By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
In a recent business trip to New York, I took time off to eat a quiet dinner at the Fashion Cafe. This was my first visit to New York's finest running diner. The host greeted me cordially, and led me to a spacious booth. I sat facing a life-size portrait of Steve Prefontaine. The menu was simple and elegant, featuring a Pritikin cuisine and the favorite recipes of many running legends.
My first surprise came when I saw the place mats. They were made of laminated newspaper clippings of my running columns. What a brilliant idea! Learning of my visit, the owner of the cafe came to greet me. Model Elle MacPherson had conceived the Fashion Cafe to provide a unique eating experience for runners. She told me that she was thrilled to finally meet me. She confided that she was an avid reader of my column, delivered by air messenger every Monday morning.
Running was Elle's secret to beauty and fitness. True to the Master's teachings, she ran an hour every day. The first half hour was for the body, and the second half hour was for the soul. Yet, she was not a recreational jogger. As a teen-ager, she ran a mile in 4 minutes, 24 seconds. Last summer, I invited Elle to run the lead leg at the 100x1-mile world record relay in Syracuse. However, she flew home to finalize Sydney's bid for the 2000 Olympics.
Elle invited me to join her for an early morning run the following day. Weary of my celebrity status, I got up early to get ready. We rode in Elle's green convertible Jaguar F-type to the back entrance of the park to avoid the crowds. Elle suggested the newly certified Van Cortlandt 10-mile course. We started the run at an easy 6-minute pace. We talked about the many things that we shared: running, fame and fan mail. We compared notes on the latest e-mail software that could respond to 10,000 e-mails each day in a personalized way.
We reached the 2-mile mark in just under 12 minutes, and the aroma of fresh pizza filled my lungs. We started our climb toward the water tower as the sun peeked through the trees. We listened to the birds greet a new day with song. We watched the deer drink from a nearby stream. We witnessed nature in action as we hurdled a pair of trunks lying across the trail.
Elle pushed the pace to test my fitness. A subtle blush radiated from her face, as she realized the futility of her plot. We ran and talked our way to the five-mile turnaround. The half hour for the body was complete. The next half hour would be for the soul.
We came across a group of runners who greeted us in awe, recognizing the celebrity in their midst. A raccoon straggled across the trail, disoriented in the bright sunshine. A cotton-tail rabbit fled between the trees. Elle ran gracefully, enjoying the moment.
A large black bird flew overhead, and landed on a distant tree. It looked at us and started screaming. The screams got louder as we drew closer, and bordered on a pleading squeal. Suddenly, the tree changed into a cage, and the bird's wings flapped frantically. The squealing turned into barking, and shook me out of my deep sleep. I jumped out of bed, my heart racing, and led Saucony out into the yard.
Kamal Jabbour's house-broken puppy, Saucony, has shattered many early morning dreams. Kamal's RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.