[For this brief series, I’ve shared updates on a few topics from my hometown of Charlottesville about which I’ve blogged previously. Leading up to this special weekend tribute to an influential Cville figure I got to see again earlier this summer!]
On a childhood influence who exemplifies the best of community.
Of the handful of experiences that have been genuinely defining across the course of my 44 years, I think long-distance running is likely the one about which I’ve written the least in this space. There’s a reason for that: the last consistent running I did (outside of on treadmills at various gyms, anyway, which really is an entirely different animal from running outside) was my senior year in high school, more than 25 years ago (he typed with a gasp). But for the seven years before that, starting in 6th grade when my Mom and I trained for our first Charlottesville 10-Miler together (a race we would run almost every year between that one and my senior year), and including my three years on the CHS cross-country team (about which I did write, in a very different context, in this post on my experiences of hazing during my freshman year), long-distance running was as consistent a part of my pre-teen and teenage life as anything.
I will always associate running first and foremost with a community of two: my Mom and I, out there on early mornings, often with our dog Tiah. These days, I’m also coming to associate it with a community of three, as my sons have become part of their high school cross-country (my older son) and track (both of them) teams. But in the broader community of Charlottesville runners, of which we became part through those Ten Milers and many other road races over the years, there was another figure who absolutely and beautifully came to symbolize running to me: Mark Lorenzoni. Along with his wife Cynthia, a seriously successful long-distance runner in her own right, Mark started and operated Ragged Mountain Running Shop, a store that became and remains a Charlottesville institution (we just got my younger son some new running shoes there while we were in town in June). But he also and especially became the most vocal and dedicated supporter of all things running in Cville, and most especially of young runners.
“The loneliness of the long-distance runner” is a clichéd but in many ways accurate phrase, not just because of the short story and film of that name, but because compared to many sports running is a profoundly individual endeavor, one where the battle is most fully against the voices in our own heads. Nothing and no one can entirely change that fundamental nature, not a running partner, not a team of fellow high school runners, and not cheering crowds as the Ten Miler (for example) always drew. But at the same time, given how much of teenage life can already feel isolated and lonely, it’s pretty important that we find ways to make sure young runners (and all runners, but in some particular ways young runners especially) also feel solidarity and support, the best kinds of community and comradery. Mark did that amazingly well, not just through formal events but through his very presence and voice, before races, after races, during races, and at so many other moments along the way. I can only hope that my sons find similar influences in their burgeoning running careers—and am determined to do whatever I can to carry Mark’s legacies forward.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Influences you’d pay tribute to?