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Kafka on the Run

In the late 1970's I was a student at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. After running track and cross country throughout high school, I'd become addicted to distance running and began to train regularly for road races throughout the year. I did most of my running in the evening or at night. Partly because I worked nearly full time in addition to attending classes, but mostly because I was not naturally a morning person. Three runs during my years at Eastern stand out. Two of them were wins at the annual intramural four-mile cross country race. This is the third.

It was cool the night I set out for this eight mile run. So-called 'technical running gear' did not yet exist. I threw on a heavy gray cotton sweatshirt and headed out. I ran west from campus, heading out Clark Road to Hogback and back south to Washtenaw. The run was uneventful as I traced the familiar dirt and paved sections along businesses lining the south side of Washtenaw, working my way back toward campus. And then it got eventful.

I noticed a Washtenaw County Sheriff's patrol car turn into a drive a block ahead of me, directly in my path. At the same time, a second patrol car approaching me turned quickly in my direction and stopped behind me. Before I had a chance to think about what might be happening, the officers were out of their cars, guns drawn, and coming toward me. Several more officers jogged across Washtenaw in my direction, all with weapons drawn. I stopped as they encircled me. I was quickly patted down and with a phalanx of officers surrounding me we set off across Washtenaw Avenue in the direction of Richardson's Pharmacy.

Despite my terror, I managed to ask, "What is this about?" I was told I'd find out in a minute. With an officer holding each arm, I was taken inside the pharmacy and marched to the checkout counter. "Is this the guy?" one of the policemen asked the older woman behind the counter. "Why no, that's not him," she responded. The officers holding me let go and one of them turned to me. "We're sorry about this Mr. Meredith, but the store was just held up by a guy in a gray jogging suit."

My heart began downshifting. I said something like, "oh?" If I knew how to faint, I probably would have done it. "Are you almost done with your run?" he asked.

I told him no. I still had probably another four miles to go yet. He told me to tell him where the rest of my route was going to take me. He said that he'd radio the dispatcher with that information so that I wouldn't get picked up again. I finished the run without incident, although I think I left all of my adrenaline outside the pharmacy that night.

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