"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Running Away

That kid down the road got his name in the newspaper this week.  Again.   For running away.

And his name wasn’t in the police log, either.

The view most runners get of Miles.

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? 
Miles:  I've rediscovered my love of writing stories, especially ones about adventures in running!
By Miles Knotek
For a glimpse into how teen-age life in the twenty-first century differs from my own in the 1950s?
                Miles:  runnin' mountains and reading Harry Potter all day every day!
Miles:  had a really fun day hanging with michael and shredding a sick new line. and then got called to get a roadkill moose! all 4 quarters and 2 backstraps for my first time butchering a moose! 
Miles:  loves the beginning of winter! Got my sled out for the first time and my cross country skis. Fall is still here though with the brown bear tracks in the snow.
To learn of his remarkable achievements?
Miles in front, photo by Nikki Wray
Miles:  had an awesome weekend at regions coming back with three second place metals. 
Feet from the top.  Photo by John Collins

Miles:  had a fun day racing Government Peak! Finished in 7th overall and 1st in age group with a time of [52:30]. A lot tougher than I thought it would be!
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.
Cole:  dude for government peak you got the time that Brad Precosky  got last year, … which is pretty damn amazing
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]:  "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
-Albus Dumbledore
Miles:  An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets, he must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.
-Emil Zatopek
Miles: the good side of 40 degrees in [D]ecember is being able to go for a run in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt.
The humor? 

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.
Miles:  just had probably one of the raddest shreds of my life! Climbed all the way up this chute to the rocks and looked up to see a mtn. goat checkin' me out! Along with 15 ptarmigan fluttering around the cliffs.
Miles:  can't wait to go to Hawaii to get away from this horrible winter and to come back to skiing a golden god.
Miles:  likes being able to get off the school bus, slap on my climbing skins, climb up a mountain, and ski down with a headlamp and under the stars...

Photo of Miles by Jared Lindquist


  1. Do you think his name-Miles-provided some inspiration for his passion?

  2. Andrea DiDomenicoJune 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    I am Miles' aunt who lives 4000 miles away in Upstate New York; thank you for writing such a beautiful article on my nephew; my nephew is truly an inspiration to not only his friends but to adults; thank goodness for the internet for allowing me and my family to keep updated on Miles' progress and growing up. Miles, continue to make us proud!

  3. Miles first got the attention of this old runner/jogger/mountain climber when he placed 3rd in the state 3200m race. For god's sake he is only a 10th grader! Today he won the junior Mt. Marathon race and he is only 16. You can be proud to know him. Keep his head on straight, but I have a feeling he in no danger because he follows Robert Frost's less taken road and Walden's different drummer. Azikewe, who was governnor general of Nigeria said there is plenty of room on the road to top because so few take it. Charles Lane, Anchorage