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coffee and running shoes…

March 9, 2016

Runner propaganda poster

They meet every Saturday morning at Manic Cafe (the cafe closest to my mother-in-law’s condo at College and Bathurst). I too come here every Saturday morning around 8 to gorge on a Saturday newspaper, an almond croissant, and a coffee.

I looked up from the paper because as they gathered they were surprising loud and boisterous for 8am; they seem full of nervous competitive artificial energy, and everyone was talking about 4:40, 4:30, and 4:20 splits.

They are all in their mid-to-late 20’s. They are runners.

They talk of shoes, routes, cross-training.

Some, you quickly discern, are obsessed.


They are a group of highly disciplined competitive amateur runners – the neon-colored full running gear type of Saturday morning people who seem to enjoy running in flocks throughout the city at 6, 7, or 8am.

The seven young women in the group all talk in a manner that makes me think they are used to getting their way – either at work or at home. They are not bossy or bitchy – nor am I wanting to imply any such suggestion. They just have that confidence that comes with being in control of their situation.

I am reminded of a young woman I know back in Halifax who has her own very successful tech start-up company. High-energy, competitive, in charge; someone who also loves to run 10k every Saturday morning, usually at 6am.

The eight men in the group also look materially successful – top-of-the-line shoes, clean socks, fitness monitors strapped to the wrists. Young-managers-in-the-making types with long careers ahead of them working as deferential problem-solvers for higher-up-the-chain bosses – quietly intimidated by the force and the confidence of these young women – so they murmur quietly among themselves – the weaker ones looking worried that once they all set off, they won’t be able to keep up with the leaders of the pack.


I’ve never understood these high-energy A-type people – the over ambitious who walk among us – the people who get so many things done – the-first-million-by-thirty-types.

The people who will accomplish more this Saturday than I will in a week.

10k run, shower, quinoa-and-two-egg breakfast done by 9:30am, Farmer’s Market and a quickcatchupworkmeeting-over-coffee done by 11. The new AGO exhibit and upgraded ski boots by 4. A couple of hours then spent on an organizational redesign of the marketing department – dinner with friends at the latest latest trendy spot, a late movie, and finally drinks and dance at some “after midnight” VIP event-cause-celeb at the Drake.

Up again tomorrow at 6 for a quick run, morning meditations at the Zen Temple, followed by a day of skiing in the new snow boots at Blue Mountain – types of people.


I had a boatload of energy when I was in my 20’s – but I never had the desire to accomplish such feats-of-strength. To have the hottest, and the latest; to be the fastest, or the strongest, or be part of the bearded hipster selfie crowd.

I needed to explore the world, read widely, have experiences – Southeast Asia, West Africa, Central and South America – Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Prague – living in grubby holes with Rastafarian Princesses, Navajo Warriors, Viet Nam vets, nymphomaniacs. Plato, Proust, Foucault, Borges, Kundera, Didion, Dillard, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. The Old Testament. The Buddha. Anais Nin.

A mad fevered pitch to read all the wisdom words of the world – arguing with Archbishops, existentialists, politicians.

Free climbing in Australia, surfing in Hawaii, a three-some in the Costa Rican rainforest.

I had to do it all, now, yesterday.

So, I look at these young 20-something smartly dressed urban professionals who channel high energies into their work, their split-times, their condos, their first million by thirty, their first mergers, their first home in Forest Hills, their totally programmed first child, their first Boston Marathon – and I think of that time in the Painted Desert with Gretta, a frisky German girl I had met at the Hostel in Flagstaff Arizona, and the young Swiss woman we had picked up somewhere along the way – and the mad mischievousness we got up to out there under the sun…

The runners gulp at their espressos and then gather outside the window of the cafe – bouncing on toes – stretching – a couple of them yawn – and then, at some unseen pack sign, they are off like a flock of birds –

I see them now,

and forever –

pony tails and neon;

loping off down the sidewalk, headed East,

into the morning sun.


“Why are morning runners so happy?”

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