It was a dark, damp morning when Charlottesville’s local legend Philip Weber III, aka The Running Man, was struck by a car and killed.
The rain pounded the pavement in step with Weber’s shoes as he ran alongside Ivy Road. It was the last morning he would lace up his running shoes — shoes which were re-constructed and repaired with Shoe Goo and cotton string and duct taped many times over.
“It’s what holds my life together,” he said in a recent interview with Charlottesville’s NBC 29.
The Running Man was a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he studied music and chemistry. To satisfy his need to run and the time to devote to his passion, he shed his job and began recording audio books for the blind 10 hours per week. By freeing up extra minutes in the day, Weber logged more than 14 miles per day; 5,200 miles per year; and over 125,000 miles in his lifetime.
Speaking strictly in mileage, Weber ran the equivalent of five trips around the world.
According to a neighbor, Weber recited Shakespeare’s Hamlet while he ran and had memorized almost the entire works of William Shakespeare. He lived on Jefferson Park Avenue and was known as a bit of an eccentric runner, logging half marathons around town and into the countryside before morning let up. He would stop for a pause, downing Hawaiian Punch for the added carbs, slap on a helping of petroleum jelly to keep down the friction and chafing, then head back out for another half marathon in the evening just because.
He wore short shorts and no shirt, even in the dead of winter with snow on the ground. His often-changing facial hair was as unique as his personality. He even purchased a pair of Union Jack running shorts to wear around the Fourth of July to “stir up trouble” which earned him a second nickname, the “British Bulldog.”
It was a dark damp morning today in Charlottesville, abnormally warm for this time of year, the same as yesterday on The Running Man’s last day on earth, and like so many who laced up for Meg’s Miles (in tribute to Meg Menzies, a Richmond runner who was struck and killed by a drunk driver), this morning, I, too, laced up my running shoes as I do everyday and ran one for The Running Man.
If you’re a runner, I recommend you do the same today. There are more runners out today than normal — and I think I know why.
If there isn’t a hashtag yet, let’s start one…
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
To you, Mr. Weber. Run in heavenly peace.
Note: Since the circumstances of the accident have not yet been released, please keep the family of Philip Weber as well as the driver and his/her family in your thoughts and prayers. As runners, we are all aware of the hazards out there and need to understand the importance of running safety, including wearing reflective gear and running against traffic, not with traffic. As drivers, we need to understand we share the roads and to be attentive always. Sometimes accidents do indeed happen regardless of all this and not simply because someone was not paying attention, runner or driver. Please be respectful and sensitive to all involved. This blog entry serves as a tribute to Philip Weber, and is not meant to be an indictment of anyone.
Update 12/29: After I posted this link to Facebook, I learned from a friend where I was raised (two hours south of Charlottesville) that Mr. Weber was the brother-in-law to my former high school science teacher at Randolph-Henry, Mr. Catron. I had no idea. Small world. Very small. Update 12/30: Read this piece by Susan Svrluga from The Washington Post. Updated 1/10: Runner’s World tribute: Locals Remember Charlottesville’s “Running Man.”
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Artwork by Jeffrey Pillow. “The Running Man” in pencil, marker, paint, digital.