Part of a series about a running enthusiast who participated in last year's Boston Marathon.
It all started Friday afternoon. My girlfriend and I were driving through Coolidge Corner, chatting about who-knows-what when it happened. I saw a familiar-looking man outside of Brookline Booksmith surrounded by Born to Run posters and engaging a small cluster of people. I'd seen the man's face before on television. He was Christopher McDougall.
Then I stopped, realizing he was midway through a conversation with another fan. I sheepishly withdrew inside to purchase a new copy of Born to Run.
When I got back outside, Chris was all mine. We spoke for a few minutes, covering his book and how it changed my life and how I just started to read it a second time to pump myself up for my first trail 50k and how I don't usually say this but he's an amazing writer and it's such an incredible book and how I don't ordinarily read much except for school and how I gave five copies as Christmas gifts and... You get the picture. When I felt I'd probably given him enough to write my life story, he signed my book: “To John, Run Wild! [signed scribble scribble].”
As we parted ways, Chris suggested I show up outside the Boston Public Library at noon the next day for a barefoot fun run. For the rest of the day it was all I could think about.
I showed up the next morning around 11:50 to find roughly twenty other bare- and Vibram FiveFingers-footed runners already there. By twelve o'clock sharp our numbers had swelled to at least fifty. Among the group were Chris, Vibram's Tony Post and... Scott Jurek! The god of trail running himself! The man who set the American record for miles run in twenty-four hours—165—was about to run with us around the Esplanade! The machine who won Western States some seven times in a row was an actual flesh-and-bones human dude! The trail warrior who raced the Tarahumara on their soil and nearly won...
All excitement aside, there was one very calming, extremely reassuring aspect to the fun run. All of these people of whom I'd read about and idolized—Chris, Scott, and Tony—were actually pretty down-to-earth, genuinely nice guys. Chris remembered me by name, Scott graciously chatted with me about I-don't-even-remember-what-I-was-so-excited, and Tony made a fantastic running buddy.
Indeed, of the entire star-studded cast, I enjoyed my time with Tony the most. Impossibly modest (Tony mentioned that he used to run marathons but not until I read Born to Run the other night did I learn that he was once nationally ranked), Tony was also quite laid-back, enduring my endless questions about Vibram FiveFingers and even offering some great advice for getting rid of their stench: soak them overnight in denture cleanser and allow to air dry. If you've known anyone who wears the toe shoes, you know what a lifesaver this advice is. (And yes, it works.)
Chris with his humor and wit, Scott with his genuine modesty and kindness, and Tony with more of the same (and great housekeeping tips) all made me feel oh-so-proud to share their passion for distance running. And while I may never trek into Mexico's Copper Canyons to hang out with the Tarahumara and write a bestseller about it, nor trudge through 165 miles in a month let alone a day, nor finish a marathon south of three hours and run a multi-million dollar company, with this crew I didn't have to. It was cool. I was one of them and we together were just a clan of running people.
For that day I was afforded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend time with characters from my favorite book. And they were even better in person.
John C. Scott is a North End resident. Read more about him and his running adventures at www.therunningbostonian.com.