As a marathoner, I’m an exceptional spectator. I just figure, if you can’t emulate them . . watch ’em on TV.
I’ve tried my hand at road races over the years. My best finish was at a TGI Fridays after my ankle traveled west in the first mile of a grueling 5K run. I received a much needed transfusion of hops and barley as I ruminated about my blistering mile pace of twenty two minutes- or the average length of a sitcom minus the commercials.
Improvement came slowly, steadily and with lots of crying. I improved by leaps and bounds through my thirties with the high point coming in a 10 K race which I finished in just over 40 minutes.
An old high school injury finished me as a serious enough runner. I still run but it’s oftentimes preempted by an old sports injury or some other age related catasrophe that shelves me.
So a Relay for Life seemed reasonable. I’d walk. I mean, how hard can walking be, right? It’s walking.
Last year I set a goal for myself of 26.2 miles. It’s a distance my favorite marathoner Alberto Salazar made famous once upon a time by squeezing it into ridiculously slim times. With a little bit of strategy, plenty of water and an endless supply of ibuprofen, I figured I was a cinch to match the miles. In dog years time, but still. And despite temperatures which were stuck in the mid 90s and air quality that made me feel as if I was swimming in wool, I ended my quest at 19 miles . . 7 short of my goal.
The initial disappointment I felt was soon replaced by a sense of real accomplishment. In other words, my forty year old body threatened to evict me for being a schmuck. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that you accomplished something. An extremely unsensible something.
Fast forward to last night. My daughter and I arrived at sunset. Our plan was to tackle the goal under cover of darkness, sans the slavemaster sun. We kept a decent pace and replenished ourselves with water, apple sauce and trail mix. We made a dynamic team, the girl and I. Some laps would find us engrossed in conversation while others were shared in the kind of deep silence you only trust to someone you know completely.
We had just cracked twenty miles when the announcement came over the PA system that the proceedings were being moved inside because of the advancing storm. The girl wasn’t about to trade the cool breeze of the early morning hours for her stuffy gymnasium, and so we were done.
My mindset was different this year. I wasn’t six miles short, I was one mile better.
We’ll get there.