It's four in the afternoon and I'm strolling along the foot and bicycle path in Freedom Park. The evening is just beginning to settle towards night as the last harsh rays of direct sunlight are eclipsed by the Atlanta skyline. Towards me along the path lumbers a most unlikely sight. Joggers and cyclists along this stretch of park are as common as bums on a subway but this man was unique. About six foot, he sported a massive pot belly, as if someone had tied a freshly basted turkey across his midsection and then dressed him in an over sized sweat shirt. He was wearing a knit cap and a pair of short, very short, running trunks that ceased being fashionable about the time Dire Straits decided they wanted their MTV. His legs were very, very hairy. Finishing the ensemble was a nearly antique headphone radio, the self contained type that requires four double A batteries and that sits entirely on the head as if one were wearing a pair of camcorder batteries on a beret. He was also grinning from ear to ear.
The man didn't so much run as lumber, almost staggering from step to step as if he were, in fact, legless and his torso and arms were being carried about by a pair of midget wookies with no interest in cooperation. His belly seemed to bounce independently of the motion of his enfeebled legs and the whole effect of his ambulation was rather like watching Muybridge's photographic vignettes of galloping horses.
The man passed and I continued down the path. A mile further on the same man passed me from behind, still lumbering, still staggering along at a pace about half again the speed that I walk, which is faster than most people.
As I neared the end of the path I encountered the same trudging fellow on his way back past me, still grinning like a kid after trick or treat. I had to stop and watch his form recede up the hill. He was still plodding along, threatening to stumble over himself with every step but showed no sign of slowing. The section of the path we had been sharing was nearly three miles long and he had run it end to end at least twice and it looked very much like he was on his way to a third. I realized in a flash that this pudgy, hairy, dismissably couch potato-esque person was in the process of running nearly nine miles.
As he crested the hill I noticed what I hadn't on his last two passes. The skin around his legs hung a bit loosely as if there had recently been much more of him than there is today. His gait, while awkward, was steady and powerful and he had, only on the last pass, begun to sweat. Since the summer this man had clearly burned off over a hundred thousand calories and he had done it by trundling up and down this foot path in silly shorts with an antique radio. Now I understood why he was grinning.
You keep doing what you're doing, lumbering, hairy leg, booty shorts, head set guy. My hat is off to you.