There were two fire trucks with their ladders extended over the road, one ladder high, one low. A massive american flag hung between the ladders. “there are only eight minutes before the race starts” says the loudspeaker, “all of the runners should be in the chute now. If you are not in the chute, you need to go to the chute area. the race starts in eight minutes.”
I found Randy at the chute. He was wearing long sleeves and tights. I was wearing tights as well – the internets told me it was going to be 40 degrees, and I got dressed before I went outside. The tights are too warm. Here is a key life lesson; always go outside to see how cold it is before finalizing your running outfit.
One time, when I lived in Ohio, I had this run that was an out and back. about a mile out I would get too warm so I would stuff my sweatshirt in someones mailbox. Then, on the way back, I would just pick up the sweatshirt. Easy-peasy. Pants, though, are more difficult. While I am wearing black underwear, taking off the tights would still be awkward.
Here is another life lesson though: if possible, always wear underwear that can double as stylish shorts in a pinch.
Everyone is talking to each other, a pleasant hubbub of people comparing running shoes and watches, and complaining about how they did not train enough. And then suddenly, all the talking stops.
Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hail, at the twilight’s last gleaming!”
I cannot see who is singing, but she has a beautiful voice. Some of the runners are singing too. Out of six thousand, maybe a thousand of us are mouthing the words, whispering. It is a silvery, slippery sound, and it gives me goosebumps.
“O’er the ramparts we watched, was so gallantly gleaming” I imagine what it would be like to watch over a rampart. When I get home, I am going to have to figure out what rampart means. Maybe it is like a big spring, that goes on a battering ram. A ram-part. No, too easy. Google will know.
Randy leans over. “It is taking all of my self control to not yell GO TRUMP”
Randy sent me a text last night. “Bill, lets run the first nine miles together, then I will kick it in the last four or so.” Sounds good to me. Randy dances over the ground like a bird. It will be good to have someone to talk with.
The horn goes off, and the crowd starts to creep forward. Randy is bouncing beside me. “I have never felt more confident in a race.” Randy says.
This morning I got dressed to run, then lay back down in bed, curled up around a pillow, and closed my eyes.
“You seem to be very excited to run this race.” Steph observes. “I do not have to leave for another five minutes.” I say into the pillow. I rode forty miles yesterday on my bike. It was inadvertent, and happened because I do not have a car, and I needed to go somewhere. My legs clenched walking up the stairs to go to bed last night.
In my mind I imagine that five more minutes of rest will re-energize my legs.
There are no mile markers on the run, but on each mile all of the runners watches chirp. Runners beside me whisper the time. I have a fancy watch, but even if I didn’t, I would still know exactly how fast I am going based on the chirping, whispering runners beside me.
“Seven-forty-five” somebody off to my left whispers. I am in trouble.
Yesterday, Steph and I talked out my strategy. “Steph,” I say, “I am not in great shape. I am planning on going out at about 8:30.”
Steph nods her head. “Good plan.” she says.
At mile six, the watches chirp like startled birds. Somebody off to my right whispers “Seven-forty-two.” I feel fine, except for my legs, which are like wooden logs, and my heart, which is like a hamster ball. Actually, when I say that I am feeling all right, I am mostly referring to my emotional health.
Randy leaves me at mile nine, like we had talked about. He pulls away slowly. It does not look like he is cruising that much faster. If I were in shape, I would feel this urge to pick up the pace, run with him. I look at my fancy watch. the top number is my heart rate. 172. Dear Lord. I am good at this pace. I watch Randy’s back until he runs around a corner and I can’t see him anymore.
There are not as many people beside me at mile ten. My watch is the only one I can hear chirping. I look down. The middle number is how fast I am running. 8:34. I hear footsteps behind me, then I hear the breathing, and then the people pass me. A steady stream of yellow and red spandex, black shorts and heavy breathing, running past me, and off to the finish line.
The finish line is very close now. Around a corner, across a bridge, left turn, right turn, up a hill and there. I ride this route on my bike a lot. These three miles are easy; on a bicycle, they are over in a flash. Effortless.
My legs feel like an elephant has stepped on them.
All sorts of people pass me. Big, heavy dudes, that look like they lift weights. Petite little grandmothers in pink tights and headbands. I am shocked at the diversity. All elite runners look the same, but you cannot really judge anyone else on their body type.
I can hear the loudspeaker now. They are calling out the names of the runners. I think about bananas and Gatorade and stretching. I think about getting on my bike and riding home. I think about the fiftieth street hill, the one that goes over the 35W.
In the future I will be fit and fast, and bounce down the trail like a bird. In the future I will be a steady, confident runner, and run the second half of the race faster than the first. Heck, I might even qualify for the Boston. But right now, I just keep running.
And then I stop. Randy and Chrissy are there. “Go Bill!” they cheer. I click the stop button on my watch, and walk towards where my bike is stored. My bike is pink and blue and purple and black. It looks like Darth Vader’s bike, if Darth Vader rode a bike, and if Darth Vader liked techno music and neon lights.
|May the force be with you.|
Here is a key life lesson: even if you are not all that fast, you should still get a bike that looks fast. That way, when you ride it, you will feel a little bit faster.
So that is how it went. 8:12 average pace. Went out too fast, died on the last few miles. Just like the past, but not the future. In the future, I will be fit.