When I moved to Sarasota in 2004, I lived in a well-kept apartment complex off an ugly street with a misleading name: Fruitville Road.
Other than the fact that if you took it due west, you’d run into the Gulf of Mexico, there were only two charming things about the corridor when I lived off it : 1.) When you exited the interstate, you could spot slow-moving cattle on what little ranch land remains in Sarasota. 2.) There was this guy who resembled Danny Glover circa Lethal Weapon 3 who jogged up and down Fruitville in gray sweats.
And Jesus, did he break a sweat; stains the size of Montana.
I was insanely jealous of his dedication and dogged determination. From what I could see, he wasn’t a fast runner and he didn’t wear Spandex or tricked out sneakers. He was just a guy in gray, running the same stretch of Fruitville around 9 a.m. every weekday. His consistency, like all consistent things, gave cadence to my day. I never met him in person and I have no idea where he lived.
After living in my tidy apartment for a year, I decided to schlep all my Goodwill furnishings to a downtown Sarasota bungalow, thus changing my work commute and the frequency in which I spied the Fruitville jogger.
Up until recently, I didn’t give his absence much thought. Not until I spotted him last week huffing it down Fruitville Road in the same gray sweats.
Nearly six years have passed since I saw him and I don’t know why I have these kind of reactions to seemingly meaningless things, but my heart fluttered when I saw him. I was on my way to a 10 a.m. interview and maybe I caught him at just the right time. His 9:30 run.
I often wonder why it is people find sunsets beautiful. Sunrises too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of both, but it’s the human things I find more moving. A lot of things can change in a person’s life to disrupt routines and still the sun will rise and the sun will set. But Danny Glover, sweaty as ever, still jogging down Fruitville Road? That’s impressive.
1. When you’re buying running shoes, you need to go up a 1/2 size. I needed to go up a full size.
2. My dogs are flatter than Fred Flintstone’s.
3. Contrary to foxy marketing, Nike DOES NOT make the best running shoe.
The chicks working at Fleet Feet in Sarasota’s Hillview neighborhood couldn’t have been nicer and more informative. They pulled two pairs of shoes from their stock – a pair of Sauconys and a pair of Adidas – which they kindly said would cushion my platypus feet and provide much-needed support and arching. They also informed me that the knee pain was most likely the result of running in shitty shoes with flippers for feet.
At one point, they cast a suspicious look at the gold wedges I was wearing and suggested I stop wearing heels until the knee got better, to which I nodded and lied OK.
They analyzed my stride, which my friend Roger has described as “Napoleonic,” and watched me run up and down the alley between the store and a neighboring coffee shop. They didn’t chastise me when I revealed that I was running in Walmart sneaks and best of all, they refrained from selling me unnecessary crap. They were so good at not selling me unnecessary crap that I felt compelled to purchase a pair of $10 Balega socks.
I felt like I’d gone school shopping. I can’t tell you the last time I bought sneakers. Not counting the Puma cleats I purchased every couple years for high school soccer, it’s been 15 years since I purchased a pair of real sneakers. Real sneakers, not $10-specials from Walfart or TJ Maxx.
That night, while Joe was at the opening night of Tampa’s Gasparilla Film Fest, I embarked on my first run in four days. I had taken four days off because my knee hurt so freaking bad. Every time I tried to leave the house, I got as far as the park and had to turn around dejected, frustrated and aggravated.
Such was not the case with my new Adidas! After devouring a veggie burrito from Chipotle, I decided to tie on the new shoes and go for a walk. Five minutes in, I broke into a full jog. These suckers were made for galloping, I thought as I rounded Coffee Pot Boulevard, syncing my steps with the sounds of The Chemical Brothers and British pop tart Lily Allen.
I ran better and swifter than I’d ever run before. Like a Clydesdale, I strode, strong, confident and steadfast. I felt an ache in my left knee once or twice, but it wasn’t enough to halt me.
On my return run, I noticed the sky had darkened and that a pale pink was spreading like watercolor paint across the bay. I hadn’t even realized I was running at sunset, which made my heart flutter for so many reasons I could write you a novel right here and now, if I was so inclined.
PS. Thank you guys for all the running tips and recommendations last week. Other than the Fleet Feet employee suggesting I ditch high heels, I’ve taken everyone’s advice very seriously. And Rosey Rebecca: thank you for suggesting Fleet Feet. I felt totally catered to.