I moved from my hometown in 1981. At the time, I was a race junkie. Our club, the Road Lizards, had a regular series of runs held like clockwork year after year. One had just popped up on the radar, the Southland Shuffle.
It was organized by a new guy. The club wanted races every month, and nobody else wanted to hold one in August, so he stepped in. I didn’t run it that year, but it looked like fun. No frills, just a couple of bucks to enter. I wish I had run it.
Fast-forward 31 years. I’m running an 8-mile training run on the 1 kilometer loop around the parents’ house. As fate would have it, today is the Southland Shuffle. It’s only about three blocks from my parents’ house. The cost has skyrocketed to THREE DOLLARS, but otherwise still the same. Still Kent and Anne Fish. Still handmade awards. Still the quirky 6-mile distance. I consider joining in, but I’m running in the wee hours to avoid the heat, and I have no cash in my running shorts.
My 1k loop goes over the 2/4 mile split, laid out neatly in flour. It feels like I’m in the race, even though I’m just sharing the road. It makes me happy.
Happy that a little race in a small town can last more than 30 years unscathed. That True Believers still exist in the world, running for the sake of the run. That maybe you can go back home again.
I finish my run about 15 minutes before the start of the race. Grab a water bottle and walk back to the turn on Southwest Boulevard.
I sit next to the flour arrow. An older couple walk past. Is there a race, the woman asks. Before I can answer, she says, oh, yes, the shuffle. We used to run that way back when. Now we just walk.
I smile and say, yeah, I’m pretty much the same way.
A few minutes later, the first runners come by. No gazelles, but they look serious. I clap and cheer for about 20 runners or so, till the point where the field strings out. I’m too shy to cheer for individual runners, you know.
I’m glad that in the age of corporate sponsorship and instant sellouts and lotteries, there are still Southland Shuffles in the world. Still no frills, still just a couple of bucks to enter. I still wish I had run it.
Congrats, guys. Next year. I promise.