My New Running Partner
Today I dropped our car off for repairs across town, then ran home. It worked perfectly. I got in a great run and arrived within a minute of the repair man who had come to look at our heater (which inexplicably began leaking water last week).
The run took me through town and along the many bike and pedestrian paths intertwined with the city streets. This network is remarkably extensive. In most places, the paths are split into three lanes: one for pedestrians and two for bicycles (one for each direction). People nearly always adhere to the marked lines and pass correctly on the left, so the system works quite well, making it much easier for me to get out of town on my bicycle without having to navigate through pedestrian traffic like a game of Frogger.
Today, however, I was the pedestrian, running along my merry way, when I heard someone talking to me – quite close. I pulled out my earbuds turned around to find the elderly man with frizzy graying red hair I had just passed running next to me and speaking rapidly in German. I figured he had run next to me to ask me something, perhaps for directions or for train money. I stopped, “Wie bitte?” Yes? He continued jogging in place excitedly and took the cigarette out of his mouth to say, “Na ja, ich laufe auch. Laufen mit laufen!” I’m running, too. Running with you!
Uh, okay. I started running again and with my new friend at my side said with a smile, “Ja, ok. Es geht. Laufen ist gut, ge?” Okay sure. Running is good, isn’t it? I thought he must be mocking me, running with exaggerated strides and a cigarette in his mouth and that once he’d had his laugh, he would stop and leave me on my way. I was wrong.
He kept pace with me despite his bulky sweater and cigarette in hand, and even had enough air to continue jabbering in Deutsch, repeating “laufen mit laufen” which was the only part of the conversation I really understood, and which he continued to state with the utmost sincerity. He wasn’t mocking me. He really wanted to run! So we ran together for close to a mile before he eased up and informed me that he was “fertig” (done). We smiled and waved “Tchüss!” and that was the last I saw of my running partner. He still had half of his cigarette left.