Thirty minutes into my run today, as my body relaxes into a rhythmic routine on the picturesque path along the SF Bay, a mildly familiar figure runs toward me.
But I’m confused. Why do I feel like I know him, and yet I don’t? The slight man is not particularly tall, but with a stance that’s sure and confident. His running form is beautiful and light. His clothes don’t give him away: black tights, a long gray sweatshirt that almost reaches his knees, and a wide black ski band across his forehead, almost hiding his light blonde hair.
But as I breeze past him, I running north and he running south, I realize that it’s… HIM.
“Oh my God,” I whisper. The Way We Were. Downhill Racer. Three Days of the Condor. The Sting. As I list the movie titles out loud, my words become louder and louder. All the President’s Men. Jeremiah Johnson. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Except for this one man, this one idol, I have never cared about actors or “famous” people of any kind. But Robert Redford. He has touched me in every movie, and I’ve just passed him in real life.
Real, not reel!
I don’t doubt that the running man is Robert Redford. I had heard that he had family in the town and occasionally visited. I’d heard of sightings once or twice a year. But now? On the running path, my running path?
I stop short, allowing a runner behind me to curse and swerve to avoid a collision. After mumbling an apology, I turn around just as abruptly, and run toward the movie star. I’m not going to stop him, or speak to him, or stalk him. But I want to run past him for one more glorious look at that craggy and tanned face, with gorgeous crevices around his eyes and under his cheeks, a mature man who’s still handsome.
It’s not hard to catch up to Redford. He’s actually, well, rather slow, despite his good form. How I want to wave as I run by him, or shout out “Hi! I’m a big fan!” But I don’t want to disturb him, nor be a nuisance.
I sigh and kick back into my pace, passing the man from the movies. I feel an extra exhilaration from being near him though, and my pace quickens. The early morning sunlight gleams on the bay waters, and the birds flit across the blue expanse. My spirits rise, and I soar down that path like a roadrunner.
I’m on such a high that I don’t hear the voice at first. Sounds like a distant fog horn, then a grumble, then a real human tone saying, “Miss, uh, Ma’am, uh, excuse me. Please excuse me!”
I slow down and glance behind me. Redford is puffing and panting as he tries to reach me.
“Please,” he calls out. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I’m dumbfounded, but I slow down to let him catch up, and he shoots me a grateful look.
We jog slowly, so he can catch his breath. “Bob,” he finally says, holding out his hand. “Bob Redford.”
“Oh!” I exclaim, as if surprised. “Pamela Wight.”
“Pamela,” Bob exclaims, “you are the most unusual runner I have ever seen. You, well, I swear I saw you run off the ground! How did you do that?”
“I just run my joy,” I explain.
“This is incredible, just beautiful. I’d like to capture this on film. Do you think … ?”
I shake my head no, smiling wide. “This can never be captured. It happens rarely, and only on very special occasions. Thank you though, Bob.”
I hug him quickly, stare briefly into his amazed face, and dash off into the early light of a new day, knowing as I run into the reds and oranges and pinks that I’m doing it again.
I’m running off the ground.
(Wight’s Note: 100% non-fiction. Well . . . 95%.)