A marathon encounter

marathon

Among the wave of brightly-clad runners heading downhill in Parque del Oeste, a diminutive black man wrapped in a gold foil blanket sitting on the curb caught my attention. He resembled the gazelle-like runners, thin as reeds, who’d passed my balcony before any other runners this morning. I was out on my own run, no number pinned to my shirtfront, but I attempted to run a little with the marathoners and cheer them on. They were only halfway and had been running well over two hours. Then I approached the man on the curb.

“Are you hurt?” I asked him in English, guessing he would speak my native tongue rather than Spanish. He looked at me somewhat distrustfully.

“No. I am the pacemaker.”

“Ah. So you just run half and then stop?”

“Yes.”

“And how long did it take you?”

“One hour and ten minutes.”

“Where are you from?”

“Kenya.”

“Nairobi?”

“Yes. Have you been to Kenya?”

“No, but my sister has. She lived near Nairobi for a year.”

“Are you coming to Kenya?”

“I don’t know. It’s an expensive ticket.”

“Are you going to finish the marathon?”

“No, I’m not running the marathon. I’m going home.”

“Where do you live?”

I signaled up the hill.

“Where is the main town?”

“Near here,” and I pointed up the hill again.

“Can I have your phone number?”

“Why?”

“To communicate with you. We are friends.”

I looked at the crinkly blanket. The timing chip on his Nike running shoes. He looked so small on the curb with his knees pulled up.

“You’re not going to remember it. How long are you here?”

“One month.”

We exchanged names, he asked about my job, and repeatedly asked for my phone number. The runners going by rapidly decreased in numbers. A cop in a neon yellow reflective vest eyed us questioningly. Up the hill, breakfast and a shower awaited. I shook Eric’s hand, bid him good luck, and headed up the hill.

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1 Response to “A marathon encounter”


  1. 1 carolina Friday, 1 May, 2009 at 3:19 am

    love it. can we switch places for a day, por favorrrrr?


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