Nobody Looks for you in Mexico - Page 2
Jon and I go way back. In high school, I was always one grade ahead of him and at cross-country races always several places behind. Following high school, he went on to run for the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he netted several All-American performances while helping the Buffaloes claim two NCAA team titles.
Three times, I tried out for the team and three times I came up short.
Trust me, I’m over it.
Jon’s CU story, however, wasn’t so simple. His older brother, Christopher Severy, was also a CU All-American runner. Chris Lear, who documented CU’s 1998 cross-country season in his book Running with the Buffaloes, noted some traits he called “typical Severy”—“determined, unassuming and unfailingly polite.”
Like Jon, Christopher had rolled-back, hunched shoulders and a preternatural ability to suffer. “His demeanor would suggest that he is placid and mellow,” wrote Lear. “But underneath that exterior burns the fire of a fierce competitor.” The brothers, separated by six years, shared this trait.
Early that fall when Jon was still a junior in high school, he joined Christopher on a post-race run, where the college senior had just finished second in the home team’s annual 8K Shootout behind soon-to-be Olympian Adam Goucher. Lear, standing by, noticed that the brothers even had the same running form—“shoulders slightly hunched, legs flexed like a mogul skier’s as he comes down a mountain trail.” However, Lear failed to note that as the miles quicken Jon’s torso trails slightly behind his thin, spindly legs. It’s as though his body can’t keep up with his legs.
Christopher was renting a small, off-the-grid cabin on the backside of Flagstaff Mountain above Boulder at the time, biking the eight miles and two thousand vertical feet into town and back every day on top of his 100-mile-a-week running regimen. Two weeks following the Shootout, I received a phone call. The voice over the phone spoke with an abruptness with which bad news is delivered. Christopher had been killed in a bike accident that morning while descending Flagstaff’s steep, treacherous road.
Eight months earlier, Jon’s dad had died of cancer.
Jon and I rarely discussed these deaths. Maybe because I had never lost anybody close to me and lacked reference. Maybe because we are men. Or maybe because, in the end, there is simply nothing to be said about their deaths.
Aside from talk about training or results, we rarely discussed running either. For years I had asked myself, Why the shared silence? Is running a form of death? No, I don’t think so. However, past the superficiality of times, splits, paces and places, it is as intensely personal as death and, dare I say, wordless.
Despite my shortcomings as a collegiate runner (or perhaps in spite of them), Jon and I remained close throughout our college years. Six years following his brother’s death we made our first trip across the Mexican border together on motorcycles.