Race #33 "Why do we do this?"
Just as happened at the Surf City Half-Marathon a couple months earlier, amidst a race of over ten thousand racers, I ran into my aunt, Janice. We both walk our half-marathons. Unlike myself, Janice keeps a very steady pace throughout the race. She always starts races a few corrals (groupings) ahead of me.
Caught up in the enthusiastic cheers of start line supporters and volunteers, the vast majority of walkers cross the start line jogging. Not me. I prefer to start at the back of the pack. Rather than warm-up ahead of the race, I use the first mile or two of the course to warm-up. I walk along the sides, letting the jogging walkers skip ahead. As I enter the third mile, my warmed up limbs hit their long, quick stride and make up time. I usually catch up to Janice sometime between the 6th and 8th mile. I recognize the up swept hair and close to the ribs arm swing. We exchange hellos and she pulls away.
Sometimes we pass each other back and forth. Other times it’s a one-time sighting. At the Surf City race, I was accompanying friends on their first half-marathon. Janice was a couple miles ahead and the distance grew wider. At the OC race, we passed each other a couple times. That happens quite a bit in races.
In most circumstances, the back-and-forth, I pass you, you pass me is just a reflection of the normal ebb and flow of pace changes over thirteen miles. In a very few cases, it is an annoying attachment. Around mile four I passed a rather large heavy-footed man, 6’ 5” and 250 lbs. A few moments later he jogged up and passed me by ten feet. Then he returned to his regular walking pace. I kept my same walking stride. I passed him again. A few minutes later, I heard his heavy breathing coming toward me. This time he stopped just a couple feet ahead of me. I kept my pace. I have no idea how far ahead of him I got. I only know that, again, minutes later the heavy-footed, heavy-breathing man was at side. I let this happen once more before I jogged for half-a-mile to end the game.
Between miles eleven and twelve, more back-and-forth with Janice before I slowed a bit, focused on keeping my limbs cramp-free and in motion.
After crossing the finish line, I took a few minutes to stretch, gather pretzels, water and so on in the post-race lane. As I exited the refreshment area, I saw my aunt sitting on the ground, against a fence taking a post-race selfie. We exchanged smiles of self-satisfaction even as our eyes acknowledged that the warming early morning temperatures had taken a toll.
Janice broke the silence, “Why do we do this?” I held up my finisher medal. “For this.” She smiled while shaking her head. I wonder which race I’ll see her in next. Probably the Jetblue Long Beach half in October. Or sooner.