There is no shortage of topical threads on Reddit, the popular news aggregation website. According to a July 2016 TechCrunch article, Reddit reported 243 million visitors a month to Backchannel, up from 164 million a year earlier. Regardless of the total user count as of this writing, it’s safe to say that millions of visitors to Reddit translates into millions of threads and billions of comments on every subject under the sun. I came across an intriguing thread in the running category recently. “If you could have a run with one person, real or not, who would it be?”
Comments for this question run the gamut from the genuine (Steve Prefontaine) to the asinine (the gingerbread man). Tom Cruise is mentioned, along with Forrest Gump, Pheidippides, Meb Keflezighi, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, no one covered more ground in the trilogy than Frodo Baggins, for his quest to destroy the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom spanned many miles across foreboding landscapes. His journey could fill a book like his cousin Bilbo Baggins.
Who would you run with, real or not? The first person that comes to mind is Dean Karnazes, the renowned ultramarathon runner. Oddly enough, I did run with Dean a few years ago at a marathon in Atlanta. Though we only talked for a few moments, I told him that I was simply amazed at the scope of his epic accomplishments. Consider this: In 2006, Dean completed 50 marathons in fifty states in fifty days. In 2008, he won the 4 Deserts Race Series. And just recently, Karnazes made the 153-mile trek from Athens to Sparta, aptly chronicled in his latest book, The Road to Sparta (2016).
It’s fair to say that runners would gravitate towards fellow runners in the context of the Reddit query, be they living or deceased. One deceased runner of note I’d like to have a conversation with is Wes Santee, who ran for the University of Kansas and competed with Aussie John Landy and Brit Roger Bannister to break the four-minute mile barrier in the 1950s. Though Bannister went under four first (3:59:40), the rivalry among these three athletes, magnificently described in The Perfect Mile (2004) by Neal Bascomb, was both intense and mighty. I have little doubt that Landy and Bannister are still queried by fans who are curious about that famed rivalry back in the day. Santee died November 14, 2010, in Eureka, Kansas.
Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi would be on my list too, along with Killian Jornet, Scott Jurek, Dave McGillivray (director of the Boston Marathon) and Gary Cantrell (director of the Barkley Marathons). Runners aside, there’s plenty of other people who pique my interest outside of the running community. Take Will Ferrell, the Saturday Night Live alum. If we were to lace up our shoes and go for a jaunt, who would I be speaking with as the miles pass? Will Ferrell? Ron Burgundy? Ricky Bobby? Chazz Michael Michaels? Jacobim Mugatu? Steve Butabi? Or Buddy the Elf?
Christopher Nolan is a strong running partner. We could discuss the Batman trilogy; the length of time it took to write the script for Inception (2010); how much Interstellar (2014) is based on actual science; and like other directors, why he likes working with the same actors for multiple films (e.g. Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Christian Bale, and Cillian Murphy). As for actors, I’d ask Denzel Washington if he enjoys portraying the good guy (Herman Boone in Remember the Titans) or bad guy (Alonzo in Training Day) more.
For investment advice, I’d take a few miles with the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet. For writing advice, Malcom Gladwell. And for parenting advice, I’d look no further than my friend and former colleague, Hal Runkel, a marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. Though many of the people on this list are not readily accessible, I’m struck by the fact that many are. Likewise, elite runners frequently make appearances at expos and pose for pictures with their admiring fans. Chris Nolan is a little harder to reach.
Every race I enter, however, is a chance to interact with someone new, for our interest is mutual. We might run together for a few minutes, miles, or even hours. We are both ready for the long run. Speaking of which, I wonder if Don Henley is available to go the distance with me. Or maybe I’m thinking of Michael Bolton. He sang of traversing great spans in the film Hercules (1997) in an unforgettable way. Unforgettable? Nat King Cole. Maybe I should stop here and just go for a run – alone.