That kid down the road got his name in the newspaper this week. Again. For running away.
No, my neighbor Miles got a big shout out for running up a mountain and running away from everyone in his age group, plus a passel of adult men. In fact, as the Anchorage Daily News reported, “The performance of the day among teenagers in the race that covers three miles and gains 3,400 feet of elevation on Bird Ridge was Miles Knotek, 16, who finished seventh among men in 42 minutes, 43 seconds. That placed him just 3:19 behind [the] winner.”
|Miles is in the center, shirtless, blue shorts. Photo by Heather Williams|
I’ve climbed that ridge. It isn’t an easy climb and I was walking, not running.
Then, Miles was congratulated by none other than Brad Precosky, who is a six-time champion of the Mt. Marathon race held in Seward every Fourth of July. I think Miles has Brad’s number and two years from now when Miles is old enough to compete in the men’s division, Brad better hang up his shoes or stay out of Miles’s way.
I try to keep track of Miles’s latest accomplishments. He posts all this stuff on Facebook.
Now, why would a seventy-ish woman follow the Facebook page of a sixteen-year-old high school student?
Because he’s my neighbor, because we share interests in writing and photography?
|By Miles Knotek|
For a glimpse into how teen-age life in the twenty-first century differs from my own in the 1950s?
To learn of his remarkable achievements?
|Miles in front, photo by Nikki Wray|
|Feet from the top. Photo by John Collins|
Greg: … I checked the race archives and you now own the fastest time for anyone age 20 or younger! You beat your closest competitor today by 2 1/2 minutes. Wow.
|Miles Knotek runs to the finish. At 16, Miles' time of 52:30 is the fastest time so far recorded by any runner 20 or under for this race. Photo and cutline by Holly Brooks.|
For his philosophical insight?
Miles [quoting from a Harry Potter book]:
Miles: Felt like Farley Mowat as I ran half naked through the tundra today with a bunch of mountain goats.
Ray: dances with goats? Haha.
If you are on Facebook, you know that you are privy to your friends’ postings plus their friends’ responses.
Miles and his friends speak of music, like most teenagers. They post links to their favorite artists and to songs that resonate with them.
They upload photos showing their arms draped over each others shoulders. I smile when I look at these photos and imagine that in a couple decades, they will view these pictures with the same nostalgia as did generations of men and women before them.
|Miles on right with Jaz, left, and Tannen, center.|
Here’s where they break from the norm, here’s where these teenagers who are my extended neighbors differ from teenagers in Anytown, USA.
Those photos? The photos of high school pals, posed with seemingly dislocated fingers signaling the signs of their times?
|Miles in center with friends Sam and Jaz.|
They’re taken on top of mountains. These aren’t sissy mountains, either. These mountains spring up from the earth with no foothills to anchor them. These mountains mean business.
They hike up these mountains. They put climbing skins on their skis and climb up these mountains.
|Miles. Photo by Jaz Odhner|
They RUN up these mountains. They use snowmobiles to get to the bottom of mountains, then strap on their skis and climb up! No couch potatoes here.
|Photo by Miles|
So, yes, I follow Miles on Facebook for all the above reasons—to keep in touch, to listen in on their humor, enjoy their friendships, and to learn their philosophical views.
But there’s one more reason, one very special reason. I follow Miles so I can listen to the poetry in a young man’s heart.
|Photo of Miles by Jared Lindquist|