13 October 2011

A Pre-Marathon Rant

Wineglass is a happy memory. My flesh has finally re-warmed from the frigid aftermath of heading back onto the course in hypothermic weather, soaked to the skin. I’ve already spent my winnings at least four times over: 1. Gee, this paid for the entry fee – exactly! 2. Gee, this covers the gas and tolls – in a Prius, pretty close to exactly! 3. Gee, I’ll send a donation to the Dick Beardsley Foundation – which you should do too (even if you don’t have a check to give away – exactly!), and 4. Of course, I must take my family out to celebrate this windfall, which, when all was said and done, came out to fifty smackeroos – once again, exactly! Next racing target? Bay State, this time the full marathon, coming up Sunday morning.

But enough of that, I need to rant. I’m calling this my pre-marathon rant. Don’t mistake this as having anything to do with the Class Act that is the Bay State Marathon. It doesn’t. I’m just ranting, pre-marathon. Because I’m about to run a marathon, while others are, well, …

/rant on

The other day I was returning from afar, driving my blue green-mobile (a somewhat azure-shaded Prius, blue green, get it?) through a nearby neighborhood. Being in electric mode at the time, I snuck up on a couple of guys out for their lunch-hour run and gave them an amused wave when they finally noticed me creeping up behind them. Just around the bend was another woman in rapid human-powered motion, and I smiled at the prevalence of runners streaming forth from the nearby Intel facility. My vicarious runner’s high quickly vanished thereafter.

Beyond the runners, a mild traffic tie up lay a couple hundred feet ahead, centered on a stopped school bus and a bunch of parked cars we had to negotiate after it moved on. And why the parked cars? Because the moms were there, three of them, each collecting their respective Junior, and loading each into their Enormous SUVs parked at the bus stop. On an utterly gorgeous day, I must add. Being motive myself, I couldn’t tell you if said Enormous SUVs were idling or not, though I’d lay a bet that at least one, and probably more, were. Even if not, that’s not really the point here; this is still rant-worthy.

First, the disclaimer. Of course I don’t know these people’s life stories. Of course, each might have a special reason for their chosen vehicles and actions that day. Mom Number One’s family might own a contracting business which needs that large vehicle for hauling equipment to job sites (though none of these luxurious Land Yachts appeared scathed by actual work). Mom Number Two might be on a tight schedule and have to snag Junior and race across town for something more important than purchasing a latte at Starbucks (I’m being kind here, see?). And Mom Number Three could be sporting a medical condition which causes sudden death upon sustained contact via rubber soles with asphalt.

Yes, each of these people might have had every reason in the world for what they did. But I’m guessing at least the majority of them didn’t. Because when I’m out running, I see this all the time.

Let’s review. It’s a beautiful fall day. Sunny, cool, comfortable. And it’s lunch hour, which means these are True Juniors getting off the bus, likely kindergartners or perhaps pre-K, and here in our fine Commonwealth, as in most states, the law provides that the younger the kid, the closer to home they will be deposited by said yellow transport. So it’s a reasonable bet that Home Sweet Home was probably a quarter mile away. Half a mile on a bad day. (Indeed, in the “I see this all the time” category, I am thinking of another place I run frequently where I see this behavior consistently where the bus stop is at the end of a street that is only a quarter-mile long, so we can hold these truths to be self-evident.) And none of these mothers, nor any of the Juniors, appeared impaired, at least so far as I could tell as I crept through the clog. And I note there was no Mom Number Four sans vehicle, nor any additional Juniors; the described condition here, bus-to-DVD-equipped-SUV-cocoon, was unanimous.

And so we have it. Government panels mandate the removal of sweetened beverages from schools. Councils investigate the marketing of junk food to kids. Experts scream about high-fructose corn syrup. All of those endeavors are worthy. And we won’t even mention those who continue to deny that mankind is driving climate change, as fourteen inches of rain dump not once, but twice within two weeks on various parts of Upstate New York. I’ll skip the global warming aspect of this other than to emphasize the behemoth size of the vehicles because this is a pre-marathon rant, not a pre-climatic-Armageddon rant.

The bottom line is that mom picks up Junior in the Enormous SUV so he doesn’t have to walk the quarter mile home from the bus stop on a beautiful fall day. And we wonder why Junior (and mom) are getting fat.

Let’s bring the marathon back into this. I don’t expect everyone out there to run a marathon. I don’t even everyone out there to run, period. But for the love of liposuction, do something to positively influence your health (which, if you’re reading this, you probably do, so my rant falls on converted ears, but I must rant nonetheless) and more importantly, to influence your offspring’s attitude toward physical activity. Because otherwise, the future portrayed in the movie Wall-E, a world filled with immobile corpulent flesh-bags, isn’t so outlandish.

/rant off

This being pre-marathon, Bay State looms a few days off. I haven’t run this one since 2007, and I am looking forward to going back. Sadly, they’ve traded the wicked cool stadium finish for a more standard street finish, the benefit being that runners won’t have to climb both up through the seating and back down to the street post-abuse. That was, in my view, a small price to pay for a very cool conclusion, but I’ll go with an open mind that the replacement will probably be grand.

And my readiness? Well, after a torrid September, I’m as ready as one can be who more or less forgot to start serious training until six weeks prior. But as my starting point was relatively ready to begin with, I can hope that three hundred miles last month and Wineglass as a successful tune-up will translate to a good day Sunday. As always, I have my goals, but you won’t hear about them till the day is done. All I will say for certain is that the forecast looks good. But weather is never certain. So we’ll just go for a run and see what happens.

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