30 August 2019 version
For the first time in its existence the daily column by the local ghost reporter is on the front page and not page three. This column is about the people events around the city, not the major news events. The column covers the interesting things that don’t make the local gossip reports or the usual news reports. Today it’s very different to usual:
About Town with Al
It’s another Monday and the start of the week again. This year I’m breaking with an eight year old tradition and I’m going to talk about the City Fun Run yesterday. In past years I’ve not mentioned this twenty kilometre fun run because every editor and reporter in the city covers it in much detail. But this year I witnessed something I think they all missed. I was at the finish line while they were setting up before the start of the race. Get there early and you can park close to the line. I was parking my van close to be ready to pick up my usual running friends when I saw an old woman sitting in a chair not quite opposite the sign-in desk. She looked ancient, she had on a big floppy hat against the sun, and in her left hand was the handle of a guide dog frame. The dog was the most perfect example of a black Labrador I’ve ever seen. I went over to talk to her. She told me...
All other reports on the fun run are on pages two and three. The rest of the front page is taken up with the other happy people news from around the region during the weekend, births, weddings, and the like.
The Finish Line
I don’t run, I can’t with my bad knee, but I always get asked to take my van to the finish line so I can return a bunch of friends who do run back to the start line and their cars. I like to arrive early so I can park right beside the finish line. Most years I’m the first to arrive after the volunteers get there to set it up. This year I’m the second non-volunteer to arrive, and the person who beat me looks interesting.
Setting up my folding chair I sit down on the right hand of the old lady in the large floppy hat and say, “Morning, Ma’am. It sure looks like a nice day for the run!”
She turns her head to smile at me while saying, “It sure feels warm, and Sarah’s coat feels so warm after only a few minutes of lying here.” I grin while she rubs the head of the dog under her left hand. “At ninety-two I’m way too old to be out in this sort of mess. But I’ve outlived most of my kin and I’m here to take my great-grandson home. He’s been living with me since his parents got killed in a car accident two years back. They were on their way to run in this when they died, and they’d run in it every year since it started. Two of the few originals to keep running. They don’t let you run until you’re fourteen and Barry turned fourteen five weeks back, so he just ‘had’ to run this the first year he could. I think this’ll allow him to put closure on his parents’ deaths.”
I can tell she’s not happy with the subject but feels she needs to tell me about her great-grandson, since I can also tell she’s very proud of him for running in memory of his parents. We sit and chat while we wait.
Just over an hour later the first runner crosses the line. The next hour sees a whole lot of the serious runners arrive, but not my friends. Most of the nearly five thousand entrants are serious runners who do the twenty kilometres in under two hours. In the past the longest time has been four hours. Once they start to arrive there’s usually a steady stream of runners until the last one crosses the line.
For some reason traffic is busy until the two hour mark with most of the runners finishing. Then the road is empty. I lean out to look down the last kilometre of the road, it’s a nice straight stretch to a curve. I say, “That’s odd, Missus Malcolm, there’s no one in sight.” I look up at the sign-in desk and call out, “Hey, Jenny, how many left to sign-in?” The group I’m collecting have times in the one and a half to two hours mark so they should be here by now, so I’m starting to get worried about them while I worry about falls during the run.
The supervisor of the sign-in desk looks up and calls back, “We’ve got just over seven hundred still out there. The marshals say we’ve a block about twenty-five minutes out.” I wave my thanks for the info.
Mrs Malcolm says, “From his times in training I expect Barry is with this bunch. One of his class mates is almost a year older and won her age group last year. May has been such a good help to Barry with his training and she promised to stay with him for the run to make sure he has no trouble. I like May, she’s a nice girl.” I smile, because it’s clear she’d like to see that friendship become something more.