I don't have many friends, let alone those (aside from classmates) I've known for four decades. But that's the case with Bob Sokol. If I recall, we met in the summer of 1971 -- no later than the summer of 1972 -- when my summer job was conducting weekly cross-country and road races for the park district in my hometown in suburban Chicago.
Bob was a regular competitor back then, driving his Road Runner (weather permitting!) from Maywood to Glen Ellyn for the races, after which he would demonstrate his unique style of humor. Let's just say that , as a runner, Bob was quite the comedian.
We really bonded on a summer weekend in 1972, when Bob took his own turn as race director, hosting a 24-hour relay on the cinder track of his alma mater, Proviso East High School. It was one of my most challenging events ever -- 34 one-mile runs in 24 hours, averaging 5:47.
Anyway, though we have stayed in touch over the years, our get-togethers have been infrequent. However, Bob and his bride, Carol, paid us a visit last weekend. Though rain Saturday and Sunday mornings wiped out our running plans, Madame X and were happy and proud to show them around Dubuque -- Mississippi River Museum, Fenelon Place Elevator, Eagle Point Park, River Walk, Dubuque Star Brewery, etc. As a bonus, we got to spend some time with Bob and Carol's daughter Kim and her boyfriend Anthony -- a quality couple of med students.
It wasn't this weekend that we learned that we were the inspiration for a children's book.
We resolved that, now that we are empty-nesters, there is little reason to not get together more often. In any case, we still need to have our first run together in nearly 35 years.