Friday, September 12, 2008

Sometimes you've just got to bark like a dog

I can't seem to find a running partner no matter how hard I try. I didn't even realize how dire the situation had grown until one day during the first few minutes into my run around Central Park. It was a clear, low humidity day, I was rested with no apparent obstacles to prevent me from completing my run, and my mind just said 'enough'. I didn't argue, because I had been a really faithful athlete over these past few months of adapting to hillier terrain and the more aggressive lifestyle of a city person. I walked slowly back out of the park. On my way I passed a man standing holding his tall Boxer dog's leash. The dog had the face of an old man, and stared at me intently as I approached and then passed them. As I expected he would, the dog barked and lunged at me as I passed. I kind of laughed nervously, like the dog was chiding me for quitting my run. The man apologised profusely, and said the dog is just a puppy, and was only playing. That's my favorite line. As I crossed Columbus avenue, it dawned on me that I had been doing all of my training solo for a while. Hard tempo runs, hilly 12 mile park loops, 5 am reservoir sprints, and Harlem track 800 intervals. I needed to drag someone along to share the suffering! That evening I composed the perfect ad specifying the ideal running partner I was seeking. I didn't mince words, as grandma Blanche would have said. I outlined the paces required for my potential RP (running partner), and warned that I was strict about following the watch. No sense wasting my time with a dilly-dallier who was not on the same page as I was. Satisfied with my ad, I posted it on craigslist, and the very next day got a response from 'nybling'. He said I sounded like a cool person (!) and won't have trouble keeping the pace. He also stated he'd never run more than 4 miles before, but knew he could handle the distance. I trusted his confidence, and proceeded to set up a running date. He said that sounded great, he was pretty sure he could run the full 6 miles I'd planned. That was it. He could build his miles on his own, I needed a steady partner. I told him to contact me when the training wheels had come off (ok, I was not that harsh), and he seemed relieved to get out of our run. The next day I headed to the park, team of one. No matter. Lately I've been having unspoken competitions with runners trying to pass me. It's the closest thing to a running partner I can find. This day was pouring rain. Few people were out, which was a nice change, since usually it's a struggle to keep from bumping into the throngs of cyclists, runners, walkers and general park enthusiasts that share the same 6 mile loop as me. As I'm coming off of the big hill past Lasker pool, I hear some squishy sneakers running up my back. I'm wondering if they're my own, and look over my shoulder to check if there's a person in them. Sure enough, despite the pouring rain, there's no one else in sight except this one runner holding a big plastic bottle of some yellow fluid and gaining quickly on me. How odd. I was hoping to be able to run leisurely. Marathon man passes me, and then I decide the park is mine today, and I whip past him in response. Triumphant, I continue building a nice lead. Then it dawns on me that if I really wanted an RP I'd be more sociable, and instead of trying to beat everyone, I'd start talking to them. Oh well. Maybe next time I'll put this insight to good use. I run another 5 miles without seeing Marathon man. I pass other runners, the blind man who I saw walking in the opposite direction as me when I entered the park. Wow, he's doing an impressive pace I calculate. My clothes are soaked, and I'm looking forward to seeing the fountain where I exit the park. Suddenly I hear the squishy shoes again. I look over my shoulder, and Marathon man catches and passes me. I don't mind. Then I hear a strange sound. Like someone barking soft little woofs. There's a young woman sitting in the middle of the road in the pouring rain, kind of gasping or woofing. I didn't really get it, but it seemed very odd. I slowed down, and Marathon man stopped to investigate. I figured he'd handle that situation, and I'd complete my nice little loop without interruption. That woman wasn't crying, she had a calm expression on her face. I think she was just crazy. If that man didn't stop I would have stopped. I decided to turn around and make sure she was ok when I finished my run. Once I turned around, I instantly felt tired. I couldn't remember how far away that woman was, but it didn't seem like more than a mile. Cars were passing every now and then, and I hoped that they saw her. Just when I thought I'd never see her again, there she was this time standing in the middle of the road. I stopped and walked slowly up to her. 'Are you ok?' I asked. She looked at me with a slight look of disgust and started walking away. 'Are you the one that was sitting on the ground?' I asked. 'No, no', she answered and started moving quickly away from me and off the road towards the grass. 'I came back to help you', I said, hoping that might convince her that my offer was genuine. She wanted nothing to do with me. My gut told me that she had serious emotional issues. The sad part is, I'm sure this woman has a boyfriend. But I digress. I walked the half mile through the park to my exit spot. It was still raining, my beautifully straightened hair from earlier was a ratty mass of tangles, and I had bits of leaves and dirt all over my legs. Life in the city can be very sad and lonely. I've had some really close calls with wondering how I could go on with some of the acute disappointments I've experienced since moving here. Maybe sitting down and barking on the road once in a while is a good way to clear the cobwebs. I really can't ever picture myself doing that, but I'm sure if I did I would feel better.


Mike said...

Hi, Tamar. Almost every time I read your postings I'm left admiring your athletic committment and your desire to challenge yourself. I love the characters you create from casual encounters. I'm glad you stayed away from 4 mile man and, who knows, it might be interesting to chat with Marathon Man. After all, someone else out there in the pouring rain probably shares a lot in common with you!

Sounds like life in New York has proven disappointing...hope there are better things to come.

Regards, Mike

Just_because_today said...

I kept anticipating you were going to say Marathon Man was the same guy who responded to the ad.
I will be running for the first time with my running partner tomorrow. I am tired of running alone and tired of having to drive 45 min to run with people who don't run with me!

tamar said...

mike~ thanks for the words of encouragement. I really love the city, and for the most part, am very content here. Thanks for your insights! Helpful..

Just~ So you can relate to the running alone dilemma? That's rough that you drive so far to run with a group who is not waiting. Runners can be horribly selfish.

Anonymous said...

Tamar: What very interesting characters you have: 4 mile man, marathon man and seated lady.

I like the way to tell the whole story with a lot of good details. Most people don't tell the entire story and leave details out.

It sounds like you are doing well with your training even without a running partner.

I'm surprised that it's such a challenge to find a running partner in NYC with all the people around, but I guess people are busy and trying to run your pace and mileage might be difficult.

I'm sure you'll be able to keep up your training, rather solo or with others.


Jon said...

I hope you find an RP, but I think Marathon Man might be a good thing to work on. Be more social. It doesn't mean you have to talk through your run. I know you wouldn't do that.

tamar said...

kevin~ thanks, I'm all about the details! No, I'm still having no luck with this running partner thing; even people who have agreed to run with me have been backing out :-(

jon~ hello! Yes, marathon man seems to have been quite a hit amoungst my readers- I actually think I spotted him a different day too.. I'm not very good at recruiting running partners, for some reason I only feel confident asking the elite runners I bump into to run with me :-)

Anonymous said...

Tamar: Was walking through Central Park on Saturday morning. I thought about you running in Central Park, especially when I saw many runners coming through. It almost looked like they have an informal event going on since there were so many runners.


Alex said...

i kept thinking something ominious was going to happen with the yellow fluid..or the squishy was an interesting tension building there...

Anonymous said...

kevin~ long time responding, huh? still lots of runners in central park, so it really is like running with a group. thanks to my friends mike and deanna, I'm no longer running alone! (at least not my long runs)

alex~ is that you? or is it your mom? either way, WELCOME! :-)
great to see you both/spend the holidays with you.. much love and admiration xx