one.605harleychick-1389573468_140

While she wasn’t a runner, she understood me on a level that at least in part grew from a shared devotion to taking off and going on trips to pursue our respective passions. For Jodi, it was on her beloved Harley, most often with her friend Janice.  I’ve been going back to Rapid in August to visit folks and run my friend’s race for the past few years.  Soon after I returned home in 2014, she was diagnosed with brain cancer.  She has two fantastic sisters and a great mom (Jodi was only 48) and was doing well on a Mayo-designed course of treatment.  I saw her last August and she looked great, had some minor beefs with the med side-effects, but was her usual witty, down to earth and observant self.  We’d been in touch over several things this year and I was looking forward to seeing her again in August.

She wrote something a few years ago, maybe about 6 months before her diagnosis, that captures a bit of her spirit. It’s strangely comforting, along with being good life advice.  (Her last Harley is root beer colored: she called a really good ride “floating.”) harley


April 22, 2014 · Rapid City, SD ·by Jodi McDermand


Tonight was my annual meeting with my financial adviser and I went prepared for the same friendly lecture he gives me every year.

Now Jodi, didn’t we talk about you doing….Now Jodi, why aren’t you….Now Jodi, what happened to you investing…..Now Jodi, you didn’t…..”

“Yeah Joe, I know. I didn’t do any of the things you told me to do or that I said I would.”

Now Jodi tell me, at what age would you like to retire?”

“I don’t know Joe, I haven’t really thought about it.”

Now Jodi, how much do you have in your 401K?”

“I don’t know Joe, I’ve never checked.”

“Now Jodi, what about tomorrow?”

“I don’t know Joe. I’m not really worried about it.”

“Now Jodi, how can you say that?”

“Well Joe, it’s like this. I’ve been paying attention to my life and I’ve decided I don’t want to live it like so many people do. In a hurry for something else to happen – tomorrow, or next week or a year from now. I don’t want to spend my time in a hurry or worrying about things that haven’t happened. Instead I want to focus on today and I’ll worry about tomorrow if and when the time comes.”

“Now Jodi, when you do retire, do you think you’ll have enough money set aside to be able to do the things you enjoy?”

“I don’t know Joe, but what I do know is this: When the time comes for me to retire I will never look back and have regrets about the memories I’ve made getting there. I’ll never regret the money I spent on my motorcycles or all the money it took to keep them serviced.

I won’t look back and say to myself if only I hadn’t wasted all that money on road trips, and the millions trips I took to Yellowstone.

Or, damn it, if only I hadn’t taken that trip to Glacier where I finally got to mark off my bucket list seeing a bear and Floating the Road to the Sun. Or what about that time I Floated southern Utah and spent all that money on a national parks pass but got to witness Zion, Grand Staircase, Capital Reef, Arches and Dead Horse State Park?  And wasn’t that the same trip I wasted all that money but got to Float the Moki under a full moon?

And holy crap!  I spent a ton of money that weekend I rode Idaho! And I want my money back from the trip to WA and Floating the Pacific coast highway!!! Those weekend trips riding to Bozeman to eat at the Naked Noodle were so frivolous of me. And what a waste of money on countless tanks of gas and a ridiculous amount of money spent on tires getting me!!!   Joe, you’re right. If only I hadn’t spent all the money on doing the things I loved, when I was able to do, I’d be able to retire with a ton of money in the bank but absolutely no memories to go with it.  Joe, I might not have much money when I retire but I will have a ton of memories and that will be worth more to me than any amount of money.”

“Jodi, I have to tell you, I have never met anybody quite like you. And please know that is a compliment.” jodi




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Be Extraordinary! (here’s how…)

{Use this code to get 15% the Asheville Full, Half Marathon or both: AMY2017AMAROCKS}

Running more than one race in a weekend. Yes, you can do it.  It’s fun, different and just the thing to shake up your running routine.   Let’s make our paths cross at one.  In 2014, I ran the Asheville Marathon, thanks to my friend Jami.  She told me about it, and our friend Carolyn decided that would be her first marathon.  It was a most excellent choice.

