by Kelley alone. Through his mentor, Amby became part of a tradition of rebellious New England road warriors who went back to that original long-distance racer, Paul Revere. And now he was taking the wisdom he had learned from the older runners who lived around the areaâJohnny Kelley; Norm Higgins was anotherâand passing it down to me.
âHow was your weekend?â Amby asked, the conversation moving as leisurely as our strides.
âJason and some other friends came up to visit. We played some poker.â
âDrank some beers,â Amby added.
âYeah, we might have had a couple,â I said with a shrug.
âSure. Just a couple,â Amby replied with a dead-pan grin. âSo, you thought about this summer?â
âWhat do you mean?â
âYou should run five miles a day. If you do that, youâll come back in the fall, guns blazing in cross-country.â
âThatâs a good idea,â I said.
I meant it, too. It was a good idea. To my way of thinking: You do cross-country in the fall, then indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. The summer was for goofing off with your friends. It was for relaxing, and going to the beach, to the movies, and to dances. If I was feeling particularly motivated, I might run five miles every third or fourth day. Amby subscribed to a slightly different philosophy. Heâd be living and breathing running that summer.
As we ran shoulder to shoulder down the road, we could see the dorms in the distance on Foss Hill.
âI heard the girls there are having a mixer up there tonight,â I said, sarcasm dripping.
âShould we go up there now and make dates?â said Amby. âIâm sure thereâs a couple of beautiful brunettes waiting for us.â
âI think I see them right now. Theyâre waving at us from the quad.â
This was a common joke between usâthe total absence of females at our all-male school. In fact, we spent many hours on the road discussing the opposite sex. What else is there really to talk about? Unfortunately, we had a lot more experience talking about girls than actually dating them. I remember having a crush on a gal in middle school. I think she knew I had a crush on her, too. I wanted to ask her out, but never followed through. Honestly, I was a terrible social misfit. I would go to a dance and sit in the stands and watch the more aggressive jocks talk to the girls. I remember wearing a clip-on tie to my first dance and one of my pals came over, yanked it off, and threw it away.
Between Charlie and me, he had far more success with girls in high school. Charlie was into cars, which was a cool teenage activity. (I was into collecting butterflies and runningânot cool at all.) He was more outgoing. He was handsome and the girls liked him. In high school, he had a girlfriend. As for me, I was trying to meet somebody but without too much successâmy silly glasses and scrawny build notwithstanding. No, I wouldnât be called a hunk by anybodyâs description. I was definitely a bit of a nerd in high school and during that era, it was not good to be a nerd, in any way, shape, or form. Running retarded me even more socially. Charlie and the rest of the cross-country team used to go to his girlfriendâs to hang out when they were supposed to be out on workouts. They would do this right under Coach OâRourkeâs nose. While they were drinking soda pop and making out in closets, I was out doing the entire workout by myself. I just enjoyed the sensation that running outdoors gave me.
Here, running alongside Amby through the trails and streams beyond campus, I was once again granted that same soaring rush of freedom. The part about those runs that Amby remembers most is how differently I ran along the road than he. Amby ran with this narrow focus, like some automaton, looking straight down the road. He ran inside of himself. He focused hard on his