The El was slow, our meet-ups already left, and there were only 8 minutes to get to the start.
I kissed my wife, wished her well and was off. With three dirtied yellow Gballz in hand, I did my best Walter Payton impression dodging and weaving around people to get to Corral A before it closed at 9:15. The paper number A1243 on my shirt clattered in the frigid wind like a Cabrera card in the spokes of a banana seat Sting Ray. This rush got the blood pumping, legs warmed and helped me briefly forget the throbbing pain caused by the previous day’s 15-mile training run.
It’s not smart to do a long run the day before a short race.
In the corral, I fiddled with my iPod. What song to start with? Croce’s Don’t Mess Around with Jim? Springsteen’s No Surrender? Nah, too fast. This race would begin with the Beetles classic Revolution (the slow version). Often races start too fast and I pull a Skylab burning out a mile before the finish.
When racing (joggling or otherwise) you’ll have one of two attitudes. You’ll either be shooting for a PR or you won’t care about time. Both mind-sets can lead to happiness or disappointment. In this race, I convinced myself that time wasn’t important. However, as I joggled past the 1 mile marker and realized it took only 6:30, visions of a PR emerged.
They were soon dashed by a 10 second slow-down in mile 2 and a 20 second slower mile 3. Neither the Beetles, the Bare Naked Ladies’ If I had a Million Dollars, or the Faces Ooh La La slowed me down enough to avoid the burnout.
At mile 4 the clock read 27:30 which meant as long as I kept it under 8-min miles, I’d come in under my target of 35 minutes. A lazy target for me no doubt, but as my old, deceased English teacher Mrs. Kallick used to say
At any given moment, everyone is doing the very best they can
In the final mile, I veered off to the left side for safety reasons and to mug for the crowd. Joggling is best appreciated when there is a crowd to see it performed. The looks of surprise and delight are one of the most compelling reasons to joggle. Unfortunately, the decision put me behind numerous Sklylabers who’s starting and stopping made me feel like the middle of a Slinky descending the stairs at Chicen Itza.
A Joggling Finish
During that final stretch down Michigan Avenue, as the Gballz seemed to magically traverse their infinity pattern, I wondered why I couldn’t go faster. What held me back? My breathing was good. My legs didn’t hurt much. I felt energetic. I could’ve better avoided other runners. What was holding me back?
Just before forming a brilliant answer, I made the final turn and saw the finish line. My brain borgified and all thinking ceased. The primal instinct inherent in my DNA kicked in waking up every cell in my working muscles. Pain receptors shut down. Breathing went anaerobic. My legs and arms moved as fast as they could. I passed 5 people, then 10, then 20. The crowd roared. “Look at that guy juggling!”
The clock read 35:02 when I finished. My watch said 34:43. My official chip time was 34:37. Not bad but not a PR either. I had a boatload of energy left in the tank so clearly I hadn’t pushed hard enough. But races aren’t always about setting PRs.
Sometime they’re about being happy for a friend who set a PR after working harder than he ever has in his life. Nice work John Kelly.
Sometimes they’re about being proud of your wife as she gutted her way through a race she really didn’t feel much like doing. You’re an inspiration Mayday.
Sometimes they’re about laughing that your untrained, more running talented brother came in exactly 1 second ahead of you.
And sometimes they’re about juggling for passer byers while your brother-in-law barks at them to collect unused beer tickets in a 1976 Baltimore Oriels baseball cap.
After collecting about 30-40 tickets and meeting up with everyone else, we went to the after-race party. This is usually quite fun and with all the extra beer tickets our group tends to get pretty liquored up. Unfortunately, the cold put a damper on the whole thing. Standing around drinking beer in warm weather is great. Doing the same at 35 degrees while it’s drizzling rain is not much fun. We had just a few beers (we’ll save the tickets for next year) and left to get some pizza at Piece. There it was warm. We had to pay for the beer but there was pizza and NCAA basketball.
A nice way to finish the race.