Handlebars and Running With Barry

The Author Enjoying Some Marathon Spectating | Photo: Jessie McCarron Private Collection

Week 2 of Movember is underway, and the ‘stache is still thriving. It was marathon weekend, this past Sunday, along that same vein, I’m sharing a story about mustaches and running.

I first wrote this story in August of 2008. Here it is again, rewritten in past tense. The above photo is from last Sunday and is for reference, only. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of myself on the date of the events described below.

In the summer of 2008 I was living all of the way uptown in the north end of Manhattan, a neighborhood called Washington Heights. While there were many aspects of the neighborhood that I didn’t prefer, a major silver lining was the very proximate access to a paved foot trail that shoulders the Hudson River. This trail is excellent for running. I worked some crazy hours back then. For this reason (and to beat the heat), I would typically wake up super early to get my running in. The summers were awesome for this, since it starts to get light around 5 AM.

One particular week that August, the lack of shaving for a ~10 day period had my mug looking pretty shaggy. I would like to blame it on the crazy work schedule, but in reality I just hated scraping my face with a razor. One night after work I decided that it was time to get rid of the impromptu beard. With the clippers, I shaped my whiskers into a handlebar mustache just like the one in the photo above, before hopping in the shower for an evening rinse. My main objective behind the partial trim was to get a quick laugh from my girlfriend at the time, in which I partially succeeded after her initial shock wore off. I turned in for the night with intentions of shaving cleanly before work the next morning, but not before taking an early AM run down the west side path.

I woke up during the dawn twilight. Totally forgetting about the trucker ‘stache, I quietly slid into my running gear without turning on the lights, as not to disturb my still-sleeping lady friend, promptly headed out the door and hit the trails. After a short distance, I saw a couple of my friends  from the neighborhood (also runners) coming the opposite direction. They curiously started cracking up when they saw me. I was confused for a sec, until they complimented my handlebars. This is a fairly common phenomenon for me. To this day, I often times totally forget what my facial hair is doing unless I’m either looking in the mirror or being reminded by a third party observer (a random mom shielding her kids from me on the train, etc..).

About 10 minutes following the encounter with my friends, I spotted a quirky looking, late-middle-aged guy running in moccasins which appeared to have duct tape on the bottoms of them. He had stopped to remove a dead rat from the path, good Samaritan-style, which he did briskly picking it up by its tail and tossing it into the bushes. Upon witnessing this, I immediately thought “oh man, I need to talk to this guy.” After disposing of the rat, he continued jogging southward, where I pulled along side and struck up a conversation. I learned that his name was Barry, he was almost 50 and that he lived in my neighborhood. He told me that he had read about the Vibram five finger shoes which made him curious to try barefoot running. For safety reasons, he didn’t want to go full-barefoot, but also didn’t want to spring for the relatively costly Vibram shoes. Instead, he invested in a $10 pair of K-Mart moccasins. He had resoled them with duct tape when the original bottoms wore through, and it apparently worked well enough that he just continued to apply new layers of tape as necessary.

Another curious fact that I learned from Barry is that in his youth he was an avid runner, inspired by Prefontaine. He told me that he had stopped running as a young adult, but picked it up again recently after adopting his minimalist approach to footwear. I was having such a great time running with this guy and learning all about him, that I ended up going about 6 miles with him, and ended up doing about 5 miles more than I had originally set out for. I was bummed when I finally had to bid farewell and turn back towards home. I thanked him for the chat and said I hoped to bump into him on a future occasion to continue our convo.

Solo again, I headed back uptown. I was musing about what a big deal Barry had made of when he was a youngster idolizing Prefontaine. Right about then, a random person coming toward me from the other way shouted “sweet ‘stache!”, again reminding me of my temporary nose duster. After hearing the stranger’s compliment, I put two and two together and realized that Barry must have assumed, based on my mustache, that I too, was inspired by Prefontaine. For the record, I was/am.

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