Now comes the Asheville Backyard to Biltmore Challenge. This one is going to be special.  I’m really excited about it and hope you will join me.  The half marathon is Saturday, March 11, 2017 and the full is Sunday.   There’s  a cap on the races, and they fill up early, so sign up now.

Situated on the grounds of the Biltmore House, the largest private home in the U.S., this is a truly unique course.   Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed Central Park, created the Biltmore Gardens.  We’ll run through those.  Lest that sound a trifle tame, there’s also the striking westside of the course.  You’ll find some rolling hills to conquer, as well as old carriage paths, dirt/gravel and rocky roads.

Trail runners will delight in running on softer surfaces than asphalt and concrete.  Road runners like me can navigate the less civilized stretches so long as we leave our more minimalist shoes at home.  I love the juxtaposition of the cultivated swards of grass with the more natural terrain, complemented by glimpses of horses and farm animals in the meadows.

The Challenge affords us two days to delight in this 8,000 acre estate.  To prepare for it, you just need to tinker a bit with your traditional marathon plan and take into account a few other factors.  Of course, you should have run a few half and full marathons before taking on the challenge.EscapingOrdinary

You want to build your base through the end of 2016.  Challenge training then begins in earnest January 1, 2017.  Run 14 miles that Sunday.  During the week, follow a plan you’ve used with success.  Consider backing off of the more intense speed work: go slower, or decrease the speedy intervals within the same mileage amount.  Continue with that approach for the duration of Challenge Training.

Beginning with Saturday, January 7, run both weekend days, gradually increasing your distances.  That will be our pattern for this training.  Run 6 miles on Saturday and 16 on Sunday, the 8th.  The next weekend, run 8 and 18, then on the 21st, run 10 and 20 on the 22nd.

extra ordinary 3

You, being extraordinary


Cut back the last full January weekend to just 7 on January 28 and 14 on Sunday the 29th.  The following two weekends, run 8 on Saturday but go long on Sunday.  I’m going to run at least 20 on both; I’d say 18 is the minimum.  That brings us to February 18 and 19.  This is the toughest weekend: run 10 Saturday and 22 on Sunday.

After that, taper.  Reduce your mileage as you normally do, but keep on running both weekend days.   During your taper, consider your Challenge Goals.  Going for a PR in both races would be setting yourself up for Major Injury.  So don’t.  The best goal, especially if this is your first challenge experience, is to set a non-time goal.   Always wanted to try run/walking?  Now’s the time.  Incorporate it in your training.  If you don’t run with your phone, try a disposable camera and take shots along the way for your book of Golden Memories.

Just completing a half marathon and  a marathon within a weekend puts you in a special, extraordinary class.  So make your goal to make the most and best memories you can.  Those, along with your achievement, will be yours forever.


‪#‎ama‬  ‪#‎avlmarathon

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Double-dipping: 0f Pirates & Flying Pigs

double-dip-seinfeld (2)Do you double or triple dip?  No, not the kind involving chips that is socially taboo.    I’m referring to running more than one race in a weekend.   A lot of runners in the 50 States Club and Marathon Maniacs have been doing this for some time.  You find two marathons geographically close and take care of two states with one trip. I’ve done this, e.g., Martian Marathon (MI) and Glass City (OH) one weekend, Breakers (RI) and Mystic (CN) on another, the Route 66 Marathon and the Oklahoma Marathon, both in Tulsa, because why not?  With the help of some running friends and a plane ride, also managed Rocket City (AL) and Dallas White Rock (TX) one memorable December weekend .

Then there’s running a 5K the day before a marathon as a little shake-out run.  I just did that in Green Bay last month, at the Cellcom Marathon. The 5K featured lots of kids representing their schools, and finished with the famous loop around Lambeau Field.  This April in Boston, it was meaningful taking part in the Watertown Police “Finish Strong” 5K, a tribute to the community that was locked down while the search for the marathon bombers ensued for several days in 2013.

