Tuesday, November 3, 2009

6 miles

It turns out Paula did struggle, but she kept it quiet so no one would notice and overtake her. She looked strong at mile 6, leading the tight pack of women at the front of the race.

The previous night's Halloween celebrating almost made me miss the elite runners. When I got to 4th Ave there was already a small crowd waiting for them. I had missed most of the wheelchair racers but the women were still about twenty minutes away.

The closest I had ever gotten to seeing elite runners in action had been during the Brooklyn half-marathon in May. The course was designed so there were lanes marking the different loops in the park before bounding off to Coney Island. For those of us at the back of the pack, it worked out so that the elite runners were starting the second loop right as we were leaving the starting line area and entering first the loop.

Even though they were passing me on their lane on the right and were running much faster than I could ever hope to run, it felt like they were running with me and that if I hurried just a little I'd be able to keep up with them. Not the case.

And not what I'm hoping for either.

Getting to watch them from a greater distance was awe inspiring. But I was cold from standing around clapping, so I went for some coffee and thought I'd come back to watch those with a more similar pace to mine. I wanted to see what they looked like and get a little of the if-they-can-I-can feeling.

By the time I got back to the course a larger crowd had assembled. There were some very loud people cheering from a balcony above me. They were enthusiastically calling out runners' names so I didn't feel as much of a need to cheer at the moment. Many runners seemed to delight in getting called out, others barely acknowledged it.

Some runners seem to hate every minute of the marathon. They run with a very focused look and don't seem to enjoy themselves. Not only do they look like they're in pain, but they look like they want to be in pain. Others seem to be having fun and enjoy the party the street becomes.

As runners heard the names of people from the balcony, many were confused - unsure as to where the calling out was coming from. Many looked up and seemed amused. Others annoyed at the break in their concentration.

I had only been back on 4th Avenue for a couple of minutes when I remembered I had forgotten to ask a friend if his boyfriend, Keith, was running. Then I heard the people above me start calling out "Go, Keith!". A very handsome runner looked up, his face lit up with almost child-like wonder as he looked around trying to figure out where his name was coming from. When he found the balcony he smiled and waved, happy and grateful to be cheered.

It was him! Keith! Dear Keith! So I went crazy calling out his name. He found me, looked happily surprised and came over and gave me a quick sweaty hug before going on his way, still smiling.

And that's the kind of runner I want to be in next year's marathon.

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