All winter long, in the most horrendous of cold and windy and damp weather, I could count on one thing. I knew that the older guy in the black running suit with the white baseball cap would always be out battling the elements too. We always waved and smiled, going in opposite directions. I felt a silent camaraderie with him - knowing that he was so passionate about his running that it didn't keep him from looping the park in a pleasant jog when the wind chill was in the teens.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, it seemed we were going the same direction. I saw him up ahead, and thought that perhaps rather than passing I'd slow to his pace and introduce myself. I'm not one to do this - it takes me a long while to warm up to someone - but it seemed almost as though we knew each other, as we had both been in the trenches of some nasty weather running over the previous months. He appeared well into his retirement years, and I admired his fortitude.
And so, instead of passing, I jogged alongside and we started talking. He was really quite friendly. He, too, had been happy to see I was the other runner out, the one pushing through the bad conditions. A misery loves company sort of ideal. And, on this day, it was a beautiful and sunny 60* and we had the most fun chatting. It turned out that we had a lot in common. Before his retirement years, he was a social worker, and had his masters in the subject and spent his career at the V.A. hospital helping others. We talked about the rewards and frustrations of such a job. We talked about how the zen of running over the years helps you learn to cope with the stresses. I learned that he qualified for Boston in his youth and ran it successfully. He's been running such a long time that he is now in a place where he's happy to just run for enjoyment, and doesn't worry so much about speed or racing anymore.
And then somehow our topic turned to fossils and arrowheads and he began talking about finding fossils in a creek bed in Texas, when he was stationed in Ft. Hood during a stint with the military. And I mentioned in passing that I had gone to college in Texas. He asked where and I told him Baylor. And do you know what? He went to Baylor too! In all my years in Roanoke, I have not met another Baylor alum. I've seen his car a couple of times (he has a Baylor sticker) - and always wondered. We were delighted - I think both of us had to restrain from yelling Sic 'Em Bears right there. We talked about some of the sociology classes there (I took a few, mixed in with my psychology background). He attended before my time, but was part of the yell leaders for the football team, and played some basketball too. We talked about how bad their football team used to be. And - just like that - I knew I had a new running friend, when I least expected it. Serendipity.