Another winter weekend, another race.
What’s that? “Stale?!” That wasn’t very nice.
Yes, I accept your apology. But only because I saw someone do likewise at the race you will now very gratefully read about. Or rather, heard someone do likewise.
You see, this is no ordinary race wrap-up (so I’ll thank you to shut your surly mouth before you know whereof you speak). Although it was the first time ever in my entire life running this distance- training or otherwise- race #5 was somewhat a non-event. Worst performance on race day to date, in fact. Therefore, since there was nothing very interesting going on in the *me* department this time around, I’ve decided to write about what I did find interesting that day.
Unlike most of my previous races, I decided to run sans headphones this time around, and I’m very glad I did. What a feast of sound and sentiment I would have missed if I’d closed myself off from my fellow racers. In fact, I made a determined effort to eavesdrop on every nearby conversation my ears could reach. I will now share with you the most notable comments, mantras, and self-censures I over(and under)heard during the race, in all their bizarre, inspirational, and touching glory.
“Define, ‘underheard?’” With pleasure. Simply put, it’s what was running through my head or spoken under my breath as I ran and listened. (Of course I’ve TM’d it! It’s up on the bloglossary right now!). My racing thoughts, as it were (if you’re not a little impressed right now, I suggest you go back and reread that sentence).
[Underheard racing thoughts will be demarcated by blue text.]
This exchange was just a little, well, weird. It started out behind me, one young woman telling another some outrageous turn of events-type story involving a dog, a mailbox, and specific mention of which car she was driving at the time although this had no bearing on the story whatsoever. I was only mildly interested until the purpose of this elaborate tale surfaced:
In hindsight, should I have contacted you? Yes, I should have. That was my mistake, and I apologize for not letting you know. But I believe that…(something I couldn’t quite make out for her heavy breathing.)
What? What do you believe that’s going to make this wrong you’ve done, right?
My imagination was off and running. But before I could properly reconstruct the subtext of what I’d heard the other woman answered back:
I accept your apology. And I- (interrupted by first woman).
Seriously? She’s good enough to run this race with you after you carelessly did her wrong and swallow your bullshit story of multitudinous excuses and you’re interrupting her acceptance of that sorry apology (again, if not impressed, reread last phrase)??? Did that entire exchange just actually take place during the race? Weird.
Shortly thereafter I came upon The Wheezer, a big guy who looked in decent shape but, as you might have surmised, was wheezing like anything less than a mile in. I passed him easily but felt bad about it. I wondered about his story, and why he was there. Then we hit a series of hills, and my mind went into plan mode. Considering I’d never run this distance before, I knew it was going to be important for me to have a mantra, so I let one come to me.
I’ve often read that it’s important with running to set small benchmarks, to tell yourself you only need to get to that lamp post, around this bend, and then see if you’re capable of more (and you almost always are). One step at a time. It was this thought that led me to Race Mantra #1, which occupied my ears for the next half mile:
One step, and one step, aaaand one step, and one step, aaaand…
Until I heard a different tall guy behind me observe, I believe to no one particular:
A lot different from the treadmill!
One step, and one step, aaaand… I’m gonna crush this guy who’s got no real-world outdoor running experience.
This was an assumption, of course, but still, I felt badass, ’cause the only time I’ve ever run on a treadmill was during physical therapy after breaking my kneecap five years ago.
We hit the biggest hill in the course. I’m very familiar with the roads on which we raced, so I knew what was coming. The minor burst of nerves I experienced at the realization threw off my rhythm, and I needed to get it back under control. I reminded myself, as I often do while running, that hills are nothing I haven’t done before, on a regular basis, in fact, so like every other time this was no big deal. Enter Race Mantra #2, courtesy of the Star Wars saga:
Be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…
If you’re unfamiliar with the context, all you need to know is this is Luke Skywalker’s self-sure response to the challenge set before him as he attempts to knock out the Death Star. I think you can see how completely apropos it was.
On the other side of the big hill, I found myself trading places with two other men, one skinny, nondescript guy, and Heavy Breather Guy, who was making things personal. Couldn’t stand for me to get ahead of him. I drew pride from the fact that he could not call me Heavy Breather Girl, because my breathing was steady and under control. Eventually Breather Guy and I closed in on two women, one older, one younger. I set my sights on the younger, a blonde in emerald green. Now this was a double race day, with a separate, longer version of the race for the marathoner folks, which ran some of the same course, but in the opposite direction, so we had two-way runner traffic going at this point. A group of fit men from the marathon passed us, one a head taller than the others. Suddenly he pointed to the green girl and yelled:
Keep it up, babe, you’re doing great!
That is so sweet!! He must have been looking for her the whole race…crap, another hill…’Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…’
I watched the blonde for a minute, thinking about what I’d just witnessed. I was a little jealous.
Then I passed the blonde, the older lady, and Breather Guy on my way to the next hill.
*To be continued, since I accidentally hit publish before finishing this post…Lightweight.