Last Friday afternoon my daughter Kristin and I were taking a hot, windy, humid little jog in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma in preparation for a 15k race we planned to do the following morning when we ran into a couple of guys sitting on a low wall. One of them asked if we knew where “The Expo” was, the place where you go to pick up your race number. “Right down there,” Kristin said, pointing to the Cox Business Center. “Go all the way down the main hall and turn right into ballroom C.”
“Thank you,” one of them said, looking just a little puzzled by what ballroom C might mean. And then we began to talk. They were obviously runners and so were we, and we were just as obviously all going to run in the same 15k race on Saturday morning. It took about 10 minutes before we’d become fast friends. Abraham was from Mexico City and had struggled to get a visa, then ridden 36 hours on a bus, arriving in Tulsa only the day before. Ray, a friend of Abraham’s friend who had volunteered his place for Abraham to stay, had been in the states for 16 years. e worked as a machinist, he told me H He worked as a machinist, he told me, but this guy, despite his slightly broken English, was a philosopher at heart. And he knew how to make friends in a hurry.
Abraham was shooting high. “The Kenyans will come first, then me,” he explained to Kristin whose Spanish is much better than mine. We wished them luck and saw them off on their way to pick up their race bibs. Surprisingly enough, we saw them again the next morning among 7,000 thinly-clad bodies milling around nervously awaiting the start. Just time for a high-five and to wish each other luck.
At the end of the race, as I searched among the throng for Kristin, I ran into Ray again. He seemed happy enough with his time but Abraham was not close on the heels of the winning Kenyans. “The bus ride was too long,” Ray explained. “Abraham did not have time to recover from it before the race. Next year I will invite him to come a week early.”
It was then that I invited the two of them to come to Fort Collins next September to run the first ever Fort Collins Fortitude 10k. “It goes right by my house,” I explained. “You must come and do it and you must stay with me.”
He promised. I’m looking forward to it.