So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Don't Say You Don't Belong

My wife ran another half-marathon this weekend. She's been very fortunate to mix business travel with road running, and I think if I could do the same with my work I would. Actually, I was able to during the first two years. After that work-related travel was pretty much minimized. If it couldn't be accomplished by phone or video conference then...and only then...did you have the chance of going on the road.

So there we were, in Miami Beach for an information technology conference. Well, she had the conference. I could have run the event if I had felt the compulsion, but still being injured and recovering, I didn't want to sidetrack my slow progress back to running fitness.

So, I decided I'd hang out along the course for a while and cheer my wife on for once. After which point I could go to breakfast and get a little run of my own. I had two mysteries of the universe which needed solution, though:

How can a guy in a tiny storefront restaurant be overlooked by two servers at eight o'clock in the morning? I wanted my cortadito, damn it. I needed my cortadito.

When looking at marathon and half-marathon participants it's not so much a spectrum of fitness as it is a Venn diagram: There are two categories - the fit and the insane. Then you have the intersection of the two groups, making up the insanely fit. I can understand the fit and the insanely fit doing it, but why do thousands of people who would fall under the "insane" category see the need to run or walk - 13.10938 or 26.21876 miles?

I'm not the best of spectators, especially for live sports events. Especially for live sports which I can do. Little league baseball and middle school basketball might have much to do with this attitude. I couldn't throw a baseball for beans, and I didn't touch a basketball until I was age ten. So I spent more time picking splinters out of my baseball uniform pants during the summer. Basketball was worse; I was more practice squad material than benchwarmer. I didn't get to play during "garbage" time; the coach didn't realize until the last game of the season ended.

Once I hit high school I figured out I was a better musician and actor than an athlete.

But during the spring of my senior year I had too much free time on my hands and sure as hell didn't want to go home early to deal with...never mind. So I went out for track, specifically distance running; in my school that was the 800 meters, mile and two-mile. The coach focused more on the sprints and hurdles than the distance guys; their training was more 'go out and run, you'll figure out what you need' than doing technical stuff or sprints. So I'd go run, then walk home from school after track.

It was dusty and very anti-social. But I was not at home. I never knew anyone who was cut from the track team. They might have quit, but they didn't get cut.

That's the nice thing about road running. You can quit, but nobody can say you don't belong. As long as you know how to place one foot in front of the other repeatedly from point A to point B you have a place in the grand scheme of things.

Got a brain, heart, lungs and limbs which are capable of propelling you along? Good.

Got a pair of shoes? Good.

Got a trail, path, track or road? Good.

And perhaps that's the reason people do road races. Call it "Occupy the Road," if you like. I guess you could just as easily run that 21.0625 or 42.125 kilometers out on a wooded trail, a beach, a stretch of sidewalk, a grassy field, or whatever surface (including a treadmill in the privacy of your own home or local gym...) you desire.

And those who have done it enough have heard the catcalls, insults and spurious warnings from the world around them. So for that amount of time, anywhere from one to six hours, on those Miami/Miami Beach streets, those 25,000 people were saying: 'I can quit if I feel like it, but you cannot say I don't belong here.'

And standing on the side of the road, as a rehabilitating runner, I was reminded the entire population, including the subsets described by John "The Penguin" Bingham - the "very fast," the "pretty fast," the "sort of fast," and the "penguins" - all belonged out there.

A couple of them held out their hand to swat a high five with me. I recognized one of my Marathon Maniac friends from the Christmas holidays. About five minutes later, my wife came by. Usually she's the one on the sideline and I'm the one racing.

"Go, honey! Go, honey! Go, honey! Go, honey!" I called out.

She looked at me and smiled. Sure, it was insane of her to be doing this, but she was having a good time.

The two gentlemen near her marveled at her one-man fan club, to which she replied, "I guess we can all be 'honey' today..."

Running might be an insane act, but don't ever let anyone say you don't belong out there.

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