Monday, June 9, 2014

I spy with my little "I"

The neighborhood of University Heights
went all out, with some great signs
posted along the half-marathon route.
We're now a week out from the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon, held last Sunday here in my hometown. This was the 17th running of the original Rock 'n' Roll marathon, and although I've never raced it myself, I'm always out there on the course. I still consider it my "home race" since (with the exception of the parts that are run on the freeway) I've run every block of both the half and full marathon courses, and much of it runs through my own neighborhood. This year I printed the course map and did the half-marathon course in its entirety on Saturday as a training run, which was a fun way to preview the event, and see how the different parts of town were getting ready.

Having run marathons through many other U.S. cities, neighborhood streets lined with families bundled up at the ends of their driveways in the early morning clutching coffee cups and cheering for strangers, I don't think that San Diegans turn out on race morning to support the event the way they should. Running and road racing are so much a part of the culture here that maybe Rock 'n' Roll Sunday just no longer feels like a big deal to anyone anymore. Most people simply hole up to avoid the traffic delays, and wait for it to be over. But I enjoy being out there, seeing the runners taking in the scenery and experiencing our neighborhoods. I hope that me and my signs and my trusty cowbell have made at least a few people smile and pick up their pace a little through the years. And what I enjoy even more is being around town in the hours and days that follow, seeing all of the too-red faces and too-slow gaits, the telltale signs of tired but (hopefully) triumphant marathon warriors. It's fun to watch people strain to get up from their chairs at dinner, to see their knees wobble as they struggle to make it down stairs and step off of the curbs. I know this delicious agony, and it gets me excited to feel it again for myself.

I really loved the race t-shirt design
this year. Sort of wish I had one.
The participant t-shirts this year were especially cool. I loved the design, and am officially jealous of everyone who has one. And since they're bright red, they're easy to spot. This weekend, it seemed that all those race t-shirts must have made it through the laundry cycle, because they were everywhere.

One of the unsung joys of running is spotting someone in a t-shirt from a race that you ran, too. (The further away and longer ago it was, the better. There's nothing more cool than having another runner sidle up with a "Hey, I ran Chicago in '05, too!") I know there are plenty of distance runners who don't care to race, but I think there's power and beauty in seeing oneself in others, and that the experience of racing together is just another way that runners connect. With the other participants, with the cities where they run, and with the experience of being a runner. There are hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands) of people out there who huddled in trash bags during that cold and rainy start with you, who conquered that same monster hill, who celebrated in that same beer garden. You might not have known them, but they were with you. Ups and downs, highs and lows: we're all in this together.

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