“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.