“How long do you guys run?”

“Oh! I don’t know.. we keep talking and running and we lose track of time.. at some point one of us feels it’s time to turn around and we do.”

There I was, in the mid-90’s, having just embraced solo running alongside beautiful Lake Michigan and I run into a talking runner. That was Larry, my lawyer colleague, explaining his process and me not quite grokking it.

Aren’t all runners talkative I can hear some of you say.. well yeah kinda. If a strong silent type took up running, he’d surely become talkative. But the talking runner is a different species altogether - where running starts and talking ends is a vast continuum bookended just by how long the day’s run is going to be.

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Seven years later I’d see a second talking runner in action, this time in a marathon race. There I was, running my debut marathon - on the back of a perfectly executed 3-mo training plan crafted by the nicest South African I knew, and who do I behold but Kajal, a chirpy colleague whose training plan and modus operandi couldn’t be more different than mine.

Kajal was running with a posse of pacers - two in the first half and one (Ryan, another colleague I knew) in the 2nd half. The common refrain from mile#3 (when I hitched my wagon to the ‘Kajal bus’) to mile#23 was the incessant chatter. What Larry had described years ago was being exhibited over the course of 4 hours - the effortless flow of the talking runner.

There are talking runners and then there is the Talking Runner. It’s therefore ironic that my first encounter with the TR was at a race where all his friends were running the half marathon and he was the only one running the full. This was back in the days when the only city marathon was out in the boondocks and the start time was midnight. Whether he planned this as a me and my tanhai experiment or one of his compatriots bailed last minute remains a mystery to this day. If it was the former, it must have scarred him badly because I’ve not heard of him stepping out for a solo run in the past 15 years. At least until he discovered the modern trappings of AirPods and podcasts during the pandemic.

But the TR need not worry about being alone. He possesses an enchanting aura, akin to a modern-day Pied Piper, effortlessly drawing fellow runners into a harmonious procession. With a sincere smile that seems to radiate boundless positivity, he invites others to partake — in a shared weekend morning of sweat and bonhomie that inexorably ends with a sumptuous breakfast. (It’s an altogether different matter that the TR possesses an alien chemistry, one that obviates the need to sweat!) These offers to join are issued indiscriminately - fast runners, slow runners, old runners, young runners, and even those running in the opposite direction! The undertone of these invites being “Believe me, your run will be more enjoyable if you join this growing menagerie”. And I’ve seen these ‘delightful lasso’ing ’ work! Witnessing my first successful lasso’ing (of Ravi) is still on vivid - he was running in the opposite direction near Windsor Circle - and he turned, joined us and he became a regular member of our long run bus for years until.. he moved cities (and by that I mean Whitefield).

A comparison must also need be made with that famous Wodehouse character - The Oldest Member, abbreviated OM in much of the storytelling. While OM tells the most fascinating stories in Wodehousian golfscape and us readers can’t get enough of them. People who have encountered the TR are like Wodehouse readers — they just can’t get enough of him! The best part is that the TR too can’t get enough of his ‘flock’.

The TR’s views and actions on charity are entirely congruent with the way he lives his life. He once said “A lot of people have problems and, most of the time, they just want to be heard, even if you don’t have a solution.” The TR is often a generous contributor to fundraising requests within his network. However, that pales into insignificance when compared to how generously he gives from his time — be it over a weekend long run, weekday walk, or over the phone while commuting. I still remember being utterly flabbergasted when he answered a call from one of his Boston friends at the start of a Saturday run - turns out it was previously scheduled and the conversation would end a mere two hours later! If you are a recent addition to his flock and wondering why he’s NOT answering your call outside work hours, chances are he’s either asleep or at the movies with his family (in which case you can expect a message during intermission!)

If you are wondering “who the heck this TR fellow is”, please pack your bags to Bangalore (preferably with a weekend stay in mind) and a genuine intention to run (or walk) for a duration no less than an hour. The run/walk location and the breakfast venue shall be finalised by the TR and yeah! DO pack your smartphone - it could come in handy. If you are willing to wait 5 months, you could show up in Mumbai over TMM weekend - any of the registered marathon runners (or their friends) will point him out in short order.

If you DO know who TR is, please leave a comment with your favorite ‘TR story’ without compromising his identity.