What really interests me are the organized running challenges.  One of the oldest is the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa.  When I first ran this, we took on a 5K and 15K Saturday and a marathon Sunday.  imageNow, the marathon’s been replaced with a half marathon and an 8K.  That’s the Ultra Challenge; there are other combinations for those looking for a bit less mileage.   I’ve run the newer version the past couple years; it’s a major event here on the Gulf Coast.  Attracting families, casual and serious runners, the GDC feels as if you’re in a movie: Runners Rule Tampa!  There’s a Pirate Theme, and extra bling to those undertaking any of the advertised race combinations, including a jacket and additional medal.  Check it here: RunForTheBooty .

A new-to-me challenge is offered by the Flying Pig Marathon, in Cincinnati.  Reminiscent of the earlier Gasparilla, the Pig offers the “Skyline 4-Way Challenge.” flyingPigLogoLarge In addition to running the marathon on Sunday, you run a 5K and 10K on Saturday (the 3-Way is the half on Sunday, so you seem to get 2 of the “4-Way” with the marathon distance).   For the greedy, there’s the “4-Way w/ Extra Cheese,” involving a Mile run on Friday evening.  See for yourself: Pig 3 & 4 Way

Even though it’s over ten months away, I’m all registered.  What can I say?  In addition to loving running, I delight in cheese; I even ‘ran’ the cheese department for a gourmet food shop when working my way through grad school in Boston.  Besides, it should be a culinary adventure.  Skyline Chili is chili, cheese and onions served over spaghetti, I am told.  oMy training plan so far is to delay tasting this unique dish until after completing the Challenge.  After all, I have to earn it, don’t I?

While it may seem early to sign up for races in 2017, Challenges seem to have limited spots and may sell out long before race day.   Be bold: double or triple dip.  After all, it’s summer.   Lots of time to train and anticipate the fun in your future.



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imageIf running was scorned,
And people laughed at runners-
I would still go run.

In old clothes, worn shoes,
I sneak out, before the birds
can raise an alarm.
The pre dawn dark cloaks
my lonely loping figure,
seeking the shadows.

Eyes adjusting, there-
Under a palm, another
runner, sprinting hard.


She nods, passes me
a sprig of thyme, symbol of
our alien bond.
We run on. Rooted
in our souls, this need to glide
steps above the earth.


#Orlando  #loveislove  #Pulse

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Last Things

Last things, last times.  Some life events are marked by observances or ceremonies so that you remember them as being “the last.”  You may recall your last day in high school or the last Christmas your kids believed in Santa.  last dayPerhaps you’ve given up a bad habit but still vividly recall your last cigarette, double scotch, trifecta bet or banana split.

There are so many other things or occurrences we enjoy for the last time without the knowledge that indeed, this is the last.  When was the last time you spent a summer afternoon lying the grass looking up at the clouds or the last time you swung on a swing?  The last firefly or butterfly you caught in jar?firefly2

One of my favorite pieces of on running, I Remember Running, was written by Darcy Wakefield.  At 33, Darcy was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a fatal condition.  Before long, she was unable to run.  After recounting some of the places and times she had especially appreciated running in her life, she went on to describe herself as “continuously mourning running.”  Reflecting  back, she tells us she wished she had known those were her last runs because “I would have appreciated every hill, every post-run high, every minute my legs moved in that way we call running.”I Remember Running

Even for those of us who love running, there are days when we head out on our regular route with more of a sense of obligation than of joy.  Sometimes it is because the weather isn’t ideal, or we’d rather stay in bed, or accept that lunch invitation from a co-worker.  Maybe it’s because following a training schedule feels tedious or confining (‘but I don’t want to do speed work today!’)  Still, anyone with a “runner’s soul,” as Darcy Wakefield portrayed herself possessing, will soon miss running if laid up with an injury or otherwise prevented from running for too very long.

