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Final Grove recap from inside the Pharmacy

It was like old times today at the pharmacy: there were Dr. Bob and Chip Bearden and Howie and Judy Brown and John Thornton and Andy Fried. Mick Close was there. Desmond Duncker too. So was Special K, Mike Kalthoff.

It was like any recent Sunday at the pharmacy, too: there were Tom Eaton and Catherine Smith and Mike Skara and PK and Glenn Trimboli and Harold Porcher and Glen Freyer and Ron Wolfson and Dan Smith.

And it was like special events from across the years at the pharmacy: there were the Fleet Feet regulars and Grove irregulars (say  hi to Chris Jaworski!) and even sightings of Ten Town Distance Challenge T-shirts.

It was all these — old times, new times, special times — because of one special guy, Larry Hollander.

For one last time on a Sunday morning, we were inside the pharmacy and behind the counter, as Larry let us say goodbye to him in the heartfelt way we know best: by giving him crap.

As I told Larry earlier today, what I have learned from running over my 15 years at Grove is that it has little to do with running. Yeah, we are running, even training, and we are accumulating tips on how to go faster, longer, better (sometimes just from the mistakes our running buddies are making — thanks for runners’ fallibility!). But one important lesson I have learned from running took place in the hundreds of trips through the swinging door and behind the counter: that a life well lived includes friendliness, generosity, decency and respect — the traits Larry showed without making an effort or a fuss — all elements that were ultimately more important than someone’s latest fast marathon time. Larry’s unforced willingness to treat us all with uncommon courtesy was a greater personal best than anything he, or we, could set in a race.

Oh, I don’t mean to eulogize the guy. Larry’s 78 and vital and chasing after life (and his 13-year-old son, Robby, and perky pup, Red) and living large in ways that go far beyond wealth. He’s neither crank nor curmudgeon, just a great (not yet retired) guy who displays characteristics anyone could appreciate. We just happened to see it because he and we were runners. Once and forever, even if our knees didn’t understand the damn message.

We walked out beyond the swinging door one last time today, onto the streets we know well enough to run in fog at night in a blackout. The good spirits inside followed us outside. PK was running 20-plus. Howie and Mick were running 20 (and, shades of old times, running at Grove and then hooking up with the ERC 9 o’clock run to finish off their miles). Glenn T ran 21 or so. Harold and Randy finished 9 miles in a sprint. Catherine and Tom enjoyed 11 brisk miles together. Dan ran 15.8 miles — in these days of Garmins there is no more guesswork about just how long the course is — a week after running a 3:20 marathon. Madman was capping his “off” week with an 11-miler that came on the heels of yesterday’s 12-miler — a weekend that, for example, surpassed my week. Laura, as determined a runner as you’ll find, ran from home, as usual, then ran on her own, as usual, but with the sense that she is a Grover, now and always.

I like her thought, a Grover now and always. Whether running from the parking lot across the street or anywhere else, a Grover. There’s more to it than the running. Larry taught us that.

Thanks for the years, the miles and the lessons, Larry.

For the rest of you, see you in the parking lot next week.

Phil Coffin


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