This morning I met up to run with one of the leading personalities of the Illinois running world. That would be Glen Kamps. We go back a long ways to the early 80s when he was first working for Dick Pond Athletics on the road running and track circuit. The chain of stores is one of the leading resources for running gear (and wrestling too) in the Midwest.
I’ve written previously about Glen because he’s beyond a fixture in the Illinois running scene. In my estimation, he is in many ways the “face” of running for many people in the running and triathlon scene. He’s been appearing at races with the Dick Pond Truck for decades. And about that face: Glen is almost perpetually smiling. It would be hard to find anyone that knows more names and faces in the world of running than Glen.
Our friendship shares history with the Dick Pond brand because along with many other so-called “older” runners in the Chicago area, I shopped for running shoes when the legendary Dick Pond himself sold them out of his garage in Glen Ellyn. Over the years, Glen has lovingly affirmed my running career by sharing recollections of races past and efforts present.
These days I enjoy texts from him that often arrive early in the morning. Glen enjoys birds like I do. Some of his texts will feature a dark screen and audio of a bird calling in the trees before dawn. He lives next to one of the best birding trails in central Kane County and some of his bird texts have turned out to be fascinating records of species arriving in migration. We’ve actually gone out birding together a few times now, most recently this past July with his wife as we walked through the Campton Hills Forest Preserve calling up eastern bluebirds and rufous-sided towhees.
But for all of this long association, Glen Kamps and I have never set a time to go running together. We fixed that this morning. It was a joy running with him. The man has an efficient stride. He’s shooting for a half-marathon in a month or so and is working on building his goal pace over the entire length of the race. Right now he’s on target pace with his five-milers, but recognizes there needs to be an endurance base to build upon.
Over the last year I’ve been doing longer runs and shared with Glen that by adding a mile each week, I was able to overcome some hip tightness and fatigue problems while building overall endurance. We’ll probably do a few more runs together before his target race, a “virtual” competition in which he’ll head to the Great Western Trail to put in his 13.1 miles.
We finished our run at sub-8:00 pace for the last two miles. Glen runs pretty smoothly at that pace, so I think his target or goal pace is achievable. But we’re both seniors and recognize that getting the body going in the early stages of a race is the most challenging part of any effort. So we strategized and I encouraged him that by running negative splits in practice he can rehearse how to spread his racing effort over the length of a half-marathon.
Legacy of support
I am so grateful for people like Glen Kamps in my life. His legacy of support for running is unparalleled. There are a number of groups that hail from the St. Charles Dick Pond store, including Walk to 5K, marathon training groups and the racing team. Each of these helps people achieve their goals at their respective levels.
During our run, he stopped to pick up a shiny dime on Dean Street. “That’s lucky!” I cheered. He explained that his extended network of Dick Pond runners collects found change or empties pockets into a jar and they rallied up more than $1900 to contribute to the Salvation Army. They took the money to purchase food at Aldi Foods. When the company found out about the program, they matched the donation and wound up giving $4000 in food supplies to people in need.
That shows the beauty of incremental caring. Contributions don’t need to be huge to make a difference in this world. It’s all about getting the word out and encouraging people to participate. That’s not always easy, so it’s great that organizations like Dick Pond Athletics gives back to the community.
The Pond franchise is a regional treasure on many levels, and the running community is better for its stewardship. As for Glen and I, well, I’m glad we finally got to run together. Friendships like ours are like a really good pair of running shoes. They never seem to wear out.