Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 28 Aug 2001 09:18:12 -0400

Coming Back


Running in circles has its benefits. We need to go back to where we've been to measure how far we've come since last passing the same point.

My two longest-running road shows serve this purpose each July. I've traveled to a race in Iowa 15 of the last 16 years, and to Jeff Galloway's camp in California 21 of the past 22 years.

Completing another lap around the sun shows me I wear a few more pounds, wrinkles and gray hairs. But I'm still here, still plugging along, feeling healthier and running better than a year ago.

I go to Iowa each summer to see my natural family. At Lake Tahoe I visit a running family, seeing how it grows from year to year.

The first time I came to Tahoe, Brennan and Westin Galloway didn't yet exist. The older boy attended his first camp inside his mother. The younger one came to camp three years later as a week-old baby.

I've watched the Galloway boys sprout past six feet tall. Brennan, 19, now runs track and cross-country for Colorado College. Westin, 17 this week, is a two-time Georgia state champion at 800 meters, with another year of high school to go.

My daughter Sarah first went to camp with me as a six-year-old. Forced to sit through my talk before she could go swimming, she spoke up in a whiny voice to ask, "Da-aad, are you almost done?" and later, "How much longer?"

When Sarah came to camp as a high schooler, her response to, "Do you run?" was, "No, I don't like to sweat." She soon would learn that sweat is good, and at 27 she now runs more most days than her dad does.

I've watched families form at Tahoe. A couple named John Blecka and Judi Shaffer first came to camp together five years ago. This year they arrived with their six-month-old son JC, who never has had so many "aunts" and "uncles" to hold him.

Last year my wife Barbara and I arrived late for Jeff Galloway's birthday dinner in a Mexican restaurant. We squeezed into seats at one end of a long table.

I sat beside a woman who introduced herself as Kathy Kirk. "You may not remember," she said, "but we met at camp five years ago."

I remembered. She was hurting then from her recent divorce, and this camp was part of her therapy. She would become the centerpiece of a unique chapter in camp-family history, a new family's official start.

While riding to Tahoe with Larry Sillen, he told me, "Kathy is back again, and this time she came with her boyfriend."

Doug Kane wasn't to remain her boyfriend. A 72-mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe saw to that.

"During the ride," Larry reported, "Doug proposed to Kathy, and she accepted." Friends joked that the hard work at high altitude must have killed too many brain cells.

The engagement was brief. They discussed the when and where of marriage and decided: Why not here at Tahoe, and soon?

They scheduled the wedding for two days later. It would follow the camp's awards ceremony, the gag-gift event that traditionally ends these gatherings.

That Thursday night the wedding party wore shorts, running shoes and bow-ties fashioned from PowerBar wrappers. The messages (including one from Sister Marion Irvine, a Catholic nun) and vows were properly solemn, and the aftermath was fittingly informal.

In the good-wishes book, I wrote, "May you come back each July to celebrate your anniversaries here with us." We're all family now.

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