While I know that some run in my future will be my last, I am hoping it is in the far distant future.  In the interim, I try to remember to appreciate each day I am able to run.  Some days, when I particularly relish a run with a running buddy, I’ll tell them if that was to be my last run, I wouldn’t change a thing.  It’s my way of appreciating the gift.  Running makes my life more balanced and joyous.  Not running makes me crabby and sad.   speedsters

After she could no longer run, Darcy  Wakefield goes down to the beach near her home one night, takes off her shoes, and starts moving along the cold sand in circles.  She relates that if you had seen her, you wouldn’t have called what she was doing running.  Still, it was good enough for her, she explains.  She then goes on to confide what she was thinking that night as she gave thanks for what she was doing:  “We are so lucky to be able to do this, all of our nerves and muscles working together as we move ourselves forward to do this thing we call running.”

Lucky us, indeed.

Darcy’s Obituary

[A longer version of this piece was previously published in the Rapid City Journal and in A Passion for Running, by Scott Ludwig, 2009 iUniverse publishers.]

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Justifying My Love

untitledWhen you say you love running, you create an immediate problem for yourself.   Well, you do if make it a public statement.  Chances are one of your non-running friends will–in the very near future–point out that she saw you running the other day and “you sure didn’t look like you were loving it!”  A laugh that will no doubt sound somewhat snarky to you may follow her comment.


Then there’s this:

The trouble with loving running is that you don’t love every run.  For me, there are three main categories of runs I don’t love.  Pretty crazy: I love running yet admit that not only are there times I don’t, there are whole classifications of those times.  And they are:

1.  External factors.   Most of the time, this is weather.  Yesterday, I indulged myself and lingered over Saturday morning coffee, the paper and my cats.  Paid for it by running 15 miles on a sunny, 80 degree mid morning Southwest Florida day.  Sure I found things to appreciate, the birds swooping over the ponds and canals, Scott Simon’s interview with musician Olga Bell [Tempo OLGA] and the water bubblers at the park.  The poetry of running was not, however, keeping time with my sodden footfalls.
Another external factor is the annoying running companion.  You know, the whiner who complains, the celebrity-in-his-own-mind who relates his PRs to you, mile by excruciating mile, and the needy, troubled soul who seems to have mistaken you, a runner, for his psychotherapist.

2. Internal factors.  These runs are the ones where I’m not 100%, but not injured or ill enough to scrap the run entirely. IMG-20150516-WA0000 Instead of losing myself in the flow, I’m constantly monitoring my scratchy throat, or worst, that hamstring that seems to be ok but is letting me know we better stay in the slow lane if we know what’s good for us (and want to run tomorrow.)   And of course, who hasn’t had one of those moments on an otherwise, until-then delightful run when your mind abruptly cuts to its index of public bathrooms/construction sites with porta potties?

3. The mind/body connection.  Most of the time, running improves my mood.  If I’m happy, it just gets better.   Crabbiness is best dissipated by running.  I can usually outrun out the demons, or at least get a perspective on them that shrinks them down to size after six miles or so.  Solutions to problems often begin to appear once I’m moving.   But, every once in a while, there’s an issue that is bigger than the run.  433735f4eecf1d48d6cad0b27ed5e500 (2) When I can’t resolve or it or get past it, whatever IT is, the run can feel like a chore.

While I haven’t figured out how to be 100% in love with every run, I still love running.  Like all relationships, there are moments when you may not be in love with your partner, child or critter, but you still love them, even at their most exasperating.

And indeed, there are some at least partial solutions to the above.  Weather is weather, of course.  Pay attention to the forecast, plan and wear clothes designed for the climate.  As for the annoyance factor, a fellow runner I was chatting with just before Grandma’s Marathon in 2014 advised always having your earbuds at hand.  This allows you to smile graciously, plug in and say: “I’m just going to listen to some music now.”

When your body is talking to you, be smarter than I have been.  untitled (2)Slow it down to a walk, enjoy your surroundings, relax.  Repeat until that voice is a whisper (or you find the bathroom.)  As for the major stuff?  Meditation, bubble baths, chocolate and seeing a professional are all good.  And know that not all runs are easy; you don’t need to love every one to love the sport.  Be open: tomorrow’s run may make you feel you can fly– and fall in love all over again.

untitled (3)



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At Lambeau Field

{Inspired by the Green Bay volunteers, this is for all race volunteers everywhere: Thank You!}Green Bay outside lambeau

The volunteers are already at work,

saluting each other as they report for duty.

