By Bruce Fordyce
He was lying on his back in the middle of the road his head on the hard black tar. One eye was open staring blankly at the winter sky. The other was tightly closed. His arm was frozen in the air the hand clutching at something like a birds claw. A small worried crowd stood around him muttering or talking urgently into cell phones.
My heart beat even faster than it had been after climbing the hill. I raced towards him thinking;
“Don’t let it be my friend, the old bloke in the white lab coat.” But it was and his lab coat lay open revealing the neatly knotted tie and the tweed jacket. My old friend was dead.
He had been a strange friend. I didn’t even know his name but almost every weekday morning for many years we have passed each other on the Westcliff roads and exchanged greetings. Someone told me he worked as an academic at nearby Wits University and walked to work. His occupation didn’t really matter. He had become as familiar as the changing seasons, the barking German Shepherds at number 45 and the long pull up Pallinghurst road. He had become an expected part of each run.
And now he is gone and a small part of my morning run will never quite be the same. I wish we had stopped to say more than just “Good morning, chilly isn’t it?” But sadly we didn’t. We were both far too polite and reserved.
His passing has reminded me that it is not just the physical act of running that makes running so special. Our sport offers so much and friendship is one of those gifts. I have been thinking thinking of the other faces that enrich my hours on the road. The security guard listening to his radio in his little hut who never fails to greet me with the teasing words;
“I still think you runners are mad “
Tamika and Brett Sher who never stop holding hands as they stroll through our suburb; Clem Sunter striding along in his Sherlock Holmes outfit, the tired lady walking the two Labradors that always appear to be trying to tear her apart.
They must think I’m a bit odd these last few days as my greeting has been unusually warm and enthusiastic.
“Morning , chilly isn’t it” just isn’t good enough.