20 April 2014

Parking Wars

Peace has settled in by the fact that I’m going for a run tomorrow and nothing I can do will really change the outcome, save avoiding hot chili tonight. Peace has also settled because I know the only thing I need out of this race is a so-so performance to requalify, after which I can work on a placement-improving time in a fall race, if that’s in the cards. In fact, the only thing that’s really got me sweating is navigating the crowds tomorrow in a Boston that’s a third bigger than usual, and if yesterday’s expedition experience to the exposition was any example, that could be a surprisingly competitive event.

The Boston Marathon expo is always packed to the gills, a safety hazard just waiting for an unfortunate event, and our time there yesterday showed no exception. But we knew we were in a different class from the start, when my usual target parking structure put out the unwelcome sign, no room at the inn. Knowing that Dearest Daughter the Younger had made plans for our day, meaning that we didn’t have the luxury of trolling for something better. Against my better judgment, but operating under duress, I bit the bullet and pulled into the Pru Center garage.

I’m frugal in both my personal and business lives. There are few cases where my attitudes differ between those realms, but parking is one of them. If I have to take a meeting in the city, I pay (or let the company pay) what it costs to park in the city, which in Boston can be absurd. But in my personal life, I’ll blow the fifteen minute walk to cut that price in half. So it killed me to think that I was eating close to forty bucks just to pull into the place, especially since I knew from experience that once in, there would be no place to park. Yes, a garage that charges a small fortune yet has no space. You can wait in line and let them stack your car twelve deep but we knew we needed to stop at the vehicle for Part Two of the day’s adventures, so that wouldn’t work well. So we trolled…and trolled… and trolled…looking for anyone leaving.

Which brings us to one of the things that I love about our sport: the people, even the stars, are just so normal. Nice people, approachable, unassuming, generally not coddled, cloistered, or distant. Thus it was that we inadvertently tried to weasel a parking place from two of the greatest female runners in the country.

Four ladies by their car, could be packing things up, hard to tell. Window down, hey ladies, you coming or going? Coming? Ah well, we’ll keep trolling, no big deal. But this is one of the reasons I bring Number One Fan, also known as Dearest Daughter the Younger, along on these adventures. To me, four normal people. To her, instant excitement. No, I hadn’t noticed it was Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman. But then, I don’t recognize half the people I meet. Heck, that’s why I’m in sales, right? DDY, on the other hand, was right in tune.

We offered up quick and polite greetings, which they and their friends returned, and as we trolled off again to our eventual somewhat less-than-legal (but who’s counting at forty bucks a shot) slot jammed between a pillar and a maintenance door, we laughed at our coincidental meeting. Right, DDY taunted, you just tried to steal Kara’s and Lauren’s parking spot.

Like I say, people in our sport are so normal. No town cars or coddling treatment here. And I’ll bet it took them twenty minutes to find that spot, just like us. Plus we got a nice wave of recognition when we greeted them again as they hustled in past us inside the hall on their way – likely a bit late due to the parking – to do their appearance.

Besides her annual pilgrimage to enjoy sixty seconds chatting with her Number One Idol Ryan Hall, DDY also lit us up on a casual group run being led by none other than her Ryan’s wife Sara. Thus it was that bellies stuffed with every energy-food sample known to running man, lugging bags of goodies, we slipped back into Pru Parking Purgatory to make the Clark Kent-to-Superman transformation, and emerged ready to run – on a nearly perfect, save a bit windy – Boston spring day.

Did I mention how people in our sport are so normal? Sara, like Ryan, is simply a delight, a truly kind and sweet person, at least when she’s not voraciously kicking your posterior on the course. About twenty or thirty runners of all ilk gathered, including her parents, again the nicest people, and off we plodded for a few miles around Our Fair City. Taking our turns chatting with the Main Attraction meant having plenty of time to chat with a lot of other cool and interesting people from around the country. DDY had her time with Sara, chatting about the work of their Hall Steps Foundation and the project that she, DDY, is thinking about organizing for service in Haiti next year. Truly a pleasant afternoon!

In what other sport, I ask you? Just show up and shag flies with the Red Sox? Skate with the Bruins? Take passes from Tom Brady? Unless you won some sort of radio station contest, I don’t think so… I love our sport.

But back to the crowds. Topping the parking wars, topping the impenetrable crowds in the expo (where some booths had Congo lines just to get in!), it was apparent that this year is a dimension larger. Trying to jog down Boylston on our way to meet Sara, I’ve never seen the finish line tourists so thick. If this is what it means to field thirty-six thousand versus the usual twenty-four thousand, I just hope they’ve booked a lot more porta-johns for the village tomorrow. It’ll be interesting indeed!

Peace. Joy. Run.

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