Their brightly hued race shirts band them,

a peaceful army filling cups

in the long shadows of a spring dawn.

Green Bay

When I enlisted in the running corps

I timed my race arrivals as close to the start as possible.

Curled like a cat, Green catI slept clinging to my pillows,

ignoring the reveille bugling emails and commands

of the beleaguered Race Director.


Having weathered a few marathon skirmishes,

now I’m up before the alarm. I punch the coffee awake

and down some breakfast while dressing.

Like the Border Collie straining to get to pastures,

I’m anxious to head out into Race Day.


Trotting down the street, I wave at the yawning cop in his cruiser.

He grins back, giving me a thumbs up. Soon I am in a platoon

of bibbed runners, marching along with supporters, dogs and kids in strollers.Green Bay pre race

We fall into a loose formation as we converge in flanking maneuvers,

swarming the lines of volunteers with our needs and nerves.


We are no match for them. Smoothly they encircle us with their cheer

and preparedness.   In response to our thanks, they exhort us to

“Have a Great Race!”  In striving for glory, we rely on these troops.

Unsung, unpaid, unheralded, they make our weekend warrior dreams

possible.   Now, we hail this special squad, who give so we may run.


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Run Faster. Run for Your Rights. Run.

Ronny tenses his right leg, then starts a controlled, rhythmic jiggle. He’s trying not to distract his three partners at the table.The kid should be turning down Hogan Street toward Hemming Plaza in a few minutes.  Ronny sent her out on a ten miler just before he met up with the guys.

Chillin photo by k. E. Garland.png

Chillin, by K.E. Garland, photographer,

They’re used to him and his ways after so many years. His groan-worthy puns.  His not eating meat, even though he was the Cutter in one of Jax’s oldest and best rib joints for years. Today, no one even bothered to comment on his brightly hued blue and orange Gator shirt. After all, it’s what you’d expect of a contrarian who scouts for the U of North Florida Ospreys track and cross-country teams. Track UNF

There’s something about this kid that has gotten to Ronny.  She’s old fashioned.  O sure, she fits in with her crowd, saw Lemonade three times the first week it dropped and is out there now running with her phone firmly fastened to her arm.   But if he had to describe her, he’d use the word ‘plucky.’

She’s working at a coffee shop when she’s not at school or track practices; always willing to grab an extra shift.  Not the most natural runner, she charts her workouts and follows the schedule he drafted for her.  Runs all the drills.  Her questions are smart, to the point.  Not shy, but she doesn’t run her mouth just to hear herself.  Calls him “sir.”

And he’s seen her out running.  He goes out every morning, pre-dawn, for his own solitary miles.  Most times over the past year, he’s seen her out there too.  That’s how he found her.  Admired the gumption he saw in her.  Figuring she might run for one of the high school teams, he dropped by one of the fall regional cross country meets.  Spotted her right off; runners all have styles and she has a determined, head up, efficient gait.

And damn if that isn’t her now, churning up the road, smiling and waving at him.  He told her to take it easy, he just wanted to get a sense of her endurance.  Looking back at his timer, he sees she’s coming in way under 1:20, considerably less than 8 minute miles.

“Hiya Mr. Ronnie!”  She isn’t even breathing hard.

“Well Ms. Speedster, not bad.  I bet myself you wouldn’t do so well.  Guess I best pay up by treating you to lunch.  Desert Rider Sandwich Shop ok with you?”

“Yes sir, that’s fine, but how about I treat you and you can tell me about Ax Handle Saturday?”

“Ex-excuse me?” Ronny stares at her and the fellows swivel their eyes at the pair.

“You were neighbors with Rodney L. Hurst back in 1960, weren’t you?”

“That I was,” Ronny nods.  “I was 10 years old and he was about 15.  Thought he hung the moon.  Used to follow him all over town.”

