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At the start. Behind me, in the blue, is the new operator of Fleet Feet Sports and the guy who won the race, running the 3.1 miles in 17 minutes. Or, as Simon put it, “the guy who beat us more than twice.” On the far left, in the orange cap, is another awesome Fleet Feet runner who also probably lapped us but cheered from the side lines while we finished. Runners are awesome.

If you’re on Facebook, you know that Simon ran a 5K yesterday. You also know that the event was a charity run for Dare to Care, and that Simon raised $510 for Louisvillians in need of food assistance. And you may have noticed that I was completely shameless in my shilling.

Completely, utterly shameless, for which I offer no apology. Here’s how the whole thing went down.

Last spring, Simon asked to go running with me. I said OK and took him out for a slow jog, curious to see how far he’d go. At the two mile mark I made him stop, but he didn’t need to. A week later, we went 2.5. I made him stop again, and again he didn’t need to. So the next time I threw in hills. Same deal.

Meanwhile, I noticed something. Runners are, on the whole, a friendly and supportive group. I was trained by Jeff Wells at Fleet Feet Sports to always smile and wave when you pass a runner in the opposite direction. Some smile and wave back, some just nod. Some don’t see you. And a very small number pretend not to see you. This cohort is overwhelmingly composed of young-ish males who could lap me in any race. It’s OK: I get it. If I had any real chance of doing a full marathon in 3 hours, I wouldn’t have the time or energy for smiles and waves either.

But the minute I got out the door with Simon, everything changed. Moms running with strollers stopped to wave and cheer him on. Old guys smiled and gave him high fives. Couples would stop their conversation to turn and greet him. And those super fast jocks? They nearly unanimously smiled at Simon and offered thumbs up and greetings like, “See you in Boston in 12 years” or “Way to go, little buddy.”

Shortly after our running habit began, two things happened: (1) Simon began asking about when he could run a real race; and (2) I became involved in the Dare to Care Hunger Walk, a 5K charity event. The light bulb went off immediately. On my own, I could raise a little bit of money. But ifSimon were the runner, I had a hunch I could raise a lot more.

To work out as I had planned, I needed a great August and September to train and a kid who could get on board with and really understand the cause. The latter happened in spades. Simon knew what Dare to Care was, watched the thermometer on his fundraising page go up, and did the math on how many meals his run would pay for. He was fully engaged with the cause.

The former, however, was a disaster, as summer finally decided to arrive in Louisville in mid August. We ran a couple of easy miles when we were in Asheville on vacation in mid-August, and then never again had the chance until yesterday owing to our schedule of school, holidays, family events, and hot and humid weather.

Fortunately, the combination of Simon’s love of running and base level of fitness, the thrill of having a number pinned to his shirt, and the determination to follow through with his fundraising plan carried the day. He was pooped at the end, but he did manage to jog a nice and steady 2.6 miles and then go all out for the final half mile. He chatted nicely with the director of Dare of Care, had his picture taken a lot, and even popped up in a crowd shot on the local news.

Charity runs might be the most perfect confluence of activities I can imagine for Simon, seeing as they involve sports, helping others, and math. Which is to say, expect some more shamelessness in the future. Shamelessness works. And in this case, Shamelessness put 2,040 meals in front of hungry people. Yay, Shamelessness.

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