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March 19, 2011

Kinship on the Run...

Marc Parent's Newbie Chronicles are a monthly column in Runner's World.  Each month, with great anticipation, I await reaching that column.  Up until my mid-twenties, I awaited each week's Sports Illustrated in much the same way so that I could read, in order, Rick Reilly and Steve Rushin's columns.  Rushin left to freelance for Golf Digest and Time, and be a parent and husband to Rebecca Lobo.  I've seen them together, and they're both giants.  Reilly is now working for ESPN, putting out less-thought-provoking material than he had a decade ago.  Alas, I digress.

In the April 2011 issue of Runner's World (how do publishers get away with such time travel?), Parent's article reestablished a constant kinship I feel when reading his work.  Though I have been running since 2004, I constantly feel new to the sport.  Or, at the very least, and outsider.  Each month, Parent's work reminds me that there are other runners out there struggling with getting their sneakers on each day, let alone hitting split times.  This is why I relish the words he writes.  He writes what I think and feel, and so much better than I ever could.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy reading both the blogs and tweets of @pigtailsflying and @frayedlaces. They're "real" runners who write well.  They've been all over the world, running in huge races, despite their recreational obsession.  I envy their running experiences, which amaze and entertain readers.  However, with Marc Parent, I don't envy his running experiences.  It seems, so often, that I have lived them.  That is what makes the difference in his writing.

In the most recent Newbie Chronicles, Parent describes his first run with an iPod.  He also goes on to describe his running, stating that "...[he] can fairly describe the action as a cumbersome movement."  Chuckling, mental note was taken of such an accurate description.  Coaching youth runners, one hopes to help them achieve a fluid running motion.  As a runner, my running motion is a fluid motion.  In my mind, I imagine that fluid motion to be sloshing.

The music on the run changed this cumbersome movement into something ", easy, and efficient."  My own running is a cumbersome movement, and often, it is the music that gets me through my runs.  Like parent, the sound of running involves a lot of "whistling wind, smashing feet, and honking lungs."  So, running with music guides me though my endeavors, adding pacing, inspiration, and distraction.  Purists might scoff at this, but for me, it's a necessity.  The soundtrack of my run changes daily, but always helps me through things.

Today was one of those runs.  I felt every bit of cumbersome.  Stopping, not a half mile from home, I knew I needed a change of soundtrack.  Switching to the top-plays on the iPod generally breaks a funk.  So, in the low-40s, I restarted the run, and continued out to the nearby state highway, to run past the nearby state prison, the nearby town park, the nearby elementary school, and up the nearby pain of a hill.  Thus, I sloshed up the hill, past the first mile marker (the start of the prison property!!!), wondering if I would bonk completely on this run like last week.

At the top of the hill, reaching the intersection, it was my first opportunity of 2011 to be chicked.  Being passed on runs after work by runners on the school's track and cross country teams does not bother me.  Inevitably, they join me for a while, and then, after I've slowed them enough, they take off OR they continue with me until I finish my run, then go back out for a quick few more miles.  However, in public, female runners blowing by me brings out my pride and a unhealthy dose of machismo.  Note: I rarely pass the female runner; she always seems to pass me.

The 5-way intersection produced an interesting aspect.  I saw that the woman (well, actually she could've been anywhere from 17-37) was fit, running a better pace than me, and had much better gear.    She was coming up on a side street from my left, and we reached the intersection at the same time.  We barely made eye-contact (still no idea how old she was), gave that runner's wave (a quick moment of kinship, as we both looked like we'd rather be doing anything else...not like that macho signal people on motorcycle's give each other when they pass one another), and she slowly, but consistently, ran ahead of me.  Every ten seconds or so, getting an extra section of sidewalk further way, her ponytail swayed from side to side in front of me, taunting me.  Then my pride rose up, my favorite running song came on, as I began to hit her rhythm and catch up (longer strides, hahaha!!!).   The sloshing stopped, and between the cadence of that fast girl (all the women who pass me are fast girls), and All These Things That I've DoneThen, with my run rescued, I reached my turn, and she continued on.

This was barely a mile and a half into my 4-miler for today.  Suddenly, I wished I had raced today.  Not the race mMiL was running, but rather something flat.  It was really a beautiful morning.  Up a hill, down a hill, over sidewalks that had snow on them for nearly 2 months without being cleared.  The run went pretty well, and then, about a mile after my run was saved, somebody nearly backed into me.  The drive had made eye contact.  She saw me.  She nearly hit me anyway.  What?  I was going to stop, so you could go get your coffee at Dunkins?  I don't think so lady.  Really?  I'm a pedestrian.  OH YEAH, BY THE WAY, IN THE WINTER, YOU DON'T CLEAR YOUR DAMNED SIDEWALK.  Figures it'd be somebody that has already tried to kill my runs.

So, thanks to crazy older lady driver X, my pace was screwed up.  I struggled about a quarter of a mile, and there was "nice, elderly gentleman runner."  That's his official name in my head.  I see him from time to time.  We make small talk.  I let him set the pace.  It's faster than mine, and he's fitter than I am, so it works.  He is a great pace setter.  It's where I should run.  So, once again, we did our little dance.  Talking about how we hadn't seen each other all winter (he preferred to run before the sun), and how it seems we always meet in the same area.  As always, we parted at the corner to my street.  He went towards his house, and I towards mine.

As I settled into home, running the last half-mile at a nice clip, I thought about Parent's article.  My cumbersome movement had been fixed twice by strangers going through a similar experience  So often, besides Parent, just talking with or running alongside another runner, brings that instant kinship.  Two weeks ago, I absent-mindedly led my dog on a 4-miler.  We meant to go for two, but she looked to be loving it, and so we just kept going until she looked as tired as I did.  She's usually hyper, but is a great running partner.  Sydney has sat at my feet consistently since that day.  That's the kinship of the run.  Beautiful days like today were made to run, and the people we run with, meet on the run, or just those that sing to us as we attempt to run, really make the difference between a good run and a bad run.


S March 19, 2011 at 11:28 PM  

I don't run like you (obviously), but it makes me feel better that I smiled at the other chubby girl in the gym last week who was clearly trying to feel more comfortable on the elliptical and bike just like I was. I'll be sure to keep the kinship in mind in the future.

C May 31, 2011 at 8:39 PM  

Note-May 31, 2011-Looking back, this is some of my best writing. Was it because I outlined the entire post during the run, and was most clear-headed, focused, and creative? I think so...thank you endorphins.

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