The Lives of Strangers

28 12 2007

I lived in downtown Kansas City for much of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and I ran ten marathons during that time. Most of my training miles were run with a close friend who lived in the suburbs, though I had plenty of routes in the city as well. Fay and I had a variety of routes, starting from her house, but when you run as many miles together as we did, and I’m talking thousands of miles, you become pretty familiar with the terrain. So familiar that we knew all the cracks and potholes to be avoided, even in the pitch dark.

The interesting thing about running those routes, in all seasons and all weather, is that your definition of neighbor and neighborhood expands along with the territory you cover. When you run the same 6 or 10 mile route a few hundred times, you notice who has a new car, who brought home a new baby, which house has family home for the holidays, who are the early risers, the television watchers, the gardeners, the smokers, tinkerers, couples who argue, messy garages, neat freaks and all the other things you can use to categorize a stranger.

Those who don’t run are restricted to neighbors in the immediate block or two surrounding their own patch of real estate, whereas Fay and I had a neighborhood that stretched for miles. We weren’t Peeping Toms, but moving along on foot gave us alot more time to view people’s worlds, just as some of those people got used to seeing the two of us out running down their street. I suppose our presence, moving by on foot, expanded their neighborhood as well as our own. I wonder if they noticed when one of us had a new pair of shoes or a new cap.

But now I often run through neighborhoods inhabited by students, always shifting and changing, generally still asleep when I come by in the early morning. I don’t get to peek at their lives and celebrate a birth or an anniversary party or a child home from college for the weekend. I kind of miss that and I definitely miss running with Fay.




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