27 November 2010

First to Last

If you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well make it a high one and make the leap effective. After all, what’s the point of simply breaking a leg or something? Do it right, do it big. And so two months after my first win at the Forrest 5K, I crossed the line (almost) dead last at the Thanksgiving Day Pie & Glove 5K in Corning, New York. First to last in two months flat. Except this really was no cliff jump, this was a triumph.

The bad news is that I didn’t run it. Couldn’t, really. The pesky leg injury that I’d so hoped was healed in my last post in fact hasn’t healed. A few short test runs back in mid-month convinced me that yet more time is needed. They also worried me that those few short test runs may have re-injured or at least somewhat set back the healing. Maybe medical technology does need to be engaged at some point here, if for no other reason than to put a definition on the length of the break I need to be whole again.

But having running off the table didn’t have to take this new family tradition off the table. I elected to walk it instead with sis, who just a week earlier had wrapped up months of treatment – surgery, chemo, and radiation – in her battle with breast cancer. She’s kept a positive outlook through the whole fight, and while I know this will make her blush a bit, I’ll say it because it’s true: she’s set a fine example of how to take on this tough challenge. And what better way to cap off what we hope is her victorious fight than by getting out there on the roads and covering the distance. Speed didn’t matter. I was proud to walk with her. And of course I let her – and my wife – beat me across the line.

All that being said, this was a new way to do a race, and it was, quite frankly, a lot of fun. No fretting about what to wear. It was cold, windy, and snowing lightly, so just bundle up. Who cares about performance clothing? In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had more race-specific clothing on at one time ever, not to mention in a race. Lessee, Stu’s 30K t-shirt (cotton, of course!), Reach the Beach hat, Boston Marathon jacket, Central Mass Striders gloves… I was a walking billboard. In blue jeans. Yep, race gear!

No fretting about arriving in time to warm up, hit the porta-johns, suck down a Gu, no fretting at all. We showed up about thirteen minutes before the gun, grabbed our numbers and high quality gloves (it is, after all, the Pie and Glove, and yes, you do get gloves), and wandered to the back of the pack.

The gun? Oh yeah, sure, whatever. Let’s go for a stroll. With numbers pinned on us. Kind of silly in a way, but let’s face it, the weather wasn’t so great and without those numbers sitting down on the pre-registration table with our names on them, we might well have stayed home. Instead, though it wasn’t a run, it was still a good bit of mild exercise and a fine dose of guilt alleviation for the coming feast.

And we chatted. And wandered. And watched all the people running when the course doubled on itself. And had a fine time.

At one point sis asked what I thought of all those people struggling to finish a race at the back of the pack. That’s easy. I hold them in the highest respect. They’re not on the couch. They’re out there. Speed simply doesn’t matter. And frankly, I certainly don’t want to be on a marathon course for five or six hours – they’ve got to be respected for their determination.

But on this day I was behind all of them – about eight hundred of them – save five or so walking behind us. So what? Sis, we believe, and we pray, has beaten cancer, and walked 5K at a decent pace to prove it. Hats off to her (at least when we got back inside and it was warm enough to take our hats off).

I am, however, going to have to hold her to her promise to run it next Thanksgiving.

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