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I used to go to this woman in the city to get my haircut. She had been taking care of my wife’s hair for a while and I hadn’t had any luck with the local suburban stylists (yes, I know, I just said I go to a stylist.). She was (is!) really good. She even went on to open her own salon with both my wife and I following. However, even with the carry-over-customer pricing, she was still on the expensive side. It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to drag myself into the city AND pay for parking if I could find someone local. Finally, after asking a local mom whose husband’s hair I thought looked pretty good, I found my guy. I’ve been going to The Barber ever since.

What the frak does The Barber have to do with running?

Well, it turns out that he used to run. Not only did he used to run, but he ran during what some might call the Golden Age of Running here in Boston and the US as a whole. The 1970’s and 80’s. He was fast. Not “Oh, your in the top 5%” fast, no, he was FAST!!! He has run Boston more times than I can count or hope to run, with his best finish being a blazing 2:28:00! Just to put that in perspective, that would have placed him 39th in last year’s Boston Marathon.

-Well shoot! I finished 39th a couple of weeks ago in a 10K.

-Yeah, I’m sorry Luau, he would have been 39th out of close to 29,000 runners.

39th in an age when runners have better training, better technology, better diets. He still would have finished 39th. That’s nearly in the top 1/1000th of runners. He ran and trained with the best, including the Legend, Bill Rogers.

Every time I get my haircut I get a new story, whether it’s how he loved to break competitors on the hills, how one day he beat Boston Billy in a marathon (kind of), just how much smaller running used to be (when he showed up at a marathon he pretty much knew where everybody was going to place) or how he had a friend who used “grass” as a PED before going out on 30 mile long runs.

It has made me realize that running is a sport that is rich with history…history that we can’t necessarily find in the history books. The Barber was a second tier runner, one of the best locally, but not one to make it into the best sellers or record books. Yet his stories are in some ways just as compelling and interesting as Beardsly’s and Salazar’s Duel in the Sun or Kara’s and Hall’s attempt last year to bring the Boston crown back to the US.

I am thankful that I found The Barber. Thankful that I get to hear the unwritten local stories. It makes me realize that I am not only part of a wonderful running community in the here and now, but I am also connected to all those great runners that came before you and me.

If you are under the age of 50 or just recently took up running (like in the last 10 years), I highly recommend finding your local old-time runner and listening to his or her stories from that different time. Running has changed dramatically in 40 years. The stories from that era are fascinating. I feel lucky to have heard just a few from the Barber.

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