31 Days, 31 People
Day 14: MIKE

One of the jobs I had for a while, working my way through college, was as a fixed-base operator. I did air traffic advisories via UNICOM at a small uncontrolled airport south of Las Vegas. Mike was Chief Pilot for one of the Grand Canyon tour airlines based at the airport. He was also a runner.

Every time I was working, around lunchtime I’d see this guy, Mike, leaving in running gear. And every time he’d walk by he would wave and say, “want to go for a run?” I’d always laugh a little. I was the girl everyone assumed was a smoker, always dressed head-to-toe in black, super pale skin, obviously not a runner. So, one day I decided I’d take him up on this offer. I lasted about 8 minutes in my Chuck Taylors and bulky sweats. Mike left the invite to join him open, and I kept at it. Before long, with Mike’s mentorship, I was running 5ks, then 10s and half marathons and eventually a full marathon. I became addicted. I never was a smoker, just a runner.

When you run with someone a few days a week for a year or so, you spend a lot of time talking. I don’t remember a lot of our conversations but there is one bit that stood out way back then and I carry it still today. I remember Mike saying, “I think the secret to life is: dedication.”

From then on, I always treated “dedication” like a magic word. Over the years, my memory of “dedication” and its meaning to me got lost in the shuffle of day-to-day life. But one of the coolest things about this whole writing project is exactly this. The things that you do remember when you comb through your life for the people who’ve left an impression, and why an impression was left, it’s quite incredible. These days, we use the words, “hard work” in the same way I thought about “dedication”.

I’m so grateful for everything my friendship with Mike gave me. Mike was just a really good dude. We caught up over a phone call a couple of years ago. He and his family are doing well in Arizona. He sounded exactly the same, awesome, positive and dedicated.

When I ran alone I used to run with a walkman. It played cassettes. iPods and such didn’t exist yet. Mike made a running mixtape for me one time, there was one song that I hear every now and then. It’ll pop up if I have a rock station on, occasionally you’ll hear it on store PA system soundtracks. This song brings back so many memories for me. It’s a long song and when I hear it, I can feel the run. I can see the vast Las Vegas desert landscape. I can hear Mike talking about dedication. I think it’ll forever be my “Mike Song.” So I’ll close on that note today. The Alarm, Summer of 76

READ DAY 15→

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