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Real Runners: Being “The Runner” In Rural South Dakota

Gaining Recognition Far And Wide

Yet as my years in this town passed, the cars stopped less frequently. They soon learned that I was “the runner.” At conferences and in the local store, people would say, “You’re that runner.” Once, I was checking out at Walmart 105 miles from my home when I heard, “You’re that runner.”

“I do run,” I replied, “but I live a few hours away.”

“Yeah,” the stranger said. “I drive a truck out that way. I see you every morning.”

“Well then, that’s me.”

“I worry about you,” he said. “Do you carry a gun or something?”

People were always asking me if I carried a gun. I never carried one because I never felt unsafe, even though the towns I lived in had reputations for violence. In Los Angeles, men catcalled and cars turned without using their blinker. In South Dakota, people honked and waved. They gave me a wide berth when they passed on the two-lane highway. When it rained, people picked me up. Ranchers offered me water. Locals slowed down so that their children could roll down their windows to cheer me on. One time, a family followed me for half a mile playing rock music with the windows rolled down. I once came home from a long run to find a freshly made Indian taco waiting for me on my front steps. Sometimes my students would even follow me on horseback.

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