My life as a baton twirler

He comes roaring into the exchange area in the relay marathon. It’s a hot, humid, why the hell are we doing this kinda day, and he’s pushed himself way beyond his limit.

He’s a super-fast guy. Bright red team singlet, Brooks T-6 racers, shorts and muscle. Not much more. He reaches out with his baton, finally rid of his burden, and …

Nothing. His teammate isn’t there.

I’m running the anchor leg of the Beach2Bay Relay Marathon, if you can call 11:45 pace running. I and 30,000 new pals are standing anxiously waiting for our teammates to come in. It’s a tricky business, trying to spot your runner in so much traffic. People have flags and those goofy styrafoam pool things and cell phones. The fast guy has nothing but a grimace.

Watching the exchange in a relay marathon is a joy. The spent, totally wasted runner is instantly rejuvenated in a new body. Runners take off at a 4-minute pace, surely destined to crash before they make it out the other side of the exchange chute. It’s a neverending parade.

I get there in time to watch the gazelles come through. The Corpus Christi Fleet Feet Elite guy is virtually yawning as he takes off in a determined gallop. His team goes on to win in 2:17:34. My team will require a little more than twice that time. But there’s still pizza and beer after 5 hours, so what’s the rush.

The arrivals at the exchange point take on the familiar rhythm of a trickle turning into a flood as the elites clear out and the mortals arrive. The scene is pretty ugly. It’s 84 degrees with 60 percent humidity, creating a scene at the exchange point suggesting that the rapture might be a bit closer than we had anticipated.

How can so many people miss the baton exchange? Not to belittle the horrible memories of 9/11, but I think of those relatives aimlessly wandering the streets of NYC holding up photos of loved ones as I watch heat-stricken runners stagger up and down the lane holding up their baton, desperately hoping for a taker.

One guy yells out, “SOMEBODY TAKE THIS! ANYBODY!” Nobody offers. Another runner asks if anyone has a cigarette while he waits. The announcer, taking pity on a woman who has been wandering up and down for 15 minutes, calls out the number and then asks for a name. She tells him it’s her husband. “You better get here quick. You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” the announcer says.

When belated runners finally appear (porta-pot lines? Traffic jam? Idiots?) they are met with a roar from the crowd.

The other crowd favorites are the kids. There must have been a pre-K division in the race, or else I’m just too old to gauge kids. Pint-size runners come roaring in, laboring under the misperception that this is supposed to be fun. I make a mental note to share that joy during my leg. I forget it by the first mile marker.

Two guys make the exchange wearing gaudy lucha lubre wrestling masks. That do an intricate dance in which they lock arms and dance about. I’m thinking they know the secret to this race. Just have fun. I suddenly regret not wearing the Rudolph costume.

I have NO idea what pace my team is running, so I spend hours staring intently at each runner coming through. I hone my skills at judging how likely the runner is to throw up on my shoes, and am happy to say I went unsplattered. Runners come and go, wander in frustration, stagger away in anguish. I miss nobody.

So naturally I’m totally shocked when I see my teammate a foot away from he holding out the the baton. I ask if she’s OK; she lies and says yes. Then I take off. ICK! She’s gotten the baton all sweaty. But I guess you gotta sacrifice for the team. But, eeeewwww, girl sweat.

As I leave the chute, I settle into my pace and it’s just another training run. Our team isn’t out to prove anything; we’re just running. I’m just a pretender, but I promised Mo I wouldn’t die during the race. You can’t break promises to Mo. I think it’s a rule.

The guy in the bright red singlet? He’s still at the exchange point as I leave. The teammate never showed up. He’s just run his brains out for nothing. Do I feel sorry for him?

Nah. I win.

4.95 miles (57:57-11:41) 10:13, 11:14, 12:03, 12:43, 11:41

About gary

no sock monkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.
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9 Responses to My life as a baton twirler

  1. sassafras says:

    this is a first …. a real … race report … yahooooo ..
    I’m pretty sure I spent the day in Ohio …. but for awhile there I was in Texas . . . watching runners … and sweating in the heat

  2. gdionelli says:

    Glad to know you found the baton and lived to tell the tale. Always keep those promises to Mo.

  3. tosuperstar says:

    Sounds fun, and they had pizza and beer!

  4. Jenster! says:

    A fire baton would have made things interesting.

  5. tosuperstar says:

    I got an apple and a Mich Ultra in a skinny silver can for $55 at my half Sunday. You got a bargain man!

  6. Madiantin says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!! You did it. Your description was hysterical. :D. Ewww girl sweat. Hahaha. :D. In that heat you would have died in the Rudolph costume. And then Mo would have killed you for breaking your promise.

  7. Slake says:

    I like you and your blog.

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