Cleanliness is Next to…

Today, as I’m putting the finishing touches on this year’s marathon training, I’m sharing one of my running stories.   This is true, and was published in Runner’s World magazine in the December 1981 issue.


The county had just finished widening the principal highway near my house.  It also put in a bicycle path, a three-foot-wide strip of asphalt next to the highway.  It was a good place to jog despite the proximity of heavy traffic.  One clear Saturday morning, I took off down that path to get in some mileage.

I went about two miles and started back.  As I came pounding down the path, I noticed a car parked at the curb just ahead of me.  A heavyset young man in a softball uniform was rummaging through a Styrofoam cooler.  He pulled out a can of Pepsi, threw the cooler into the back seat and climbed inside the car.  As the car pulled away, he casually flipped the pull tab out the window.  It clattered onto the asphalt ahead of me.

That griped me.  The path had been finished less than a month, and already it was dotted with ber bottles, Big Mac wrappers and all sorts of litter.  I reached down and picked up the pull tab as the car gathered speed.  Some should have a talk with him.

Suddenly the car’s brake lights came on.  He parked again at the curb.  Surprised, I contemplated my thoughts about the talk “someone” should have.  If I had any guts at all, I’d throw the pull tab into the open window.

The young man got out again and looked at me as I came toward him.  “Want a pop?”

I was astonished.  “That’s okay,” I replied weakly.

“No, here, have a pop.”  He reached into the back seat, pulled out another can of Pepsi, and place it on the curb.  I got to it as he climbed back into the car.

“Thanks,” I picked up the can, stood there awkwardly, and tried to recover with a joke.  “I don’t deserve it yet, but I’ll take it.”

The car pulled away.  I opened the can, then hesitated.  Dumb move, Bob.  How can you run with an open can of Pepsi?  Besides, now I had two pull tabs.

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