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A Morning Jog With Captain Quick


He was standing about four feet away from me, looking me dead in the eye. A cobra ready to strike.

I had my hands up.

"I'm going to go easy on you," he said.

I had never been in this situation before, and had no idea what to expect.

"Okay?"

I nervously nodded my head yes. And then he hit me. Hard.

The sound his punch made was like a Nolan Ryan fastball smacking an under-padded catcher's mitt. And then he hit me again.

----------

At the time, I was perhaps the best tennis player in Prince Georges County. I exercised vigorously every day, and took a back seat to very few people athletically.

We had recently become neighbors, and were slowly becoming friends. He had seen me out running before, and one Friday after work, he casually mentioned working out together the next morning.

"Let's just go for a easy jog," he said. "Nothing too strenuous."

He was older than I was, and seemed like a nice man. But there was something about this situation that made me feel uneasy. And as I would find out the next morning, my intuition was correct.

----------

There was a three-mile course I ran several times a week, full of long, cruel hills that could break any runner foolish enough not to stay within his own abilities.

We left, and the pace was immediately too fast for my comfort, so without saying a word, I subtly began to slow it down. The first half was almost all downhill, and I made it to the midpoint, testing my limits, but still able to hide my looming exhaustion.

But coming back was another story. He didn't slow down; if anything, he started to speed up. And with over a mile to go, including a steep half-mile incline, I began to crack.

On the long, final ascent, I capitulated. "I can't keep up," I said, finally bending over at the waist and nearly cutting my pace in half.

"Yes you can. Come on!"

"I can't. I'm done. Go!" And I slowed down even more, to a pace closer to a walk than a jog. He looked at me knowingly, and left, sprinting to the top of the hill, then turned and ran back down to meet me.

We finished the climb together - me, doubled over, gasping for air, and cramping; him, running backwards and shadow boxing. When we got back, I was so tired I couldn't even say goodbye.

----------

He had invited me over later that afternoon. I was standing in his garage, with my hands up, wearing a pair of Everlast high-performance punch mitts, and waiting for him to hit me.

"I'm going to go easy on you," he said.

I had never been in this situation before, and had no idea what to expect.

"Okay?"

I nervously nodded my head yes. And then he hit me. Hard.

The sound his punch made was like a Nolan Ryan fastball smacking an under-padded catcher's mitt. And then he hit me again.

"How are you hitting me like this?" I asked. "You aren't even trying."

He looked down, started jabbing in the air, smiled, and said, "My teammates used to call me Captain Quick."

His teammates.

Then out of nowhere, he hit me again, twice, in rapid succession.

----------

"This is smaller than I thought it would be," I told him.

"That's what everyone says." He looked me right in the eyes, but this time with a touch of sadness. "You know, this should have been gold. But they gave it to the North Korean."

I had in my hands a silver medal, awarded to Sergeant First Class Charles Mooney, boxing champion of the United States Army,

SFC Charles Mooney, silver medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Bantamweight Division,

Charles Michael Mooney, member of the greatest Olympic boxing team ever assembled, with gold medalists Howard Davis, and future world champions Leo Randolph, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and Sugar Ray Leonard,

The great, unheralded Washington, DC sports hero, and founder of the non-profit Charles M. Mooney Academy of Boxing in Laurel, Maryland,

Charles Mooney, known to his extraordinary teammates, and now, to his tired, awestruck neighbor, as Captain Quick.

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