Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 10 May 2000 09:16:43 -0400

Don's Early Flight

(from RC 302)

One result I hoped would come from "Don and Me" has come. The April Runner's World column reconnected me with Don Prichard after we'd lost touch for too long.

Don gets top billing in that column, and rightly so. It talks about our senior year in high school, when he taught me about competition at its finest.

He was my competitor, the best I've ever known in every sense of the word. We became friends who worked together without yielding an inch to the other. Our friendly fights led to much better racing than either of us could have done without pushing and pulling from the other.

The column centered on our last day of high school racing, the last day we would wear different uniforms. That fall we would become college teammates. Since our graduation in 1965, I regret having seen Don only once -- more than 30 years ago.

This week he responded to the piece in RW. Seldom has a message brought me more joy.

He writes that our year of competition meant even more to him than it did to me. "I was new to the sport and knew very little about what I was doing." This was his first season as a miler and only his second in track.

"I had dreamed of going to college," he says. "But it seemed very remote as I started my senior year of high school because my parents did not have the money to send me."

Partly at my urging, Don trained all winter. This was almost unknown for young Iowa runners at that time.

We raced each other often that spring, Don usually winning. "To my amazement and delight," he says, "I started getting scholarship offers for college, which changed the course of my life."

I never again competed better than on that last day of high school track. Don pulled away from me while we were teammates, then served as an officer in the Vietnam-era Marine Corps. That's when we completely fell out of contact.

The RW column brought us back together. Running had taken him to college, and his schooling led to a career as an architect in Indianapolis.

All these years later I remember beating him in the state mile. He remembers what I'd long since forgotten -- that he might have beaten me in the half-mile.

"I was licking my wounded ego and trying to think how I could return the favor," he recalls of that 880. "I will go to my grave thinking I caught you at the finish. However, none of the judges thought that."

I'd like to dig up the gold medal from the 1961 Iowa High School half-mile and award it to Don. This is the least I can do for him by way of thanks. He meant more to my best year of racing than he'll ever know or I'll ever repay.

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