Who the hell are you calling “Pavement Boy”?

I got the following e-mail this morning from a running friend:

“Hey, Pavement Boy! Way to go, 3:48:07. You may never go back to dirt.”

Ooooh, that stung.

Yes, he was complimenting me on my performance Sunday at the Cleveland Marathon.

But he was also rubbing my face in it, throwing around the “P  word” like that.

This friend — I’ll call him Tom, because that’s what his mother named him — is a diehard road runner. Every time we discuss running or racing, I gently coax him to join me on trails and leave his beloved pavement behind for a few hours. I go on and on about the benefits of trail running: beautiful nature, no traffic, lots of cool shade, soft footing, wildlife, etc.

Tom always smiles and then says something polite like: “Not in this lifetime, or any other — but I’m glad you enjoy it.”

One day two years ago, however, Tom surprised me. He said he would join me at a 10-mile trail race the following weekend. The race was taking place on Three Lakes Trail, a steep, rugged loop at the Morgan Monroe State Forest near Bloomington.

I was amazed. I could only conclude that my months of passionate, poetic stories about trails had won him over. Or at least made him curious.

On race morning, the weather was beautiful. The woods were lush green. It was a perfect day for Tom’s maiden trail race.

He and I ran together, nice and easy, up and down the hills, through the woods and meadows, and across the creeks.

Tom chattered and joked the whole time and seemed to be enjoying himself — well, maybe except for the moment he cracked his head on a low-hanging branch. Well, and the time he tripped on a foot and fell face-first against a tree stump.

“You’re having a hell of an adventure,” I saw, trying to lighten the moment, as Tom knelt on the ground, rubbing his head.

It took him a moment to regain his senses. I pulled him to his feet and looked him over. “Hey, there’s nothin’ broken, so you’re good for another 10 miles,” I said.

Ever since that day, Tom has never run a single step on a trail. And every time I suggest another trail race, he has told me where to go. With a smile, of course.

And then he said something like: “One day, you’ll get tired of trails, and you’ll come back to pavement.”

Well, Tom is no fool. When he learned I had run the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday, he saw his chance. He sent me that e-mail. He called me that terrible name.

Oh Tom. What did I ever to to deserve that? I gave you an exciting, beautiful run in the woods. I gave you a story to tell all your friends. If you had a blog, you’d have enough material for weeks.

But here’s the rub. Tom is right. This year, I’ve really hit the pavement, big time. That’s because I’m focusing on a BQ. And this fall, I’m going to run another road marathon. Maybe two.

Still, there’s a long summer in between spring and fall. And my next big race is the Buckeye Trail 50K in July.

Did you hear that Tom? The Buckeye Trail. Not the Buckeye Road.

You’re welcome to join me. I plan to start training in a few days.

As soon as I can find my trail shoes.

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