Riding down past Tingley Beach this morning, I was coming up on a runner in the distance when something didn’t seem right. It was taking me too long to close on him.
He had this most beautiful stride, light, his toes barely touching the pavement. I slowed down to clock him on my bike’s speedometer, settling 15 feet or so behind him and matching his pace. 13 miles an hour. This guy was doing sub-five minute miles with a steady grace. I passed him and looked at his face. It wasn’t an effortless face, it was the face of firm determination, but it was the face of a man running well within himself. I’ve never seen anyone that beautifully fast out there.
I stopped at the south end of Tingley Beach, he passed me, and we ended up together at Cesar Chavez Blvd., where he stopped, his run finished. I’m usually pretty shy, but I rode up to him. “I was clocking you back there,” I said. “You were doing, what, 4:30 miles?”
He looked at his watch. “4:51,” he said, a modest smile cracking his face. I asked him his name.
I have always taken special pleasure in watching someone who is very good at what they do. My favorite example is the old super at the apartment building I lived in in the early 1980s. He was a mechanic his whole life, and I was talking to him one time while he was fixing the boilers. Without even thinking – he was talking to me as he worked – he looked at a bolt, then reached over to his very neat tool box and grabbed the right wrench.
That’s what it was like watching this guy run. He told me he was Brandon Leslie, a name I immediately recognized. He ran the 10,000 meters in the Olympic trials last year, and he told me he’s getting ready for the national half-marathon championship next week in Houston. I’ll have to try to remember to check the results.