You forget after a million races or so. Running is just so damn much fun.
We went with our co-worker Jenny to the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon today. She has been running a long time, but has never put on a bib and entered a race. That finally ended today.
We offered to drive her there as to avoid shuttle bus hell. I didn’t mention to Mo that it would require getting up at 3:45 a.m. until late last night. Her response was “That is an excellent idea!!!” or something similar except containing 32 sailor words and a sailing Corona bottle. But I think she’s glad she came. I’d ask, but she’s sleeping.
Jenny was running the first leg, so it was the perfect place to spectate. This is her posing with her baton and that fake smile she gives me when I ask her what she thinks about my page design.
But it was a great day for a run. Sun coming up over the Gulf, the buzz of coiled energy as a bazillion runners try to stay warm. The National Anthem. A prayer. A new life, living and dying in 3.5 miles of sand and gale-force wind. A joy.
Jenny is new to to racing, but apparently an old pro at speed port-a-potting. We endured a line about 15 peeps deep while waiting before the race. Two guys were in front of her. The door opened. It said “Women.” I don’t think the designation applied here (out of about 40 toilets, this was the only one designated for women. Mo and Jenny talked about it in line and agreed it wasn’t really a women’s designation at all.) But the guys in front of us hesitated for a split-second as the port-a-pot became vacant, looking around for a cue. Jenny veered left, swung right, sprinted ahead and slammed the door shut before the guys knew what hit them. I’ve seen a lot of guys get chicked in races over the years, but never in the port-a-pot line. Bravo.
The key to spectating is establishing your running credibility through the proper T-shirt. After carefully going through my collection, I came up with the 2008 United League All-Star Game shirt. Oh, well. We had to get up at 3:45 to get there. I should probably have turned on the lights at some point while getting dressed.
This was a rare moment in the hour before the race in that she was NOT re-tying her shoes. Jenny is a very thorough shoe tier. I, on the other hand, was wearing old Tevas with velcro that no longer works. This is probably why she was racing and I was not.
And then, the jacket came off. The sun came up. The minutes ticked down. And she was off.
Even as a spectator, there is much joy to be found at starting lines. The hope and excitement, the love and camaraderie. Magic. We never saw her go by. Too many people. But at a race, everyone is pretty much the same anyhow. The 5-minute Fleet Feet guys, the serious middle-packers, the pack of elementary track team kids, the folks in tutus and gladiator uniforms, the just in it for the beer guys who run exactly once a year. It’s part race, part party, part church service. Exactly what running should be.
It’s impossible at this race to spot your peep at the transition area. A million runners handing off to a million others. The harried announcers reeled off numbers in the spitfire fashion of Lucy packing chocolates on a conveyor belt (two years ago one of them was spewing numbers at an astronomical rate before a slight pause and then a loud “F@@@” over the P.A. I’m guessing he’s retired now.)
So we didn’t see her till after she had handed off the baton. Same euphoric smile, same Tigger impression bouncing up and down with the enthusiasm of the newly initiated. She had endured a 25 mph wind, 3.5 miles of sand in her mouth, a traffic jam on the course that never really thinned out. And she loved every minute.
You forget. You forget that running and being and racing and dying is such a joy, a treasure not to be taken lightly. To remember, sometimes you just need to take a step back and see it through the eyes of someone starting out.
The prophet Sheehan said, “The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect.”
Sometimes I forget that perfect thing inside me. Then a day like this comes along to make me remember.
I’m a very fortunate person indeed.
I think I’ll go for a run now.