Like all of the roads that lead to hell, today’s was paved with good intentions. After The Wife’s ankle fiasco and my subsequent knee torque job (read: here) all of this crazy training for the half marathon in December went the way of the Dodo Bird. Not coincidentally, my fitness level and associated weight bore a direct proportion to the number of days I’ve been spending helping her recuperate; it looks like food is the great healer, bad-for-you food in particular. Full disclosure – I will use any and every excuse to get out of cardio training that isn’t hockey. I’ve even bailed from the spin class for the last several weeks since I feel odd about abandoning her for more than an hour unless beer is involved.
A couple of nights ago on a news feed, I saw that there would be a non-competitive 5k walk here in town called the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event. I honed in on two words “non-competitive” and “walk”. If there’s any way on this earth that’ll I’ll be able to make an attempt at a half marathon in December, I’d better get offa my ass and back on the pavement. So I registered, with the lazy side of me thinking “if I can keep up with a bunch of purpose-driven walkers, then I’m like 7% there.”
And I showed up on un-race day, checked in, found a cup of joe to ward off the 44 degree temps and wondered a.) is anyone else going to show up? and b.) is it going to stand out that I’m not wearing anything pink? The answer to both questions was an overwhelming yes. For an inaugural annual event, I’d guess there were 1000 people there, and I was one of three people not bedecked in pink. It sort of felt like I was giving off the creepy vibe, in a gray hoodie and black shorts and my silly little “registered walker” sticker on my boob. I briefly considered knocking out a grandma and stealing her pink boa, but the word “karma” crossed my mind and I thought the better of it. Plus, there was some guy standing near us with, no kidding, a huge beer gut, flannel shirt over his race tee, Mountain Dew in one hand, cigarette in the other and a cell phone earpiece in and blinking. I wasn’t too bad, all things considered.
The pre-non-competitive race hoopla had a local radio dj trying to rev a frozen crowd up, peppered with actually touching moments such as a breast cancer survivor telling her story and the raucous response she got from an incredibly supportive crowd. I cheered with the rest of them so as to lessen the predator vibe and promised myself to walk the course with the crowd, you know, gently ease the ancient knee back into a routine. My godmother passed away from breast cancer 15 years ago, and she’s who I put down in the “who I’m walking for” category, and I would be damned if I croaked within the first mile trying to push it in her name; a walk it was going to be.
I am such a liar, especially to myself. I made it two blocks when the competitive demon made an appearance. After slipping on the earphones, it didn’t take long for Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s tune Tamacun (live) to come up in rotation, and it’s like the music possessed me, man (said in best Tommy Chong voice). The aching knee disappeared, and next thing you know, I’m hungry to take down these little ol’ ladies and jogging moms and anyone else wearing pink and laughing too loud. You see, most people approach this kind of event in teams, so Anderson Accounting is all together in spiffy shirts and having the time of their lives. The only other solo members I saw were a group of angry lesbians who’d gotten into some sort of spat and decided to run on their own. And yes, they were gay, this wasn’t just an assumption; their shirts and tatts were showing their pride, although I’d have been willing to wager they weren’t too hip on the same sex when I saw them – in fact murderous glares were being traded like currency. So it came to me and a group of disgruntled ladies being the only ones running on our own, and, in fact that’s how I like it. Despite being a damn social bastard, I actually prefer to run on my own, with no one around to mock to my buffalo-style huffing and chuffing.
I thought I was doing pretty well until I was getting passed by some kids who looked no more than ten. At that point, the shame would overtake me, and I’d walk for another hundred yards or so, only to be motivated to get jogging when I saw groups of volunteers at each intersection cheering like lunatics. Before long, mile markers 2 and 3 rolled by, and next thing you know, I’m back in the park where it all started, feeling pretty damn good and re-hydrating and high fiving total strangers. Felt great in fact, until the rush passed, and my knee began throbbing in an ungodly way. The self-promise of “you will walk” came back across my mental teleprompter. I had to make an actual effort to not punch myself in the head in front of a bunch of cancer-cure warriors while muttering “stupid, stupid, stupid” all the while. The knee is still hurting, hours later, even though it was an impressive get together for a cause that truly is worth the pain. It was a refreshing breath of fresh air, that all those people would come together in such a show of support, love and dedication, united across all lines for the day, at least.
ps- I’m pretty sure I beat the smoking guy with the Mountain Dew.