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Eighteen years ago, my buddy Vince Nelson from Greenville started jogging on a regular basis. His future wife, Elizabeth, competed in marathons and Iron Woman events, so it was a natural thing for him to do.
Yes, love will make you do crazy things. Vince and I played golf on a regular basis and, at the time, he was one of the best, if not the best golfer in Greenville. He owned two course records at some point if I’m not mistaken.
One Saturday while on the course, he casually mentioned he was thinking about running a marathon.
“How far is a marathon?” I asked.
“26.2 miles,” came the reply.
“Good luck with that. You’ve lost your mind,” I said, making fun of him as only a best friend can. I mean the dude came to the gym back in the day to play basketball in deck shoes. He did not even own basketball shoes. He is a heck of a golfer, but a marathon runner? Come on. It wasn’t going to happen.
Over the next six months, Vince kept talking about his training and he was running 3-5 miles a day. Occasionally, he would stretch it to around 7-8 miles — or farther. I really didn’t pay it any attention, until one day he told me he had signed up for a marathon in Florida at the end of the year. He said it was on his “bucket list.” So, being the great friend I am, I laughed at him, made fun of the idea and predicted he would never make it.
This went on for a couple of months.He would tell me how far he was running and I’d make fun of him and ask when were we going to play golf.
Fast forward to a Saturday morning late in the year and I get a phone call while I was on the golf course.
“I did it!” He proclaimed, out of breath.
“Did what?,” I asked in the middle of the fairway, not really wanting to talk.
“I finished the marathon. I beat the time I had set for myself,” Vince said.
“Big deal. I can’t talk right now. I’m about to hit.”
And I hung up. I know, — pretty harsh.
Later that week, I called Vince to talk about his accomplishment, because after all, he is my buddy and I like to think I am a good friend. I’m not a monster.
After he told me all about the race and that he had overhydrated and kept having to go to the bathroom during the race, he got even with me. Actually, he probably won the “back and forth banter” of male friendship, if there was a winner in all of this.
“You know that kind of hurt my feelings Saturday when you hung up on me?” He asked pointedly.
“What do you mean? I was playing golf,” came my response.
And then, he preceded to drop the bomb on me as only a best friend can.
“I had just run 26.2 miles. I beat my time and the first person I called when I finally caught my breath was you,” he said. “And you hung up on me.”
Bam! Game. Set. Match.
So, I laughed at him even though he was right and secretly, I felt terrible about it even though I’d never admit it. Hey, it did not matter that he had just conquered an incredible feat. That’s how guys handle things. We bust each other chops — especially at the age we were at the time.
So, 18 years later, I want to set the record straight. I admit finishing a marathon or any lifetime goal is an extraordinary accomplishment and should be cause for a celebration. That wasn’t the time to be busting your chops because after all, a close friend is hard to come by. They are priceless.
So, way to go Vinnie!! I was and still am proud of you for running that marathon.
(When I decided to write this column, I texted Vince to find out how far a marathon actually is. His response?
“Too far for you.”
I think he has forgiven me for hanging up on him.)
David Lee is the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department Director. He is also a part-time golfer, part-time writer and, along with his wife, Dana, full-time parents of two boys.