During a layover in Denver, on the way to a race, a stranger approached while we waited for a connecting flight.
“You write that running blog, right?”
It always surprised me that people recognized me for an online diary of my running journey.
The conversation, like others during airport layovers in Chicago and Salt Lake City, continued. “Riley is a beautiful dog.” We talked about dogs for the next 15 minutes.
Sometimes conversations came mid-race, too, like during a 10K in Park Rapids as a guy zoomed past me.
Luckily, I’ve met a lot of terrific people — runners near and far — thanks to the blog. But as much as people were interested in reading about somebody’s running adventures, even more were interested in Riley, who often followed me to smaller races around the region.
His early morning adventures, and playful nature, captured their attention. The blog became as much about Riley as it was about running.
Life can only be as good as the memories we create through living it the best we can; the experiences only valuable if we share them with others.
For years, my journey as a runner proved special with a unusually red golden retriever by my side. Those big, kind brown eyes couldn’t hide genuinely zest for life. Often, he accompanied me to races around the region, forming an instant connection with kids and adults. He was a once-in-a-lifetime, one-of-a-kind dog — prompting strangers to strike up conversations. Many of them didn’t run, they just followed along to find out what Riley was up to.
My heart could be heavy today, even 4 years after cancer took him, but mostly I’m thankful for the memories and the lives he touched, even to the end. He inspired me to keep running, even after the loss, and carried me through the New York City Marathon.