Thursday, May 27, 2010


Because hand and eye coordination is not a strength of mine, I've never been into sports involving a racket. While growing up, tennis was for the rich kids with access to the country club. While in college I unsuccessfully flirted with table tennis, but the tables were at El Corral in the most popular food court and the potential for embarrassment was high. I had better luck with squash. A classmate of mine lived in the outskirts of Bogotá in a compound with courts and for a couple of semesters I got to play enough squash to develop the skills to hit the ball. Sometimes.

Which is why I never thought I'd ever be excited at approaching tennis courts. My arms were covered in goosebumps yesterday as I walked towards the Prospect Park Tennis Center; the sight of it drawing me in as I struggled to contain myself.

Earlier, I had gone out for an easy run as part of my new speed training. Since the previous day's hill repeats had almost ended with my leaving the contents of my stomach on the side of the road, I had started at a very easy warm-up jog. At mile one my stomach was queasy but I thought it would pass.

I entered the park at Bartel Pritchard Square and was running counter clockwise. By the time I got to Center Drive, I was one a half miles into my run and thinking I might need to make a bathroom stop. I bypassed the port-a-potty that stands sentry at Center & West Drive because that wasn't a good option yesterday and I was still hoping it would go away.

A third of a mile later I was by lake and knew I was in serious trouble. I scanned the horizon for playgrounds and comfort centers. Nada. I flipped through mental images of what was outside the park on the other side of the road to try to remember if there were any coffee shops or some other places that might be open then and came up empty.

By the time I stopped two people walking dogs to ask them if they knew where there was a restroom nearby my eyes were darting about, all systems threatening immediate shut down.

"If you walk long enough you'll bump into one," said the one with the corgi.

But I didn't have long. Time was running out; a ticking bomb was about to explode.

The skating rink would be closed and because of uneven toilet distribution on the loop I was about a mile from the next comfort station. Would this be the end? My legs were still moving but I knew it was a matter of time before it was all over for me.

Then I saw it. Through the leaves of the trees, a glimpse of where I would be saved: the Tennis Center on the Parade Grounds just outside the park.

Oh, Tennis Center, bless your hours.


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