Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thirteen Miles of Friends

Things to avoid doing the night before a race: drinking coffee after 4 pm; listening to Rachael Yamagata's 'Elephants' CD; I was wide awake at 3:45 a.m., wallowing in sadness.
Things to avoid doing the morning before a race: relying on any subway on the weekend. To my surprise, I was looking forward to running this morning's half marathon in Central Park. I hadn't done a half in over a year, and felt it was time to test the endurance of this speed-chasing dreamer. Waiting on the 1 train platform, it didn't dawn on me to check the weekend subway schedule. I felt reassured by the sight of other race-ready people waiting too, easily identified by their funky orange D-tag looped and looming around their shoelaces. I heard a train, and prepared to board. Strangely, the top half of the train was missing, and in the spots normally occupied by strap hangers were sitting dozens of bags of city garbage. Well that was a dirty trick. One anxious runner exited the turn style and then turned around and asked if any of the runners wanted to share a cab. I thought I'd test my luck, and wait a little longer. The start of the race was a little over half an hour away, which means I was mildly frantic. Well, actually normally I would be in a state of near hysteria, but somehow, it just didn't seem to make sense to worry about something out of my hands. Besides, I had to take off my track pants in front of a car full of strangers to save time. I didn't realize how much talent was involved in changing into race-gear during a subway commute. Most people were sleeping anyway, and the rest somehow knew to avert their stares. I think I've picked up this teacherly look which commands lots of power when it comes to fending off unwanted behavior. When we got to the 72nd st stop, I broke out into a slow jog. The park was only a few blocks away. I checked my bag, and jogged to the port-o-potties. With less than twenty minutes before the gun would go off, the lines were amazingly long. I heard a female voice call out my name. Heidi! I love Heidi. She was one of the first runners I met in the city. She's from the Mid-West, and just a very good person. She was about three places away from her turn on line. I ran up and gave her a hug. I remembered that she had sent a 'friend request' about a year ago to me on Facebook, and I had not responded to it. I always hoped she wasn't offended by that. As I ran off to find a shorter line, I told her, 'I think about you all the time!' She smiled, and must have thought I was crazy. I do really like her though, and thought there's nothing wrong with letting her know. Then I see Julio on line! This is really funny. He works in a Running Store, and he runs every single race in New York City, and I know him casually through an old running club. I was in a more anti-social mood than I'd been aware of when I walked into that store two days ago. I didn't know he worked there, and was so not in the mood to be friendly. He seemed to have enough friendliness to cover for both of us. We briefly exchanged that we would both be running in this race. As I exited the store, he said, 'I'll see you Sunday!' I smirked as I told him there was no way he would see me Sunday, there would be over 5,000 runners. And there he was, standing on that port-o-potty line, living up to his claim. OK, fast forward to the main event: I always have goals for races, but was having a tough time gauging what to expect today. The hills in the park had been taking their toll lately, and I was not running up to par. So the race begins, I am in the second corral, and I feel like most of the runners here are running a lot slower than I was. So I get this boost of energy in an effort to catch up to the main field, and pass about 100 people. My third mile is actually under seven minutes! I'm so ecstatic I make some crazy face and do a little cheer on the spot for myself. A short, very blonde woman and I keep taking turns passing each other- she me on the uphills, I her on the down. At one point I decide to grab some gatorade at one of the aid stations, and she happens to be right next to me. I offer her the rest of my cup. She takes it after considering if this is a good idea. Clearly it restored her energy, as she whizzed past me going up one of the many hills. She cheered me on as she did, which was such an unusual and nice gesture. At one point I saw my friend Joann standing on the sidelines with her dog Scout. I screamed out hello to her, and then hello to Scout too. That seemed to sap any residual energy I had, and I made a mental note that focusing on the race takes precedence over greeting friends' dogs. With three more miles to go, my quads felt like they were being ground up in a meat grinder. My hips and legs felt so tight, I was wondering if everything would just buckle as I got to the descent portion of the hill. Finally mile thirteen was in sight, Heidi had finished, and was sprinting the course in reverse to greet people. 'Great job, Tamar!' I smiled and fed off of her positive energy; I guess I picked a worthy person to stalk. I finished the race, elated that I'd run under 1:37. The blonde from earlier came up to me to chat. She looked so calm and relaxed, like she'd just finished a 2 mile jog, and not a grueling 13 mile race. I went off to put some warm layers on. I didn't see anyone that I knew. I felt content to stretch and contemplate my experience in my own little corner.

7 comments:

paz13 said...

Tamar: Nice story with a good time at 1:37. Glad you made it home OK from the half marathon.

Kevin

tamar said...

kevin! You are QUICK! I just posted a few minutes ago! :-) I did have some 'issues' to contend with.. blood blisters, cramping feet, but everything's well, thanks. I love nyrr, they already had the results posted when I got home at noon! How is your running going this winter?

paz13 said...

Tamar: Kind of different in NYC taking a subway to a race.

I just finished a 4 week 10K series this weekend and will start training for the Celebrate Life 1/2 this weekend.

Been doing a lot of treadmill running. The only time I've run outside is the Saturday race and a 4 miler late in the day on Sunday, everything else on the treadmill.

Glad to see that you are racing and doing well.

Kevin

Good to see that you

athlondromos said...

Congrats, Tamar. You did well.

Deb said...

"...I think I've picked up this teacherly look which commands lots of power when it comes to fending off unwanted behavior."

Hahahahhaa!!!! I love it! I can see "the look" too!

Oh the FB request - that's one of the most unforgiving things - a REJECTION! (ha) But if you ever want to add someone on FB, yet not let them see your wall or photos, you can limit their views. ;) You're so funny though!

Do they really cut trains in half these days for garbage?

I was highly entertained by this post - and I'm not even a runner! That's what I love about your writing, Tamar!!!

tamar said...

kevin~ That's great, sounds like you will be good and ready when Celebrate Life comes along.. I may see you there, I would like to try to run that this year.

athlon~ thank-you, it was hard work!

deb~ You are one of the most adaptable people I know- and adoptable! :-) Thanks for 'getting it' all.

athlondromos said...

I'm sure this race was also good training for your Boston Marathon debut in April. I'm excited for you.