June 10, 2006

I am a black Trans Am (revised)

In another version of the song you're hearing, the voiceover has the phrase "...a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless...." Well, I don't know if there are ANY innocents in this city, and I don't know about the helpless or powerless, but do the "fatigued and sweaty" count?

Today I got up early, threw on running clothes, and headed to Central Park so's I could cheer for the thousands of women running the Circle of Friends Mini-10K. I arrived just in time for the opening remarks and had a great view of the runners from the subway exit at Columbus Circle. I made my way to in front of the start line to view the leaders of the race. As Mary Wittenburg, then another announcer, made their remarks, I observed these fine athletes completely focusing on the course ahead. Most of the people at the very front were professionals, including past NY Marathon winners, gold medalists, and last years Circle of Friends champion. They did not talk to each other, waved sorta meekly when they were introduced, and mostly kept bouncing around and jiggling their legs. It was as if they were trying to rein in their legs, and it gave the impression of a line of young thoroughbred colts nervously waiting for the gates to snap open.

Just before the start, Mary Wittenburg went trotting by to the media truck, from which tailgate she would observe the front runners. I was surprised at how YOUNG Ms. Wittenburg is. I know she trains in Central Park and now I wonder just how many times she may have passed me, as I'd always assumed that an older runner would be at the helm of NYRR.

Anyway, the horn went off and the young colts bolted. And were they fast! If you blinked, you missed them. Off they went! Before the last of the women had crossed the start line, the leaders were easily at the 3/4 mile mark. I scooted over and up to the finish area and hung out listening to the race announcer read off numbers that were coming in via computer. I was astonished at how fast the women were moving and they even broke a 5:00-minute pace in the fifth mile! It was not long before a crowd was lined up at the finishing chute and straining for a peak of the leader as she came in. When she did, I was again amazed - and impressed - by how effortless she made it look. She had a small smile on her face and waved to the crowd and cameras as she darted across the finish line. The next four or five runners came in with expressions of intense concentration but still made the run look easy, even though I know the effort was beyond anything 99% of people can put out. The expressions got more and more "constipated" as the runners came in. Runners 10 through about 40 were blazingly fast but were obviously more stressed by the effort. Then came more and more and more runners until the whole pack was flowing to the finish line in an unbroken stream.

Somewhere in this time frame, I noticed the fellow beside me with a rather nice SLR digital camera. What I noticed in particular was that he was not taking pictures of the women as they approached our position, but only after they'd passed and were crossing the finish. Hm. Always assuming the best about my fellow man, I ignored it, but then noticed further that he was only taking pictures of the women in fairly tight shorts and things. Hm. Seems we have a pervert in our midst. I did not make an issue of it, but I will be keeping my eyes peeled at future races and if I see the same guy with the same pattern of behavior, I'm going to go find a cop.

After fifteen minutes, I went down a couple hundred yards, just out of sight of the finish line, and cheered for the runners coming in. I believe I saw UpTownGirl and NYFlyGirl and Mercury Master Crista go by. I don't think they recognized me and I had no name to holler out at the time - my mind was a blank. But I continue to extoll the gutsy girls to "finish strong" and promising the balloons were just beyond the rise. "Come on! Flowers and cheering!" I'd yell. I inspired several to pick up the pace and, yes, finish strong. It was really great to be able to spend a race just cheering the runners on and not worry about my own status. I did get a couple of annoyed looks that read like "how 'bout YOU run a 10K then say that??" but mostly if I got a reaction at all it was that runners either sped up or actually smile and thanked me, or both. Awesome to be useful.

I stayed out cheering for about an hour, then prepared to go do my own 6-mile run for the day. I was already hoarse and coughing and thirsty, so I started my run at the nearest water fountain.

I got about 3/4 mile out and took my only break of the run, to stretch a bit now that I was warmed up. Oddly, my shins and calves were not barking at me - only mild tension there. I did circular movements with my feet, stretched out my hamstrings a bit, then got on with it. I ran clockwise today, so the Harlem hills came early. To my pleasure and surprise, they didn't feel terrible at all and I felt fine going up them. I did not push the pace today, but held a steady 10:00-mile pace. To my relief, my shins and calves didn't bother me at all after that brief stretching stop - they simply didn't become a factor today and I wonder if the activity on them during my cheering was responsible.

Mostly, it was a smooth, semi-fast glide through the park. On my way down Cat Hill, I flipped it the bird, as NYFlyGirl would want me to and as I'd neglected to do yesterday. It got really fun in the south end, dodging pedestrians, strollers, runners coming the other way, horses, and the like. And I don't say that sarcastically - it really was fun. Though I didn't quite get that sense of "flow" going, I did feel like I was completely in charge of traffic, even other people's. Where I wished them to go, they went. I had no near-collisions. It was as if I had some kind of long-range sensor scanning ahead of me, predicting the best path to take....on my shadowy flight....

Okay, maybe I'm stretching the metaphor a bit thin. And now, I must stop writing blog entries, go take a shower, and high-tail it into town so I can trade beer for bags, since there's no way in hell I'm going anywhere tomorrow.


Steve said...

That audio fits you perfectly.
I love it!

nyflygirl said...

i didn't see you at the finish!! it was soooo packed there and I was probably only looking for the Flyer logos by then. But thanks for being out there and cheering though :)

Also, you're only supposed to flip the bird to the Cat when going uphill...Cat Hill downhill is a very good thing :-p

DebbieJRT said...

Thanks for the cheering! I don't know you, except through reading your blog, so I didn't see you, but I enjoyed all the cheering at the end.
I think I saw nyflygirl, as well, but I also don't have a name to go with the face and would have felt way too geeky going up to her and asking if she was 'the girl with the blog' :-)

Lora said...

Oh god, I used to watch that show religiously.
I love cheering on racers, tho I have also been the runner to give that "look" to the cheerers (why don't YOU try this?).
How come I had no clue there were hills in Harlem??? I'll have to check them out next time I'm there. I love the flipping the bird idea to the hills, I'm going to use it too!