The sweat that will go into this afternoon's Ultimate Runner at Hanes Park in Winston-Salem, even on a steamy June afternoon, still likely won't measure up to the sweat equity invested in the Twin City Track Club by the late Bob Sosnik.
Sosnik will be memorialized with the placement of a plaque near the start-finish line before this afternoon's unique, multi-distance event at what will be known as the Bob Sosnik Track.
Runners today and in the future will honor the memory of a leader in the track club who died on Jan. 13, 2007, at age 84. The Reynolds High School graduate, World War II veteran and optometrist picked up his running game after suffering a heart attack at age 60 and helped communicate news, features, information and his famous Bobservations to club members as editor of the award-winning TCTC Flyer from 1985 to 2003.
The track club's Er Ralston worked with City Council, Northwest Ward representative Jeff Macintosh and the city's Parks and Recreation Department to bring the track naming and plaque to fruition.
"I was out running laps on the track one day by myself," Ralston says. "And there's a tree near the start-finish line that was actually planted in his memory. And it just occurred to me, 'Maybe we could petition to have the track named after Bob Sosnik.'"
In a tribute a few years ago, Robert Hill reminded club members of the different times in which Sosnik published, notably the lack of today's technology.
"Bob would solicit articles, and most, if not all, were hand-written and even if they were typed, they would have to be retyped into his software," Hill wrote. "After typing everything up, he would also do the printing and would coerce as many club members as possible to assemble the pages, staple the center so it would fold correctly, fold the Flyers, put one big honking staple on the edge for mailing and slap on a label. Month in and month out, Bob did this for the love of the track club."
The Road Runners Club of America once honored the Flyer as the best in the South, a result of the pride and effort Sosnik put into his work.
"The Flyer was Bob's baby," the TCTC's Greg McGrath wrote in a tribute a few years ago. "He made all the decisions. Jeff Norris was once banned for life after one Flyer assembly event. Jeff had inserted only page elevens in Sandy Wetherhold's Flyer."
Gall bladder surgery once stalled the Flyer, so Sosnik used his Bobservations column to explain and to give detail of his operation.
"The exact location of the gallbladder is a complete mystery to modern medical science," he wrote. "This is obvious because the approved surgical procedure for removing one is to make an incision in the right abdomen and carefully keep extending it in random directions until the gallbladder is found (amid operating room cries of “Eureka!”, I am told; I was asleep at the time)."
He once lamented the downfall of basketball during an NBA playoff season:
"I don’t remember several years back that players were allowed to maul, maim, assault and dismember each other without a foul being called."
And he offered an idea that might still help save the college game.
"I have developed a new tactic that is sure to be a hit," he wrote. "It’s called the ‘look’ pass. As contrasted with the no-look pass used so frequently in college basketball, the look pass goes exactly where the passer is looking. This is such a rare occurrence that it’s bound to confound opposing players and work well for a year or two."
And through his running lenses, he spotted issues with the way the activity is presented in television.
"As long as they are running singly, all is normal," Sosnik wrote. "However when we are presented with a couple running, all of a sudden there is a compulsion for the two of them to hold hands. Speed is of the essence. They’re being chased by armed crazed killers. No matter. The hands join and the two run as one, destroying all semblance of normal rhythm and stride in each of them. It’s no wonder that they’re captured so frequently."
Sosnik’s humor itself was captured on the pages of Runner's World, and it's this Bobservation about his professional writing debut that brings us full circle to the oval named for him today.
"When they printed the article, they did not spell my name correctly," Sosnik wrote. "To the uninitiated, there would appear to be little difference between Sosnik and Sosnick. However, in my father’s native language Sosnik, S-O-S-N-I-K, means 'small pine tree.' Sosnick, S-O-S-N-I-C-K, on the other hand, translates to 'bucket of droppings from owl,' a significant difference."
So we can only wonder what he would make of "Soznik," and that is the way you will find his name spelled on the plaque, “The Bob Soznik Track.” Maybe this is just an honest miscue caught too late in production. Or perhaps it's one extremely clever Twin City Track Club nod to the meticulous man and his nickname, "The Soz."
I didn't have the fortune of meeting "The Soz," but I can trust that I would have found an additional thought he offered after his Runner's World fame to be true:
"No matter how you spell it, we Sosniks have a lot of class.”