Last updated 5/31/2022 at Noon
Being a runner can be a fairly solitary experience, in part because it can be tough to find the right running partner.
About five years ago I met a potential candidate. He had just moved here from Hawaii and, as a beach bum, had limited experience running in the forest where I always go. But his enthusiasm gave me no choice other than to give him a shot.
Perhaps it helped that, like me, he was a little “chunky,” which made us comfortable with one another.
His speed surprised me on our first run. From the get-go he sprinted, with no warmup, far down the trail. He dashed off-road at times, leaping over downed logs and crashing through the brush as though he had four-wheel drive. Thankfully, he circled back for me, all smiles, a picture of absolute joy, and ran alongside me for a few minutes before bounding off
again. It was fine with me that he wasn’t much of a conversationalist, because I find it tough to talk much while also trying to breathe. The companionship and being out in the woods was enough for both
Over the five years we covered a lot of ground: Whychus Creek, Manzanita Meadows, the Amphitheater, Road 1008, Cold Springs, Metolius-Windigo, and every track and trail west of Tollgate. It didn’t matter if it was snowing or balmy, this partner was always ready, ever consistent in his attitude about running. We went out a number of times a week, and, unlike me, he never seemed to have a bad day.
Sometimes he brought friends along — Judah, Raven, Juno, and Mabel — and then it was a real heyday, with me literally left in the dust until they looped back to check on my progress.
This partner shunned wearing a watch — he only sported a necklace — and never entered a race, though I think he would have done quite well in a 5k. He was so fast, I swear he could run down a rabbit if given the chance. This guy had a lot of energy despite working as a security guard for long hours each day.
One unique characteristic sometimes made me question having him go in the car with me. (He didn’t drive, so I was always the one at the wheel.) If we ever ran near water, he would inevitably dive right in to cool off, leaving me with wet seats unless it was warm enough for him to dry out before it was time to head home. Thankfully, he kept his hair short. I never had the heart to attempt to limit this behavior since he enjoyed it so much. I am not convinced I could have curbed this habit anyway. It seemed to be in his very nature.
I think he would have liked to become a wildlife biologist because he showed constant curiosity and sometimes even brought scientific specimens for me to see, such as bones and deer skulls. He never knew a stranger when meeting someone new on the trail, ever polite and appropriate.
Through the years this partner became so comfortable with me, and remained so grateful to run with me, he would even kiss me on the cheek before and after the runs. Other than my wife, I haven’t had any other running partners go that far!
He loved it when we would stop by Dutch Bros. following a run, because the baristas would always give him a special treat. He liked them commenting on his cuteness, but he didn’t let it go to his head and I never felt jealous.
We formed quite a bond, the two of us.
Those runners who have been lucky enough to have a loyal, exuberant running partner like my Kinzua will empathize with me about the heartbreak of a relationship like this coming to an end. A sudden, inexplicable health issue brought our time together to
a close. My furry buddy is no doubt now rollicking in canine heaven, while for now, I’m on my own, recalling the many trail memories that make me smile.