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Friday, October 16, 2015
I have always loved Fall! It is definitely my favorite season … but Spring runs a really close second … and when Spring arrives I always say that Spring is my fave and Fall comes second. Whatever, so I change my mind sometimes.
One of the reasons that I came to love Fall is running. The best marathons come up at this time of year. In fact, there are all kinds of great races of all distances. Track workouts and long runs start to become those things you look forward to because of the relief from hot and steamy days. Good, hard, fast-paced tempo runs feel easy compared to a month or so earlier. Wow.
I have to admit that I really miss all of that. One of my favorite things to do for a few years was to go out and run a pretty good pace for a very, very, very long run. I would go out and run anywhere from 50K to 80K (31 to 50 miles) and then spend an hour or so sitting in the sun on an old bench on the back porch that has peeling green paint and has to be backed up against the back wall so it doesn’t tip over. I would sit there with a sandwich, chips, and a diet Coke. Then, I would get a cup of coffee and just sit there and stare out at the lake and enjoy the feeling of a special type of fatigue that made me feel strong rather than weak and tired. If I close my eyes and think quietly, I can almost smell those days and feel the sunshine. Those are great memories.
I also recently realized that I could call up some of the feelings of racing again. I guess I hadn’t tried to do that, you know think about how it felt and sounded and smelled and looked when racing. I’m not exactly sure what made me think of trying to pull those memories out of the cobwebs, but I did recently and it was really kind of cool. It made me remember a race against a friend of mine, Kim Certain. Kim and I used to end up battling out a lot of the shorter races. One time we both ended up in Philly or Pittsburgh, hmmm, somewhere northeast, battled out a race, and then ended up sitting together with her partner, John Hinton, in the same row on the plane home (totally unplanned, too).
But, I remember this one particular race with Kim in Danville, VA. Kim was a middle distance runner in college so she always took the race out hard. We were running a road 5K and I wasn’t sure how fast we had gone out, but it was all I could do to hang onto her. The first mile took us out and around a small loop downtown then right back past the start line (which also was where we would finish after an out-and-back in the opposite direction). We were coming up on the mile mark and I heard something over the loud speaker and then realized that Kim and I were leading the entire race, guys and all. We came through the mile in something under 5:20. I tell that story not because of the fast pace of the race, but because I could remember exactly how I felt as we came through that start/finish area, right down to the sun on my shoulders. I remember the smell of the paint stripping plant that we passed; I can remember exactly how my shoes felt hitting the road; all of it. And, remembering it all felt fantastic. I think I had refused to let myself think much about racing because I thought it would be a terrible feeling.
I never usually kept trophies or anything like that from races. I usually gave them to kids at the race who looked like they wanted so badly to have one of those big, shiny things to walk around with and hold onto. My husband kept some of them; I would have given all of them away. He has a row of some that he managed to hold onto on top of a row of cabinets in his garage. I kept some of the newspaper articles, magazine covers, and stuff like that. I actually do still have my Olympic Marathon trials race bib number on my bulletin board in my office; well, actually it is two race bibs (the number thingy they pin on you) because for Olympics and Nationals, you have to have both a front and back bib. I actually have no idea why, though. But, there you go, I guess I could give one away and still have one, right?
I would love to be able to run like that again, but every day I find that I’m more okay with the fact that it’s in the past. Memories. That’s what makes it okay. I have some awesome, incredible memories from running. I remember when I first started running well, my grandfather was still alive and he and I went for a long walk in New Jersey. Yeah, my family is from Paterson, NJ. Even though I have a pretty good southern accent, people who grew up in the southeast recognize that it’s a fake right away. I had a judge in traffic court ask me where I was from and when I said Paterson, NJ, his reply was something about moving from the ghetto to the South. Well, yup, Paterson is the ghetto. That morning walking with my grandfather to the bakery, he asked me how I liked running as a job. I told him I liked it a lot, but it was hard, that I was so tired sometimes … but, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. He asked me what race I wanted to run in the Olympics … What?! the Olympics?! I can’t … he put his hand straight up in front of my face and told me that I should never say I can’t do something. He told me that if you can make it into the top ten, then a third of them will not train hard enough, a third will be injured, and a third will not have their best day, and that leaves one more person … so just shoot for the top ten and let the cards fall where they fall. I wish he had been able to see me race.
Bob kept a bulletin board of newspaper articles for a while, then started a second one … that was when I started putting things in a plastic container instead.
Well, maybe one day I’ll pull the pictures and articles and stuff out and scan some things into .jpg files. I need a scanner to do that, though. Maybe if I pull it all out, I’ll be tempted to go buy a scanner.
Enjoy the Fall weather, but mostly enjoy the memories you’re making. It reminds me of a song:
These are days you’ll remember. Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this. And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true, that you are blessed, it’s true, that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.
I listened to that song on the radio in the car today on my way home from the hospital – I had to get some labs to clear me for some stuff next week. Yeah, it’s true, I remember and I was blessed … and, I think if I let it, it can still grow and bloom somehow because it was an amazing ride, amazing.