On Monday while I was sitting in the airport waiting for my 9:55 flight that would take me north and east to New York City one of my close running friends here in Austin was struck by a car while out on a run crossing over 2222. A route that he had run literally thousands of times.
According to police, a Dodge Durango was traveling south on RM 2222 at River Place Boulevard about 9 a.m. when it struck a man who was attempting to cross FM 2222. The Dodge had the green light when the pedestrian ran out in front of it and was struck, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Scott Birk, a 48 year-old stay at home Dad, lost in the blink of an eye. Senseless. Tragic.
Here in Austin, if you were a runner who liked to race, you ran with Scott. When I visited his profile on Athlinks.com – a site that tracks all recorded races for an amateur runner, I counted 208 races that Scott competed in since 1998. 37 Marathons, 28 Half-Marathons, 52 5K’s. 22 races in just 2010 alone.
Scott’s routine was to get his son ready for school and then go out and train. He would log close to 100 miles every week and at the age of 48 was still getting better and better. Just last month Scott ran an 18:01 at the Chuy’s 5K here in Austin. That is 5:47 pace at age 48, an extremely talented athlete.
But when I think of Scott, I don’t think of any of that stuff to be honest with you. Scott was one of the very first runners who ever congratulated me after a race in Austin. It is racing here locally where I started to come into my own a bit as a runner. As I improved I began running closer and closer to the front of the Age Group field, and it is there where I found Scott.
Scott who was at least 5 inches taller than me truly stood out among the crowd in the starting area. Most of the “fast guys” are all around 5′ 9″-5′ 10″, thin, willowy and just flat-out fast. Scott was closer to 6′ 1″, broad in the shoulders and just darn fit. He would be wearing a black singlet and shorts. Always. And he would be “holding court” with a group of runners keeping everyone loose, everyone smiling and laughing.
But make no mistake, when that gun sounded, Scott was off like a rocket. What I loved about seeing Scott at a race was I knew that if I could keep him in my sights, I was on my way to a PR or darn close to it. We raced similar times and were always near each other on the course.
The last four races I ran with Scott went like this:
IBM Uptown Classic 10K: Scott 38:00, Joe 38:06
Run for the Water 10-Mile: Scott 1:02:47, Joe 1:03:47
Resolution Run 5K: Scott 18:03, Joe 18:12
3M Half Marathon: Scott 1:24:52, Joe 1:23:55
I finally “got” Scott at the 3M Half Marathon in our lead up to the Austin Marathon this past winter. After I caught my breath, grabbed a bottle of water and started looking for Dawn and Landry there was a giant right hand squeezing my shoulder. Scott Birk.
He gave me a big sweaty man-hug and said, “You were killing it out there! When you went past me at mile 11 I thought about going with you but I could see the look on your face and knew there was no way I was going to stay with you ….”
That was Scott. He was always the first one to downplay his own performances and congratulate another runner for their accomplishments.
He truly was a wonderful, wonderful runner. No doubt about it.
But Scott was something much more important and relevant than just how fast someone can run down the street. Scott was a tremendous person and a wonderful husband, father and friend. I heard the news about Scott from the other guy that I look for at every race I show up to around Austin. My friend Andy Bitner. Andy and I met last year at the Holland, TX 5K. Racing the final 1/2 mile together, Andy beating me by :09 seconds.
Tomorrow morning I will be driving up to Holland to race for the third consecutive year. Andy is away up in Michigan, and won’t be making it to Holland, I won’t be able to race with him this year as I look for my third straight age group win in the event.
When we are milling around the starting area I know that I am going to be looking around, searching for that black singlet on Scott out of habit. It became as much a pre-race ritual of mine as running my fingers over Dom’s initials on my shoes.
I have a new pair of Brooks T7 Racers being delivered to the house this afternoon, just in time for tomorrow. I hope you don’t mind Dom, but your initials are going to have some company on this pair of race flats. You would have absolutely loved “Scotty Boy” Dom, everybody did.
Scott, I can’t imagine what happened on Monday along a road that you know so very well, as such an experienced runner. I know that you are going to be missed by your wife Carla and your son and that there is nothing that anyone can do to change any of this or bring you back.
But I am going to do all that I can to help the fund that they have established in your name – The Scott Birk Fund – to put a pedestrian footbridge over 2222 and River Place. Tomorrow morning Scott, I feel bad for the rest of those 40+ year olds.
They don’t stand a snowball’s chance on a hot TX Saturday morning.
Tomorrow is for you Scott. I plan on making sure that when that race is over, everyone knows that I was there.