Archives For December 2013

Change in my pocket

December 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

Wanting to add a little mileage to today’s run, I extend the boundaries of my normal route. I run up Overhill and down Northway past the million dollar homes adorned with wreaths and red bows. I turn left and pass Sherwood Gardens, just as lovely in the winter as it is when it is full of tulips in April. Turning right I continue to the edge of Guilford and into Waverly, the much poorer neighborhood just beyond the stone walls and fences that separate it from its wealthy neighbors to the west.


I run south on York and it starts to rain. I pass people waiting for the 8 bus, huddled with coats but no umbrellas on their way home or to church or work. The houses here that are not boarded up vacants are run down and in disrepair. I turn at 33rd and head back towards prosperity. I pass Johns Hopkins and the expensive high rise condominiums that overlook downtown.


Running north I reach the intersection of Roland and Cold Spring. It is raining harder now. A figure stands in the median strip with a cup and a cardboard sign that I can’t read from my side of the street. Five cars pass him by, but one stops. As I get closer I notice that he is an old white man with a dirty white beard. He is thin and his coat is brown, dirty and wet.


I continue north and pass Baltimore’s most desireable private schools before turning south. It occurs to me that if the bearded man had been wearing a Santa costume and ringing a bell next to a kettle, everyone would have stopped and contributed. Yet when confronted with a real person in real poverty only a small fraction of my neighbors were willing to part with even a few coins.

And I am no different. Just two days ago, while on my way to court, I passed another person in need. “Spare some change?” he asked, crumpled on the ground and leaning against the corner of the building. “Sorry, don’t have any” which, while true, was not the real reason I wasn’t going to give him anything. “Merry Christmas” he said sincerely as we walked by without saying anything in reply.

Today I wonder how many others passed that poor man on Friday and offered excuses but no change. I also regret that I was not more like the driver who stopped instead of the five who ignored the man with the white beard on the corner of Roland and Cold Spring.

On my second lap he was no longer at the intersection. Even if I had change to offer, it would have been too late to help. I turn for home having made my New Year’s resolution ten days early. From now on I will always carry change in my pocket and be the one who stops.

On Wednesday and Friday mornings the pool opens shortly after five and swim practice starts at six. Normally there are four or five of us and we take two lanes, swimming counterclockwise as we complete a workout printed in black marker on a white board.

During a typical workout I will approach the walls at the ends of the pool one hundred and sixty times, check my position with respect to the cross on the wall and the “T” on the pool bottom, flip and start back the other way. During each lap I watch the other swimmers in our group, trying to keep close to the person in front of me and far enough ahead of the one behind me.┬áI’m constantly watching where I am and where I’m going.

On some mornings, if I get to practice early, I watch Brad Snyder finish his workout in the lane that I will use starting at six. Brad swims with sleeves on his arms that protect him when he rubs up against the lane lines. His strokes are perfect and well-measured. I watch and count. He takes seventeen strokes each length, then extends his right hand tentatively until it touches the wall. He glides and bends his arm until his forearm comes into full contact, then turns and starts back the other way for another seventeen strokes. His brother Russell swims in the next lane and checks on Brad’s progress from time to time.

When they finish, Russell gets out first and stands over Brad’s lane. Brad uses two arms to press himself out of the lane and to the deck, then extends his right arm to where he knows Russell will be.┬áRussell places the outstretched arm in the crook of his left arm and slowly guides his blind brother from the edge.

I sit quietly and never say a word as I watch, with both eyes open, Baltimore’s greatest swimmer head to the locker room arm in arm with his brother.

Day Runner

December 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Reading through the Athlete’s Guide to the 70 mile triathlon I recently completed, I was drawn to the admonition that “Triathlon is an individual event.” I found this a little ironic given that there were nearly a thousand athletes signed up for the event which would begin with hundreds of us thrashing through a tiny swim course at the same time. Once I crossed the finish line, though, I appreciated just how true those words were.

In all my previous long distance swim events I was one of a group of friends who trained, competed and celebrated together. This one was different because I came to the triathlon alone that day and, while waiting for the swim to start, regretted it deeply. I was nervous, a bit scared and needed a friend to talk to and keep me from worrying about what lay before me. Unfortunately, despite being in a crowd of hundreds, I was alone.

Then, as I walked slowly to the water’s edge, the person behind me asked why I had chosen not to wear a wetsuit. When I started to answer he interrupted me. “Dave,” he asked after hearing my voice, by which time I realized that the question had been posed by an old friend who had been walking behind me the whole time.

Glenn and I worked together in the mid-90s, but had not stayed in touch after I left to start my own firm. After recognizing each other we laughed a bit and then spent the next ten minutes reminiscing about the times we used to run together during our lunch hour. Our conversation put me at ease and I felt relaxed and confident by the time we reached the water’s edge, wished each other good luck and started the swim.

The swim was crowded with people all around me at all times. No matter how many swimmers I passed, others remained in front of me. During the bike ride it also seemed that there were always other racers close by. Some were ahead of me who I caught and passed and others seemed to fly by me effortlessly never to be seen again. There were still others on the horizon who I would never catch but with whom I would keep pace throughout the 57 mile ride.

The run was different. By this time we were all exhausted and struggling to finish. We were all in the same battle, but were each fighting it alone.

I didn’t see Glenn again until he crossed the finish line a few minutes behind me. We congratulated each other and made plans to run together again. And last week we did just that.

Together with another old friend, we started at my office and ran through the Inner Harbor past the carousel that Abby loved to ride when she was younger. We continued jogging around the harbor and behind the Domino Sugars factory before making our way back.

Our run together brought back fond memories of the times over the years when I have had the opportunity to run with friends, first while stationed at the Pentagon and then when Glenn and I worked together. And while I look forward to running with Glenn again, the reality is that over the next several months more often than not I will run this course alone.
And that’s the way it should be.