CLAYTON, Tenn. — About 50 years ago, I started running, and my parents encouraged me to do it. It had been 50 years since I last ran, but it was just over a decade since I’d moved to Tennessee.

The day I moved to the area, I ran the Nashville Marathon.

I was nervous, and I’d run 5:40 earlier that day. I was a bit perplexed by how I’d finished and I was happy to see the record book. When I looked at the number under the guy I’d run with, I was overwhelmed with all the things this person did for me when I was 5 or 6. He’d been a lifeguard at a swimming pool and I loved swimming at those pools, and I would think, wow, he was my lifeguard dad!

But the most impactful memory of my Nashville Marathon experience was when a man ran next to me. Our trainers said he was going to do a 9K, but I was wondering if he was running for fun. And he took off.

As I continued to run, the man next to me kept going for more than a mile. Then the trainers decided to flag him off. He wasn’t going to quit.

When he got to the finish line, the first things he saw were my parents and his wife. After they finished running, they were standing in front of the fans.

“They have cancer,” the man told them. His wife later died of cancer.

The man finished and we talked. I asked him what his nickname was. “Jinky!” he said. So I called him “Jinky” the rest of the race. I did this until I got to the finish line, when a police officer stopped me. He asked for my details, and I told him I knew nothing about jinks and everything about jinks. So he gave me some information.

I didn’t win the marathon, but my purpose in running that race was clear: I was not running in a pack, I was running for joy. I ran for my parents, and I ran for the man I met next to me. I think we all run for jinks.

My parents really did run for jinks, too.

JINKY and I are meeting in Atlanta. I plan to run through the streets of the city and to see his dog; he did not want me to bring a backpack with me. You’ll learn more about Jinky when we meet. Thanks, Jinky!

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