It was a perfect day and a very nice race -- it was at 6:45 in the evening rather than the crack of dawn. There were a few hundred people there, the city shut down the art museum circle and part of Kelly Drive and at the sound of the starters pistol, people started hurling themselves over the starting line.
"Remember," said trillian_stars "it's not a race. Don't break your leg."
"It's not a race," I said. But I took off over the starting line too. The most difficult thing in the first half mile are people who shoot over the line like arrows and then just stop running after a few hundred yards, creating pile ups behind them of runners leaping left and right or just stopping dead. Ye local running shoppe advises people to be wary of trying to jump past or around people who've stopped on the course as you're more likely to injure yourself. A bunch of people much faster than I left the street and ran up on the curb, I followed them until the pack had thinned out and I found a group of people running at my pace.
The Philly Rollergirls were there directing traffic (and by traffic I mean runners, there weren't any cars) and there were a few people on bicycles who'd stopped by the side of the road to clap and cheer which was a very nice thing. I started wanting to hug people.
Round about mile one I came up behind a kid in a blue track suit running with his shoes untied. I passed him, but about a minute later, he shot past me and sprinted off into the distance. A quarter of a mile later I passed him again, he was sitting on the curb watching people go by. A few minutes later he sprinted by me again.
This is the big democratic lesson that running teaches you -- no matter how much you've struggled, no matter how much you've worked out, no matter how much you've overcome, there's always going to be someone who beats you. And not just someone who beats you, there are going to be lots of people who beat you.
In which I manage to cross the finish line ahead of a guy pushing two kids in a stroller.
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About a mile into the race, I got passed by the first racer on his way back, he was way out ahead of the pack, maybe a hundred yards between him and the next person. He shot past me, I clapped. Then more came past in dribs and drabs, the rollergirls divided the street and directed us to various sides.
There was a cone in the road at the half way point I went around it and a few yards past the kid in the blue track suit shot past me again. About half a mile later I looked at my watch for the first time and was shocked that I was running a lot faster than usual and it dawned on me that I could finish in under 30 minutes if I applied myself. I know it's not a race, I thought, and I don't want to injure my leg before the big, giant, ten mile thing I'm running on the 5th because that's the goal ... but I've already been running so fast.... -- that was my logic and I stepped it up a little. I also decided that I wasn't going to get beaten by a little kid who didn't seem to even be trying.
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The last half mile I thought there was probably a 30% chance that I was going to barf but I didn't. I made it, and I made it in under 30 minutes which is a personal record. And, so far, it doesn't seem like I've broken my leg.
I lost track of the kid in the blue track suit towards the end but was happy to watch him cross the finish line a few minutes after I did. I shook his hand and told him he was really fast and it nearly killed me trying to keep up with him. He didn't seem impressed. Which is another of the valuable lessons you learn from running: The things that you have to fight for, some people just have. -- and from that you realize it's not what you can do, it's how much you appreciate what you can do.
I just texted my nephew who's a real bona fide runner. He had some words of wisdom about the whole thing.
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