It was oh so recently that my cruise through Lowell, Chelmsford, and Tyngsborough on that gloriously gorgeous fall day rang up a personal best at Bay State. A mere two weeks later, glorious fall became premature winter here in New England, and only now, nearly a week later, are almost all of the lights turned back on. The world changes quickly.
It was oh so recently that my running life was, to paraphrase Tip O’Neil, as local as all politics. A mere couple of weeks later, my local life has stepped up a notch, thrusting upon me an opportunity both fabulous and frightening, to go well beyond local. The world changes quickly.
So a number of tidbits and stories, as well as a few Earth-moving events, have followed from that day in the sun, contributing to tonight’s theme of rapid changes. We’ll start with rapidly changing fortunes.
Shortly after the Bay State finish, alongside pages and pages of half-marathon results, up popped the first page of full marathon results. Fifteenth place was an eye-opener, and confirmation of my time sealed the day’s story, but it ended there, or so I thought. Said page reported yours truly as the sixth old fart, trailing five other forty-somethings, and so naturally I went home.
I should have known better. Only two weeks prior I’d cashed at Wineglass as an overall master, and should have recalled that Bay State likewise awards the overall masters before chalking up the age group winners. Sixth, after peeling off the overall winners who finished in the money, would translate to third in the age group. No cash, but hardware. And I’d gone home.
But it got better. The results were wrong. The first master was listed as second, and so on, which deposited me in second place in the age group. It said so right there on CoolRunning. Or as they say, I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.
But it got better still. A few days later I received an email from the race director congratulating me on my age group victory. Yeah, first place. Seems one of those old farts wasn’t old at all, just erroneously coded. And I’d gone home. So I missed my moment in the sun at the awards gathering, but I’ve got a trophy or plaque or something heading my way sometime soon.
With change at this rate, in a few more days I might just get a check after all.
But getting there was a result of the luck of rapid bodily changes. I’m no stranger to last-minute pre-marathon injury woes, and this time it seemed to be happening again. A scant two days beforehand, inexplicably, with no prompting, obvious injury, or whatever, the left hip went south. A few hundred yards into a slow pre-race taper-down jog, and big pain invaded. The dangers of age, perhaps, though I’m not in the hip-replacement zone just yet! The next day, still sore. The marathon? Didn’t feel a thing, I’m happy to report. Adrenaline? Endorphins? Who cares, it changed, this time for the better. But two days later, it changed again, and it was back, at least for a while. How exactly does that work?
Yet the biggest change came in another post-race email, this one from a runner a couple of towns away. Apparently the scouts had been watching. It was effectively the call-up, the draft, the invitation to the big leagues. Someone at the venerable Greater Boston Track Club, the very same of Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar fame (see, I wrote about Alberto and Dick Beardsley a month back, then met Dick, and now Alberto’s club comes a’calling, is there a pattern here?), yes someone over there noticed an old fart running a pretty quick marathon and inquired, pray tell, would I like to run with their masters’ team?
Growing up in Upstate New York, where I was a Mets fan (Red Sox Nation take note, I didn’t like the Yankees even then), well, this was the emotional equivalent of being handed the Big League jersey, come on and pitch in the shadow of Tom Seaver, or better, Tug McGraw, because as he used to say, ya’ gotta’ believe. Invited to don the red singlet with those plain words, “Greater Boston”.
The world changed very quickly.
Emotion Number One: Are you KIDDING? Wow, that’s, umm, that’s just so, umm, wow. WOW.
Emotion Number Two: Are you KIDDING? Me, run with these guys?
I can’t say I feel entirely adequate in this role. Many of these guys are simply awesome in their abilities. But as I was told, and clearly is true, they need depth, especially with masters who have lives and busy schedules and more injuries than the young’uns. And so there I was on their web site, signing up and forking over dues, and there I was on the USATF web site, becoming an officially designated member qualified to run in their races, and there I will be on Sunday morning, running the USATF New England Cross Country Championships in Franklin Park with that Big League jersey on. And if Sunday ends in something slightly kinder than Total Humiliation, there’s another interesting opportunity being dangled: toe the line as fifth man to assure a team score when they travel to Seattle for the USATF National Cross Country Championships. Yes, the words “me” and “national championships” in the same paragraph. Yes, it strikes me as pretty far-fetched. But as I wrote to my local club friends, when opportunity knocks, you need to go out with the ship unless it’s got the words “Exxon Valdez” painted on the side.
With the world changing this rapidly, the pre-Halloween snow storm that knocked out power to my entire city, most of my state, and a good portion of New England was just piling it on thicker and deeper. Bring on the change, we’ll just have to see how this all pans out.