Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Run with Gabe Jennings


"Meet me at the northeast corner of Hayward Field at 6pm", Gabe wrote.

I had e-mailed Gabe a couple of weeks ago about meeting up and running. I met Gabe during the Running Film Festival two years ago and I think he is one of the only runners I know out here. As I waited, I got wind that Gabe was running late, so I paced back and forth in front of Hayward and took in all its magic and glory. Then I decided to run a few laps. The green stands were lined with yellow trim and all was quiet. The sun beat down on this unseasonable warm day. I was use to it. Gabe soon emerged bare foot wearing wind pants and a wife beater tank top. He was drinking a bottle of Pepsi. After a 1/4 mile, Gabe placed the bottle of Pepsi down and soon we were running through campus and across the main drag towards Pre's Trail.

Gabe's bare feet pounded the pavement quickly in that old Gabe Jennings-like stride; short, quick...and fast. Brilliant. These were the same legs and the same stride that made him one of the most sought after schoolboys (4:02 - at that time the fastest recorded mile by a prep in over 20 years) in the late nineties, just before the second coming of US prep distance running (Ritz, Hall, Webb). It is said he was born in the forest to hippy parents without electricity and plumbing. This coupled with his musician-like tendencies at meets (pounding bongo drums, chanting and singing) made him a press favorite. In 2000 and 2001 he was arguably our greatest miler, but now, at the age of 31, Gabe runs only a couple of times a week. In 2000 he won the Olympic Trials with a 3:35. "A lot of people made all that fuss about Gabe Jennings being this free spirit and all, but I worked as hard or harder than anyone back then", Gabe noted. Now he's married, has a kid, is in law school at U of O and hoping to be a JAG in the Marines. He's also been battling a nagging Achilles injury since the trials. He suggests that barefoot running helps. Soon we were on Pre's Trail running past hippies and hobos. Gabe's dirty feet churned up mulch-like dust. He's got a big upper body, which suggests he lifts, but I didn't ask. He tried his hand in the marathon and apparently hit the halfway point in his first attempt in 1:06 or 1:07 before dropping out. I ask about moving up to the 5k, but from the sound of it, he doesn't seem interested in moving up in distance, but didn't rule out moving down to the 800m. "It'd be great if I could get down to 1:44", he declared, his eyes now wide open and crazed. He then begins making swish and vroom sounds and quickens his stride, "yeah, yeah". He is high on endorphins. The comeback is what drives the injured.

The sun is now low in the sky and we head back to campus. Gabe is winded and my upper leg in nagging. We say goodbye and wish each other better days.

6 comments:

Matias said...

EPIC!!

walt said...

Great read, thanks Jake. Hope you are getting healthy.

Towpath said...

Did they ever finish "Olympic Militia?"

KLIM said...

Thanks Walt.

I believe the OM trailer was meant to be simply a trailer and nothing more.

RM said...

This was actually one of your better stories, it is detailed yet unspecific at the same time, and the story of a run with one of America's most unique runners would really be a good read in a publication like Runner's World. I say you send it in man

KLIM said...

Thanks Lord Baltimore. I just might do that.