Vidakovich column: Me and my shadow
As you read this column today, you may be convinced that I am just old and full of beans. The former is certainly true, and the latter most likely is representative of the truth also.
But I do believe that on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 31, around 4 p.m., a long-lost running buddy came back unexpectedly — if only briefly — to pay me a visit. I think he wanted to make a point, and to offer up a small dose of my own medicine for all of the good-natured ribbing I had dished out to him years ago.
He came to me in the form of a shadow.
When I used to go running up above the Glenwood fish hatchery with my friend Bob Willey as he approached his mid-60s, I often complained to him that even going uphill, the pace had become too slow and that his gait reminded me more of a shuffle than an actual run. Sometimes, rudely, I would even run ahead of him to our spot by Mitchell Creek known as Sequoia Glen and wait for his arrival. Unabashedly, I greeted him at the top of the hill with, “What took you so long, Brother Willey?”
Many of you knew Willey, and are aware that unless he was on a softball field, he was about as easy going as anyone you could ever meet, so he chuckled off my remarks and we proceeded to sit by Sequoia’s waterfalls and talk about running and life, which we both felt were inextricably intertwined.
So it came to be on that sunny afternoon just a few weeks ago, near the same spot where Willey and I ran so often, I looked over to my right, where my shadow was striding along with me up the steep hill and I was forced to do a double take and fixate my gaze on a dark figure that surely could not belong to me.
It was the unmistakable shuffle that I had been witness to a decade ago. The raised knees and the strong push forward were no longer there. My feet slid along the ground with hardly a bend at all in the knees. I had been witness to this all-to-familiar form before, and now at age 60, it had become my own.
I stopped on the dirt road near the top of the hill where I was running and stared over at my shadow, and it stared curiously back at me as if to say, “What’s taken you so long?” For a fleeting second I was not certain that the shadow was my own.
During our years together on earth, Willey had given me his amateur philosophies whenever and wherever he felt they were needed. We had talked on my front porch for hours after runs. We had gone to countless races through the years and run mountain trails. He regularly recommended authors and wonderful books I needed to read, and now maybe he had come back on the last afternoon of March to let me know that Father Time catches up to all of us.
Before I headed back down the long hill that day, I took the time to look around at the mountains, the trees, the sun, the beautiful blue sky, and all the wonderful spirits that I felt around me.
Maybe it’s true that all I saw that day was the shadow of a lifelong distance runner who has slowed, but still makes the journey up the road as often as possible. But I do believe it was more than that. Much more.
I think the next time one of those young whipper-snappers passes me on the running roads I may have a new phrase to call out; one that’s more appropriate than the one I used to tease Willey with so long ago.
“Hey, slow down! What’s your hurry?”
I like it.
Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.
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