Mesa Monument Striders Running Club

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by Liz Norris

Posted by randeebergen@msn.com on August 28, 2013 at 9:15 PM

We all run. We are all different shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. Many of us
run races but few of enter races to win. We do it to challenge ourselves but
often to socialize and connect with others. There are a few runners who still
challenge themselves but do not enter races. There is a still a connection with
running that most runners would understand and also share. I did not run races
for quite a few years after getting out of school and then I started running
marathons. I met someone recently who runs a lot but does not show up at races
but the places he likes to run are challenging yet peaceful. I enjoyed the time
we knew each other and now I miss him.
  
My running friend--  He did not run races except sometimes from a cop when panhandling. I met him at a writers’ forum. It was in instant friendship – you know how that happens sometimes. He was a runner and a writer. He was also homeless. He did work for a temp agency and wanted full time work. Before the 2008 recession he lived in a house and did the so called normal things such as drive a car. After being laid off from work he soon exhausted all his resources and found himself homeless. He told me he used to wonder how people became homeless and he was sorry he found out the answer.
 
This guy had been one to frequent the Barr Trail and not local bars. He ran
trails for pleasure and to commune with nature. He was not the stereotypical
idea a lot of people have of the homeless. He loved nature and he said the only
good thing about being homeless was being out in nature more. He said everything else about it was not good.  He did not like the insecurity but running on trails gave him some sense of purpose, control, and security. As long as he could go out for a run then he could handle it.
 
Running was his great solace. He started having problems with his knee and had
to bike more but he did not give up running the trails. He loved to write after
a run saying that his most creative ideas came to him on the run. His writings
were filled with beautiful descriptions of seeing a bobcat, a red tailed hawk
soaring above him, seeing an ugly possum, and listening to the quails. He wrote
of the smell of the sagebrush and the feel of static electricity before a summer thunder storm. He wrote of his awe and respect for nature and his joy at being part of it. He wrote of his frustration concerning the fact that he did not make enough money or have a permanent residence and how running trails helped him cope.
 
We hit it off so easily when we met several months ago. It was a sincere
friendship and harmony similar to the one he had with nature. It was a
friendship of trust and mutual understanding as well as respect. I was very
comfortable around him and he was comfortable around me. We laughed and we
talked about ecology, philosophy, and even politics. I got used to seeing him,
exchanging ideas, laughing about silly things, and talking about great places to run. He really loved the Kokopelli trails. He taught (me) more about the joy of living and taking part in nature by the simple act of running in the woods.
 
He lived on an island along the river and the police found out and cleared his
camp when he was away at work. He came back to see what little he had was
destroyed and disposed of – including a lot of his writings. It seems the
authorities should have given him a chance to clear out his things. They should
have talked to him first. Maybe he should not have been camping there but it
could have been handled differently. He did not camp there because he wanted to
but camped there because he did not know what else to do. They came and he had
no warning. I was glad to have known him and am sorry he is gone. I have not
seen him since I heard about what happened to his camp. I wonder where he is and what he is doing. I know that wherever he is, running is still part of his life. I wish he were still part of mine.

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1 Comment

Reply Rick Gardiner
11:10 PM on July 23, 2014 
Great story! Hope you meet up again someday.