Running with a stranger at Old Dominion

A complete stranger asked me to run 11 miles with him, at night, through the mountains, for 4 hours… and I seized the opportunity. I learned a few things in the process, and I now call him my friend.

Today I did something I don’t often do: I ran with someone else. His name is Ryan Foster, and he was attempting his first ever 100 mile race, the Old Dominion 100 in Woodstock, VA.

How it happened

I’ve never met Ryan before. He was going to run the same 50 mile race as me back in Sept. ’08, but the race got cancelled. Ryan had my email address, along with about 50 others, and he emailed us all looking for a pacer. I told him I might be interested, and a week before the race, he emailed me back, “Dave, are you still interested?”

Meeting up in no man’s land

We met up at mile 75 at 7pm. I briefly introduced myself. We shook hands. I helped him take his shoes off. 8 minutes later he smiled at me and said, “You ready to go for a run?”

Little did we know it would be a hike/climb… not a run. This was the toughest 11 mile stretch that either of us had ever faced. But it turned out to be a pleasure spending it together.

The experience

We talked about running, work, grad school, his 1-yr-old son, future plans, and even the invisible mice he thought he spotted around mile 80 (apparently these hallucinations common). We also went 10-15 minutes without saying a word. I helped him up off the ground a few times after falling. I tied his shoe, and even re-pinned his bib to his shorts. Needless to say, we got close.

Two complete strangers to one another, acting like we’d been running buddies since high school. 4 hours later, I dropped him off at an aid station to find his wife waiting there to surprise him.

The lesson

If you haven’t run with someone lately, you should. If you’ve never talked to a stranger, I recommend it. If you get the chance to run with a stranger, at night, in the dark, through the mountains, for 4 hours… don’t pass it up.

Ryan finished in 21:53:47, 6th place overall, easily achieving his goal of under 24 hours.