I have narrowed down the criteria for my ideal running partner, and have concluded that I will not compromise on this list. No scars, no history of serious illness in the last three generations of your family, and no tooth cavities. Disqualification for those who have runny noses, ringworm, drug allergies or bad breath. The candidate must also possess a pleasant and adaptable disposition. Yes, I am kidding; though this is an actual list of true criteria for a different type of applicant, I would be more insane than previously believed if it were in fact my design. (Though I wouldn't mind if my future running partner possessed a few of these traits, notably fresh breath). During my run today, I made some daring attempts to recruit future running partners en route. It helped that a 20 mile NYRR run was in mid-stride as I started my own private 6 mile loop. I had a captive pool of runners in all different sizes, shapes, and running paces. I was feeling good for the first time all week, having finally adapted a little to the oppressive humidity that has blanketed the city for the first time this summer. I kept passing runners with numbers affixed to them, and didn't see anyone running my pace for a while. Then I passed a water stop, and some guy with a sweated green t-shirt grabbed a cup and sipped on the run. He seemed to be going my pace, so I thought I'd ask him about this organized run. I think I startled him, as he was kind of reticent about giving information. Then I realized that he wasn't a registered runner, and may have been worried I was going to yell at him for taking the water. He said he was doing an 18 miler. I asked him if he had a lot more to go, and he replied, 'Yeah, one and a quarter.' So this guy was probably exhausted from running 15-3/4 miles in hilly Central Park, guilt ravished the whole way for not officially paying his NYRR dues while using their amenities, and now pressured to not only be charming and sociable, but to keep up with this fresh-legged intruder. Since I had nearly the whole park to cover still, I just picked up the pace and left that one behind. Next I saw some guy tuck in from the right and start a jaunty paced jog. He seemed springy and energetic, and had a white nylon short-sleeved shirt on with foreign words on the front. When I caught up to him, he stopped running, and pulled off to walk. I encouraged, 'You can't walk, you just started!' He looked at me incredulously, a pink face dripping in sweat. Hmm, I thought, maybe he had already finished a long run and was just doing a cool down. Maybe he had a severe side stitch and was disheartened to have to stop, and didn't appreciate anonymous feedback in the least. Maybe he was Hungarian and had no clue what I had just yelled at him. And maybe it was time for me to stop talking to strangers. My failure to engage people this day reminded me of Oliver. Oliver was this adorable half Chinese half Russian 4 year old who was having a hard time finding someone to play Lego Indiana Jones with him on the playground. He was a tough and sensitive kid, and usually very quiet. I kept making different suggestions of potential playmates for him from the kids that I knew out there. 'There's Dylan, I bet he would play with you', and then Oliver would say 'OK', and skip off with a cute little smile on his face and approach the kid. He returned empty-handed, but was game with continuing the search. I suggested at least four more potential players, and each time Oliver good-naturedly skipped over to the party, and each time he returned just a little more broken. I had to attend to some other playground drama, and when I returned a few minutes later, I was thrilled to see Oliver had not only found a playmate (his twin brother) but was smiling ear to ear as the two of them took turns pulverising each other in a mock sword fight. I didn't realize Lego Indiana Jones was such a violent game, but it sure made Oliver happy.
By the end of my run in the park, I forgot all about looking for someone to run with. I was really enjoying being in the park and found myself feeling very strong and fit.
So for those of you still wondering what those strange items on that list were all about, here it is: They are amongst the 100 health requirements for would-be astronauts vying to be part of China's next space team, the Yangtze Evening Paper reported today.