Hoppy birdthay, Bob.
Today would be the 60-somethingth birthday of my friend, Bob Davidson. In his honor, I’ve taken an obligatory celebratory run and, true to Bob’s routine, I’m having a beer afterwards. Although the beer’s not Bob’s usual Bud (and I don’t drink beer often), the run was on trails and that’s quite fitting.
I recall more than one trail run with Bob, but one was sticking with me this morning. It was a Saturday morning in Phoenix in the early ’90s and he took me to South Mountain Park. We parked somewhere near where a lot of kids were riding mountain bikes (they were just becoming fashionable, or at least the fashion was just coming into my consciousness) and we took off on foot. Bob knew where he was going. Very soon we left the pavement and wound up on single-track paths. We ran and ran: up hills, down slopes that nearly required scrambling, along ridges, and through canyon bottoms.
Every now and again Bob, the far more experienced (let alone more competent) runner, would stop, point out some feature, and ask how I was doing. He’d offer choices. “We could take this one back to the parking lot, another 30 minutes or so, or we could go farther along here. There’s some pretty paths this way” (meaing the farther way, of course). I went along with this madness. At one such stop he pointed and said, “Just over there is where I live. If you want, we can add a couple of miles and I can point out my subdivision to you.” That “couple of miles” turned out to be, of course, more like three miles each way. But, he did point out some houses in an area on floor of the desert past the south side of South Mountain. At least we had water.
On the way back, Bob let me run in front for a few miles. He directed me past some petroglyphs near some narrow passages where, as I recall, we had to turn sideways to pass. I learned a lot during those miles: Make sure you’ve slowed enough to make the turns on downhill switchbacks, judge where your footfalls will need to be for those rocks that are about 5-6 meters ahead, lean away from the abyss, and such. Bob introduced me to the meaning of the term “technical” as it applies to stretches of trail where a runner must quickly adjust his or her balance, stride, breathing, position in space, and more.
Later, as we stood by the trunk of his car, in puddles, and had a Bud, he said, “That’s one of the things I like about running trails: No two steps are the same.” Nice memories.