“I just finished his book, It was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke.   That plaque behind you tells a little of the story, of how Mr. Hurst and some young people organized a peaceful lunch counter demonstration  at a ‘whites only’ lunch counter in Woolworth’s  to protest racial segregation on August 27, 1960.”Ax handle

“I’m aware.”  Ronny waited for her to continue.

“And then, white people started spitting on the protestors and yelling racial slurs at them. When the young people stayed, they were beaten with wooden ax handles. It ended up with over a hundred white people with baseball bats and ax handles chasing African Americans through Jacksonville.”

She took a breath.

“Sir, I heard that you were there and ran with Mr. Rodney.  I’d like to know your story.”

“Well.”  Ronny paused, thinking.  “It’s not the kind of running I’d planned on discussing with you.  I don’t talk much about that day.”

She kept her silence, just meeting his gaze.

Finally, he responded: “I guess you earned the right, though.  Hungry?”

“That I am, Mr. Ronny.  In more ways than one.  Shall we, sir?”

He tipped his cap, and the pair sauntered across the dogg

[Note: Mr. Rodney L Hurst, Sr. wrote the book mentioned about Ax Handle Saturday and the civil rights movement.  Ronny and the runner are completely fictional, inspired by the work of Ms. K.E. Garland, featured above.]



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Time Runner

“Chris, come set the table. Are you up there?  Chris!”

“On my way, mum,” he responded, vaulting over the bannister to skip the last three steps and slide into the dining room.

Pshew, that was close, he acknowledged to himself, laying out the plates and cutlery.

Reaching into the cupboard to get the glasses, he saw that he was still wearing the Oxford singlet under his hastily donned shirt.history

“How was practice?” His mother came around the corner.  “Goodness, did you forget to shower?”

He grimaced. “We had to run some extra intervals.  I’ll clean up right after supper, promise.”

“And you’re sure all this running isn’t taking away from your school work?”

“Got it covered. Besides, it’s in my genes.”  He tipped his head toward the framed photo of three young men in track gear hung in a prominent place on the far wall.



Brasher, Bannister, Chataway


She smiled and tousled his hair. “You could be twins with your grandfather, that’s a fact.   You were his favorite; he just couldn’t hide it no matter how much he tried.”

Chris was named after his grandfather, Chris Chataway, an English politician and sportsman who had represented England at the Olympics in 1952 and 1956.   He was also one of the two pacers who helped Roger Bannister break the four- minute mile May 6, 1954.

And, even though he died in 2014, he was giving Chris one hell a of dilemma right now.

Tucked away in a trunk full of his sports belongings was an old pair of track shoes. Specifically left to Chris by his grandfather via instructions in his will, they’d been wrapped and sealed very carefully.  They were vintage shoes from the era, broken in, but just enough. Still a lot of wear left in them, and in really remarkable shape.

Chris thought he was meant to find the proper museum-type spot for them. Until he found the note.

“Dear Chris,

You’ve grown into a loving and charming young man. Life has been very good to me, but I deeply regret not being able to share our mutual love of running as it should be experienced; out on a grand spring day, keeping pace with each other. I’m going to give you some simple directions and trust that you will continue to humor me as you always have.  When you turn 17, open the shoes and go for a run in them. Just two conditions: tell no one what you are doing, and make certain you are absolutely alone.   Please do this for me.   Lovingly, GF.”    

Never had following directions been so life-changing.

Once he was running in the shoes, alone, he found he was running in London. In the spring.  In 1954. Only he was no longer alone.  His running partner was a 23 year old Chris Chataway; his grandfather.   Or, his grandfather-to-be.  Confusing, or it was at first.  “Time-travel,” his grandfather whispered as they hit the track, then took off at a brilliant pace.TT

Since then, they’d “met” for several running dates.    Negotiating the portals was slightly tricky, but doable.  Well, it’s been working so far.  They don’t always get the timing exactly right, like today.  But now, Grandfather has another request. He’s calibrated the times and has figured out what Chris needs to do to be in Oxford on May 6th.   In 1954.   Or, rather, what he thinks will work.   Chris has two weeks to decide.time travel

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