Long Time Running



It has been a long time running.

Many years ago Chuck worked with a girl named Sheila at the Chocolate factory in town. They were casual friends at work. She was the first person to sit with him during his lunch break. Finding somebody to sit with at lunch took him back to his days when he started attending a new school in the tenth grade. Well any grade for that matter. As a kid his family moved often.  Something drew him to Sheila or maybe she was simply a nice person. It never occurred to him until years later she was initially attracted to him. The stories we create in our own minds, Sheila was much older than him and helped him find his way at the the chocolate factory. He did have a radio at his desk that kept him company. He loved music almost to a fault. He listened to the local classical radio station because it had intense weather reports. Any hints of favorable running weather uplited his spirits. He waited for that weather report everyday at 3:45 on WHYY in Philadelphia.

Chuck lust for debits and credits noticeably diminished when he did not have lunch with Sheila.  He liked the breezy interlude of the day.  They bitched about their jobs, talked mostly about music and the big world outside of Reading, Pa.  About six months into his assignment she told him she was taking a vacation out west. He  had never been out west and could not wait to hear about her trip. He realized his job was mundane and he was not all that good at it. He had a harder time faking it on the week that she was away. She was an ally, he could confide. She was in payables and he was in inventory. There was a connection there. You accounting types might recognize the blurred connection.

One thing that kept him sane that week was going for a run after work. Outside of work he had plenty of friends and connections. His daily run kept him sane, fit  and semi-focused. And he was pretty damn good at running as were his friends. They were also good at having a beer or three after the run. The debits simply were greater than the credits. It was his equity, it was his goodwill.  Chuck knew he wasn’t an accountant. It paid the bills. He had very few bills back then, He did not know that at the time.

Sheila came back from her vacation with a new found verve, It seemed the vacation served her well.  On her first day back, she unexpectedly came to lunch ten minutes late. Sheila was the polite type, she was the punctual type. She timidly explained there was a journal entry that needed done. She was more animated than usual when when she sat across from him. She told him about seeing the Rocky Mountains, long stretches of deserted road, and the night sky. She explained it in lovely detail. He was captured by the stories she told. He could see the wild west in his mind. This was something he always loved the night sky. Her descriptions were spectacular and made him wanting to head west and see it for himself.

Then she got all hushed and quiet and told Chuck about an experience she had driving through the mountains at night . She said she was driving alone on a particularly star lit clear evening. She feverishly described how she loved the solitude of the drive. She described the twinkle of the stars in full detail. She described the constellations revealing themselves one star at a time. That is how he likes to remember the story.

Then she explained how a song came on the Radio in the middle of the night and how the music was simply Chuck. He was awestruck that she heard a song and the song made her think of him.

That music was The Tragically Hip. The year may have been 1989. He never did get around to listening to the music Sheila described. He remembered the stories of the mountains and the stars and what mattered to them the most was the music. He never got around to it.

Chuck never stuck to accounting and sadly lost contact with Sheila after he was fired from the chocolate factory.  However Chuck ventured west. He settled down and had a family of his own. Sheila’s stories of the west may had  a subtle influence, or life just happened. We never know.

Chuck just kept on running. It was a long time running for anybody. He emerged himself in the running culture on the west coast.  He was new to the west coast and  being new he had to work at making his connections. A work connection asked him to be a part of a relay team that ran from Mt. Rainier to the Washington coast. Chuck did not even hesitate despite his limited knowledge of what a relay entails. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter all that much. Chuck was back in his element. Running and competing.

He met an entire new group of friends during this weekend running event. many would remain friends for life. They liked Chuck instantly because he was a pretty damn good runner. He liked them plenty as well as they were damn nice funny people.  Chuck  finished his third leg of his run as the sun came up over the Washington coastal range. The running was complete and his team found an early morning breakfast shop before they headed to the beach to wait for van two to come in.

As they pulled into town it reminded him of a trip he had made to South America. It wasn’t the ocean however it was the automobiles driving around this sleepy little beach town. The majority of the cars were vintage AMC cars. An orange Pinto drove playing some hits from the sixties. Next was a yellow Gremlin followed by a red Matador. Apparently the AMC car show was in town. He did not even know that was a thing. Apparently it was. The runners and the quirky car owners shared that beach town for the weekend. Chuck thought to himself. “I wonder if they think us runners are a bit obsessive.”

Chuck sat on a rock in Ocean Shores taking in the beauty of the Pacific ocean. He thought to himself where in the world can you sit by the sea and look ot your left and seen snow covered mountains. He realized right then and there, The Pacific Northwest is a pretty special place. He also realized he missed his family back home. It was his first weekend away and there was a tugging in his heart. He really wished his kids could be there to see this very special place. He vowed to take them to see the ocean soon. Endorphins inevitably are a trigger to release emotions both spectacular as well as reflective.  Endorphins also make music sound fantastic.

His teammates soon joined him on that rock by the ocean. They said the other van was right on schedule and should be heading up the beach in the next couple of minutes. The last leg was on the beach and ended in Ocean Shores.  The five of them gingerly started jogging up the beach to meet their teammates, It was a simple run and soon they spotted the second van slowly heading toward them. The Pacific ocean twinkle kindly in the background. As the van approached it was obvious they were celebrating, playing loud music, as they drove beside the last runner. The music gradually became louder and clearer and more magical as they approached. Chuck listened while he ran. It was music he had never heard before. The music hit his ear with absolute perfection. It touched something deep inside him.


Don’t tell me what the poets are doing
On the street and the epitome of vague
Don’t tell me how the universe is altered

They crossed the finish line minutes later as the music kept on playing.  Chucked walked over to the owner of the van and did not even talk about running. He asked Todd what was the music you were playing. It is amazing.






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