29. Who Is Robert DeVille?

29. Who Is Robert DeVille?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Who Is Robert DeVille?

The only competition of a wise man is with himself.
 ~Washington Allston

A few years back, a running buddy of mine we call Lucky Jim called me up on a Saturday night. He knew it was short notice, but he was in a bind. He and a group of his co-workers were entered in a team-only 10K the next morning. One of their runners was still out of town on company business and wouldn’t be back in time for the race.

“Can you fill in for him?” he asked. “If we can’t get a substitute we’ll be disqualified and won’t be able to run. The entry fee is paid, you get his T-shirt and there’s food and a keg after.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “You guys are pretty competitive. I’m not even close to being in your league time-wise.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “We just want to be able to run. Don’t even worry about your time.”

After some more cajoling, I finally agreed to meet them at the race site in the morning. It was going to be another beautiful fall day and I was planning on getting in a few miles anyway, so why not.

“Remember, your name is Robert DeVille,” he said. “I doubt that anyone will ask, but if they do you’re Robert DeVille.”

“Robert DeVille. Got it,” I replied.

After a brief introduction, my new “teammates,” a group of ultra-fit, twenty-something guys and gals, were off and gone at the start, leaving me well behind to finish at my relaxed, plodding pace. When I met up with them at the beer tent, things weren’t as mellow as I was led to believe. Evidently these folks were pretty serious about winning this event, or at least placing high. Most of their muffled conversation dealt with the fact that if the REAL Robert DeVille had been running instead of yours truly, that might have been a distinct possibility. From what I gathered as they distanced themselves from me was that this Robert DeVille was quite the stud.

Not that I cared. I had a few beers with Lucky Jim, and said my goodbyes, accepted a few chilly “thanks for filling in’s” and was off. My life as Robert DeVille was over.

About six months later I was running in my first race of the new year, a 15K over a grueling, hilly course. I was on the homestretch, a flat mile and a half to the finish line. Suddenly everyone in front of me began splitting off to the left or right side of the road. There, dead center, was a downed runner, medical personnel already attending to him. He was out cold. I hoped he would be all right, and continued to the finish line.

At the refreshment tent I met up with Lucky Jim and a couple of other friends, who as per usual, had finished well ahead of me.

“Hey, did you guys see the guy who went down in the middle of the road back there?” I asked.

“Yeah!” said Lucky Jim. “I just talked to this girl we work with. She went and checked on him. He’s going to be alright. I guess he hadn’t been training much and he just came out too hard, especially on the hills. He just passed out.”

“You know that guy?” I asked.

“Of course! You remember… oh wait! You’ve never met!”

“Not that I recall. Who is he?”

“Robert DeVille! That’s Robert DeVille!”

~Lee Hammerschmidt

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