Sam's Magic Fountain

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What is connection? What does it mean to connect?

I was taking a break at Sam's Fountain, a drinking fountain on top of Cardiac Hill at Mt. Tamalpais. It's dedicated to local runner Sam Hirabayashi. To me it was the magical fountain since it seemed to just appear one day.

An older gentleman crested the hill. I noticed his Dipsea race shirt. We politely acknowledged each other, taking turns at the fountain. He was interesting. We talked about the Dipsea and the quirky ways to get in. He knew Sam. He'd done 30 races. His son had run it with him. He seemed to embody the unique character of the race.

In all those years he'd only missed it once. I listened as he struggled with the memory of a friend who showed him that it wasn't merely a foot race. How it was now an important part of his life. His shoulders began to shake and tears fell down his face.

"He died of cancer. Just like Sam," he said.


He seemed as caught off-guard by his reaction as I was to witness it. I was once told that when pain brings us to our knees, sometimes all we need is someone to kneel next us. I stood on the lower step of the fountain so I could be closer to his height and hugged him. Solace offered and accepted.

A couple arrived at the hill and the moment was gone. We exchanged names as we returned to the polite conversation between strangers.

He continued on. I waited until he was out of sight. He seemed to need to gather himself and I wanted to give him space to do so. When I arrived at Stinson Beach, I saw him again looking to hitch a ride. A moment later a car stopped in front of him. We exchanged pleasantries as he got in. May you run many more Dipseas, Bill.

I think about him as I find myself in my own unusual circumstance. Connection can be magic. It can be found in the glow of green and white text or during a quiet moment on a hill.

We don't search for it. It finds us.

With a Perspective, I'm Laura Bello.

Laura Bello is an ultra runner and works in Facilities Management at UC San Francisco.