Who would have guessed running the steeplechase would one day come in handy?
Standing at the Metra station in Beverly Hills (no not that one) at 95th & S. Wood Street in Chicago, Mike was dreading the long trip north just to drop off his track uniform at the Loyola Lakeshore campus - it was nearly twenty miles away. He should have done it last week but...
So early that morning he took a bus from home to the train station, waiting drowsily in the line for a two-way ticket, thinking he might drop in on a teammate taking summer school classes when he got there. I should just keep the uniform. It'll take me three hours to get to Loyola and back.
"Stop him! He just robbed the ticket office."
Mike's head pivoted towards the ticket lady laying on the ground and then at a figure streaking through the back door and jumping on a bicycle. Without thought of how foolish it was, he flew out the door and chased after the offender, yelling "call the cops" at anyone that would listen as he sprinted down 95th Street.
The thief kept looking over his shoulder as Mike shouted to passersby, the gap between the two closing despite his furious pedaling. Realizing he would soon be overtaken the perp turned and ran his bike across a yard and through a hole in the fence. Mike followed him through puddles of water and the fence opening, finally getting close enough to push him off the bike...the first time.
But he just got right back on.
Cutting across 95th the thief rode through the Jewel-Osco parking lot, Mike screaming at the top of his lungs. "Call the police. He robbed the Metra station." In the background the first siren could be heard, customers at the grocery store pointing as Mike chased the perp to the back of the lot, knocking him off the bike again once he knew there were reinforcements coming.
But this was one persistent thief. He ditched the bike and took off running, hopping fences and cutting through yards, police cars zig-zagging up and down the quiet streets with blue lights flashing, trying to cut him off. Mike slowed, pointing to direct Chicago's finest, resuming the chase so he didn't lose sight of the guy. By now Mike had probably run a mile.
"I could tell the guy was getting tired."
Finally he slowed to a stop at 93rd and Bishop, Mike waving at cop cars racing down the street, staying out of range from the suspect as he waited. Suddenly the thief pulled out an 8-inch knife. Whoa!
The whites of Mike's eyes doubled in size as he stared at the long blade, grabbing a branch at the curb to use as defense. Fortunately the offender dropped the knife as two cruisers screeched to a stop, police officers leaping from the cars with guns drawn.
Later that summer Mike got a commendation from the City of Chicago for his heroic response to the robbery - it was even signed by Mayor Daley. Thirty years later I had to ask - for all his bravery and the persistence it took to continue the pursuit, how did he respond when he saw the guy had a knife?
It was two words.