Running with the Master

Master Denny (left) and Trail Boy. I think it was just a coincidence we were wearing identical marathon shirt and hats this day.

Master Denny (left) and Trail Boy. I think it was just a coincidence we were wearing identical marathon shirt and hats this day. Here we are at the scenic overlook at Virginia Kendall Park near Akron.

In any sport, there are rookies, intermediates and veterans.

Then, above them all, is another category.  They are the masters.

 These athletes have such passion, skill, motivation, accomplishment and years of service that they are an inspiration to the rest.

Let me take a moment to tip my hat to such a person. He is Master Denny.

For four years, he was my running partner, coach and friend in Akron. We worked together in the same newsroom. We ran together three or four days a week. We often raced together or did long training runs on weekends. When we didn’t we would spend a fun Monday comparing weekend notes.

He taught me skills and habits — way too much to recount here. Mostly, he led by example, showing me about dedication and passion for running.  Nearly every day, in almost any kind of weather, he ran his workout, whether he felt motivated or not.

We ran plenty of races together. In 2003, I watched him qualify for the Boston Marathon. In 2004, we ran a brutal two-man relay: a 50K trail race through the pouring rain. 

“If running was easy, they’d call it golf,” Denny often said.

Then I had the great idea to take a job out of town. I moved 300 miles away to Indy.

We kept in touch by e-mail, often several times a week, recounting our training and racing, trading war stories and updates on our lives.

A couple times a year, I go back to Akron and hit the trails. On Thursday, I spent a wonderful 90 minutes running with Denny and another old friend, Steve, on a patchwork of trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

master-denny-016

Two old running friends, Master Denny (left) and Steve handle some tricky footwork.

Running with Denny is such a joy, because he enjoys nearly every moment, whether he is running up or down a tough hill, viewing a spectacular mist rising over a hill, splashing through a puddle or letting me chase him along a difficult, rocky gorge.

At 62, Denny is more than 10 years older than I am. But he is leaner, faster, tougher and just all around better.

Denny, thanks for the run. I wish we still could do it together every day.

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