We had met as usual at the Cardio Fitness Center. Though I was coming from way from the World Financial Center and Steve from down the block at 230 Park, our timing was particularly good as we both arrived within moments of each other. The Cardio Fitness Center was distinguished among NYC gyms by their business model of providing the work-out clothing. All you had to do was show up. They gave you a locker for your shoes and deodorant, then provided racks of clean shorts, tea-shirts, socks and jock straps. It was in short, the anti- “dress for the gym” gym. You walked in, grabbed what you needed from the appropriate “size” bin, and went about your business.

There were few exceptions to this rule and Steve and I were one of them. I take no credit for it. Even If I could remember how it actually went down, I’d have to say that it’s so “Steve”, that I’d give to him regardless. The exception was that we had permission to leave our winter running suits in a closet. It was a key reason for our joint membership, in that we rarely actually used the workout facilities of the club. What we really needed was a place to facilitate our particular joint craving, described by some as a mental disorder. Namely, daily runs around Central Park.

That’s right! We loved taking a couple of hours out of the day and disappearing into the four season, any time of the day, beauty of “The Park”. We preferred the noon-time hours. It was a great feeling to get back to the desk with a salad or soup and plow into the afternoon’s challenges, knowing what we’d pulled off, and so energized by our achievement. But if for some reason the demands of our busy jobs prevented it, we would plan a 5:00PM escape, which would get us back in time to make the 6:37 Metro-North home to Greenwich.

Rob Davis at Hedge Funds Care Event 2005 with Stephan Vermut
Rob Davis and Stephan Vermut at Hedge Funds Care Event 2005 (Image from Getty Images)

Of course, there were those times when due to travel, vacations, wives, children, illness and other interferences, that days were missed. But there was a period of some years when we were remarkably consistent. It was rare not to get at least three days in. More common was four. Steve would say, “Not bad. We had a four day week!” And on the occasions where we got all five days in…well that was something to relish, and we did!   

But this particular day was a “one of it’s kind,” and posed a very special challenge. It was the last day in February of some year in the early 1990’s. The month had started out unusually mild. Rather than wearing our special Gortex running suits, we’d been able to stick with the gyms regular shorts and tee shirts, though in my case I would double the tee shirts.

Our normal route to the park was to leave the club’s entrance on 52nd Street just west of Lexington, jog to Park, hang a right and dodge cars to 59th, make a left to 5th, and across to the entrance of the park opposite from the Plaza. From there we’d make our way to the Park Drive, the road that circles the inside of the park. On a nice day we’d stop to leave our shirts behind a certain stone structure, so we’d have something warm and dry for the return to the club.

The rub was that after an exceptionally mild first two weeks, and even though the weather had begun reverting to its normal frigid February temps, we had stubbornly continued that routine, driven by some joint idiocy to get a complete, bare-chested February into the record books. This in spite of the fact that other than the two of us, there would likely be no other living being, other than Barbara, who would ever know or care about that particular “Record”.

So here it was, Feb 28th, last day of the month. The forecast was clear and cold, in the high teens and dropping fast. Definitely a day for getting the running suits out of the closet, But did that thought enter either of our minds? Yup! But did we put them on? Nope! One more pig-headed than the other, out the door we went. When we made it to our “shirt hiding place” in the park, we looked at each other, and without a word spoken, off came the shirts and off we went. Our practice was to hang a left when we reached the Park Drive and run counter to the normal foot and bike traffic. That was of course Steve’s idea 🙂 But actually I preferred it too, even if it did draw a comment now and then.

This was clearly not a day when “leisurely” would be included in the description. We’d both taken an extra pair of socks to wear as gloves, but there was no denying that we were seriously pushing the envelope. The pace quickly reached our max. We were fairly even matched on level terrain. I was faster on the down-hills, but Steve would catch always catch me on the up-hills. One big difference on this day was the lack of conversation. A normal run would be laced with all sorts of discussion about subject ranging from kids to world events to gastric issues requiring locating some strategically placed tree or shrubbery. On this day there was none of it. Just sheer, locked-in focus on the task at hand.

Then it happened! We’d completed the entire west side, sped down the huge hill at the top and labored, gasping up the other side to reach the east side of the 110th St. pass-through. We were just recovering from that monster, when in the distance we were shocked to see the figure of another runner! It was the first other person we’d seen, crazy enough to be out there. And wouldn’t you know it, we could see even from a distance that he was shirtless too.

“Ha”! Said Steve. “I can tell from that crooked gait, It’s Stan”! ” Come on. Let’s get him”.

Stan was an exercise nut who Steve had known from his Marathoning days. Actually, Steve had  recorded at least two sub-three-hour runs of the 26.2 mile pinnacle of road-racing . To put that in perspective, it means averaging faster than 7 minute miles for the entire distance. By contrast my marathon PR was 3:24:43, a thrill in that it was 17 seconds under the time I needed to age qualify for the Boston Marathon, but almost a full minute slower. Truly, Steve’s multiple sub – 3 hour marathon runs were outstanding, as any serial marathoner knows.

At the time of this story Steve was focused on biathlons, to include his passion for biking, but his competitive juices had connected him to Stan at certain points, and their greetings when we’d cross paths were like those reserved for respected rivals. So it was that we picked up the pace, with a new found goal to spur us on our way back to our shirts and a warm shower.

Stan was right in stride of his steady pace, dressed in shorts, running shoes, lobster red skin and completely unsuspecting, when we swept by like he was standing still. Steve, relishing the moment issued a loud, “Hey Stan, how are ya”!. Stan did a little hop from the shock, and all we could hear was a loud, “WHAT!!!” Followed by, “DAMN YOU VERMUT”!!! We laughed as Steve held up his hand and waved.

And thus did some month of February, in the early 90’s, enter the records for all time. Yep! It’s in the book!