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I found the ‘Happy Runner’

The happy runner is an urban myth no longer. For those of you who missed my last column, I mentioned that I had been assigned to find a guy who smiled and waved at passing motorists while he ran along River Road in the morning. Two trips last week to hunt him down and find out more proved fruitless,and the skeptical part of me wondered if he really existed.The column ran in Wednesday’s paper and can be found on online at thewashingtondailynews.com. The first tipcame in Thursday morning from a church friend of my wife’s,who emailed that she had seen him before on that side of town and thought she knew where he lived. We had previously confirmed that our source was of sound mind, so her tip made the happy runnerreal in my mind. Through further thought, I concluded that wandering through an unfamiliar neighborhood searching for a person whose name I didn’t know and armed only with a camera and a vague description while it was barely light outside was not a prudent plan. A busy morning lay ahead, so confirmation of Bigfoot’s existence was good enough for now. Then a ding from my phone interrupted my breakfast. I never paid any attention to those things until I started this gig. You never know when news might break, so I went to check and bingo—in came the intel that would break the case wide open.A highly-placed source in Washington Park reported that 8:15to 8:30a.m.was prime time for the happy runner, who was usually headed east past the Piggly Wiggly at that time. I looked at the clock and, you guessed it, it was 8:15. Soggy cereal,it would have to be. Men much braver than I have chased Bigfoot their entire lives without success, so I grabbed my keys, wallet with driver’s license inside just in case one ofWashington’s finest wanted a word with me, phone and camera and rushed out the door. Normally, the radio is on in the car, but not this day. I was on a mission,and I needed full concentration. One of the beauties of small-town living is that you can getmost places fairly quickly, so I crossed the Washington Park bridge headed out of town in no time flat.There was plenty of traffic on both sides of River Road but no runners. I passed the Piggly Wiggly on my left, still nothing. I knew I had a 9a.m.virtual meeting, so the clock was ticking. I was about to turn around in the next gas station parking lot when Shazam!—there he was heading my way in a yellowish neon shirt, smiling and waving as vehicles honked a return greeting.I did my best impersonation of Bo Duke driving the General Lee and peeled out of the parking lot in hot pursuit. Then it hit me, you’re in a car,and he’s running, you’ll get there first, so slow down. I passed him again and quickly made the first left turn I found, so I could be in position when he neared.The scene most have looked ridiculous to the passing motorists. Here’s a guy with a camera by the side of the road waiting for another guy to run close enough for a photo op.The happy runner had a quizzical, somewhat bewildered look on his face when I politely asked him to break stride for a moment, but he did.
Turns out his name is Mickey, he’s almost 71 years old,and he’ll tell me the rest of his story next week because he’s a busy man. There’s more running, smiling and wavingto do.Thank you very much to my friends who helped me on this one.Now,who can tell me something about Smokey Robinson?To be continued