Veterans Day Reflections – Running with Chris Scott – Part 1

I’ve known Chris Scott since he was a skinny, little 98 pound freshman in high school.  He was squirrel-y, hyper and just a wee bit nerdy.  Let’s just say that I remember watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with him and Dan Hansen, while they had (at least one) model of the Enterprise NC1701-D nearby…

Now, i won’t say they were “playing” with those toy models as freshmen in high school, but those models were definitely close by all during the show…

Chris as a slightly less nerdy junior or senior in high school...

Chris as a slightly less nerdy junior or senior in high school…

A few years later, it was great to reconnect, more as peers, as he became a passionate, intense and spiritually sensitive young man.  He lived with Melanie and I during a couple summers of interning with our youth ministry in Wichita and he and I bonded even more deeply over faith, Little Debbies, basketball, softball and the NBA Finals.

After that, we saw each other a couple of times here and there, and for one slightly longer stint when he lived at the infamous 35 S. Clarkson, here in Denver for a couple of months.

And then, as often happens, we lost track of one another for a number of years.

A lot of life happened to both of us over that time.  There were great times, but also a lot of loss, sorrow, tragedy and difficulty.   Life had weathered us both.

Somewhere along the way, I turned 40 and decided that I wanted to run a marathon to commemorate that milestone.  And for Chris, he joined the Army, despite Ben Fold’s admonitions.

The thing about Chris is that he has always been a little, shall we say, unhinged. 

He’s loud and hilarious and a tremendous story-teller.  There’s generally a lot of shouting and yelling when he’s with friends.  He throws his body around with little regard for pain or consequences, which made him an excellent rugby player.  He’s just not exactly put together “right,” if you know what I mean.   

And, he absolutely cannot back down from a challenge.

So, when I decided to run the 2011 Leadville Trail Marathon for my second marathon experience, and threw down the gauntlet for him to join me, he was defenseless.  It began like this…

Picture 1

That race was so hard.  It was my first mountain race.  And I found out from Chris later on that the longest he’d ever run before that was like 12 miles or something.  He did it on guts and grit and a lot of step-ups in the gym.  He pulled me up the 3000’ climb to Mosquito Pass, and I dragged him back down to Leadville.  We stayed together all-day.  It was an epic experience.

Chris and I moments before Leadville Marathon, 2011

Chris and I moments before Leadville Marathon, 2011

Chris coined a phrase, heading up the mountain that day, and we laughed about it on top of Mosquito Pass… NDY – Not Dead Yet.  We laughed and laughed at the thought that the mountain was trying to kill us… but that in some small way we won.  We were Not Dead Yet…

Finishing

Finishing

Chris kissing the finish line...

Chris kissing the finish line…

Post Race 2011

Post Race 2011

Then in 2012, we ran the Leadville Heavy-Half Marathon on Saturday and then the Copper Mountain Half Marathon on Sunday to create yet another epic weekend.  Mosquito Pass took another chunk out of our hides, but still, we were Not Dead Yet.

Post Leadville Heavy Half 2012

Post Leadville Heavy Half, with Luke Giltner, too, 2012

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Post Copper Mountain Half, 2012

A back-to-back race weekend done...

A back-to-back race weekend done…

Then, Chris came back to Colorado that August, just a month and a half after the Leadville/ Copper combo weekend, to run the Aspen Backcountry Marathon with me.  

Sure, it was partially to chase a cute girl (oh, Chelsea from Aspen…) but it was also to have one last experience together before he shipped out to Afghanistan for a year or more.

Chris was headed off to war.

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Pre Aspen Backcountry Marathon

While the weekend was a blast, with many more memories made and stories forged, there was a soberness to that time, too.  We knew that he was going into a very, very dangerous situation.  It was entirely possible that he could be killed in action.  And knowing Chris the way that I do, I knew that if things got really intense, that crazy son of a bitch would be the first one in and the last one out.  It’s just the way he’s wired.  And so, our embrace at that finish line was just a bit longer and a little tighter than usual.

Post Aspen Embrace

Post Aspen Embrace

Post Aspen, including Dave Stokes, who also raced that weekend

Post Aspen, including Dave Stokes, who also raced that weekend

While he was in Afghanistan, we were able to connect via iMessage and Facebook sporadically, but there were often long gaps in time where things would go silent.  In those times, it was so hard to not let worry creep in and whisper the worst.

As I continued to run and train, moving into trail ultra-marathons, I inevitably thought of my friend often.  I’ve read that the Hopi Indians view running itself as a form of prayer. And so as I ran, I often offered my effort and struggle as prayers for the safety of him and his men.  As I crossed and crisscrossed Green Mountain, I would pick up two rocks, one for Chris and one for his men, and I would carry them up the hill as physical symbols of those prayers and drop them on the cairns at the top.

Eventually, he’d break his radio silence and we’d connect again.  And we began to speak of running the Leadville 100 together, with another go-round at the Leadville Marathon as part of our training.

But, then things would go silent again… (To Be Continued)

The cairns on top of Green Mountain in Lakewood

The cairns on top of Green Mountain in Lakewood