Friday, May 21, 2004

Late Spring Trail Run

The morning was damp, closed in. A misty rain had been falling but stopped just as I stepped out onto the trail. The woods are a deep, vibrant green now. The new growth overwhelms the path in spots. The morning is loud with bird calls. I have the trail mostly to myself with just a few rabbits – I will see only one deer further into the run on the edge of a meadow. Perhaps the vegetation makes them harder to see or perhaps the lusher growth allows them to stay further in the woods.

I believe that current evolutionary thinking posits that the path to humanity as we know it began when our ancestors left the forest for the plains. In fact I remember reading somewhere that all over the world humans replicate the look and feel of that African veldt.

But I feel quite comfortable in these woods and when the trail opens into a meadow I am glad to reenter the forest. I especially like the spots where ferns predominate and the forest could be a million years old. (Of course if it was filled with critters anxious to make me their next meal I would undoubtedly feel quite different. And there are stretches of less used paths where the brambles say imagine if no one had come before you. And you don’t mind being wet and chilly when you know a hot shower is minutes away.)

I stayed on a circuit I know well enjoying the calmness of this world apart. I need hardly to think about where to go – when I first ran these paths I would occasionally get lost but now the paths are familiar and I coast on automatic pilot just enjoying this wet morning.

Wet, tired my hour used up I head toward that hot shower.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Tuesday night I was at Haverford College for some track work with the Bryn Mawr Running Club. The track was in use so we moved to a nearby field to run the perimeter. A little later a group of youngsters came to use the field for soccer practice. I heard one of the young fellows tell his coach, "We can't play on the field those men are playing on it."

We forget sometimes that running lets us play.

Later when I ran home my neighbor was unloading her kids and her daughter asked her mom, "Why is he running?" For exercise said mom, but I liked the earlier assessment better, for play.

I run for the play.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Broad Street 10 Miler

The race started out with just the kind of synchronicity I love. I got down a little earlier than usual because there had been warnings about parking. The combinations of events at the Wachovia (Flyers game) and a Phillies game meant limited parking. It turned out for me at least to be no problem (although my parking choice latter caused me problems when I tried to get to the post race parties).

Part of the fun of Broad Street is crowding on the train with all the other runners for the ride up Broad. But I had beaten the crowd and the car I got on was mostly empty. No one to trade quips and war stories with. But at the Walnut Street stop a number of runners got on and the car filled. A runner sat down and we began to chat. Learned he was from Boston and came down for Broad Street, didn't run marathons anymore, but liked to return to Philly for the Distance Run. As we got near Broad and Olney I wished him luck; he noticed my dear runners singlet for the first time (I had a jacket on) and said are you a dead runner? He was too. We exchanged names. Paul Flynn meet Chad Brooks. Paul said I read your post last night in the hotel. Ok small world, but come on, I didn't even see half the people I know among the 10,000 runners let alone have a dead runner get on that particular train, choose my car and sit down beside me. Be careful of any theory based on coincidence because coincidence happens all the time (and yes it's oxymoronic and true).

Along with cloudy and breezy there was near 100% humidity. A short warm up run left me sweating so I knew this could be a tough run. The start was delayed by a fire in the subway at Broad and Cherry and the officials didn't want to start until they were assured the fire engines had cleared Broad. Understandably but it threw off my dehydradration schedule. So although I hated to do so I had to stop before mid way and lost about 40 seconds.

Other then that it was a good run. Goal was 80 minutes and I finished in 1:20:56 clock time and 1:19:39 chip time so given the delay I ran mostly sub eights. Those miles felt hard but not terrible and I kept a good steady pace.

A run through Broad is always run through my own personal history: I went to college at LaSalle a couple of blocks from the start. The aunt I currently care for had a store in the Logan area the first subway stop after the race begins. A distant relative lived in one of the grand houses that once lined Broad Street and I remember as a child visiting the old lady in the drabby old mansion soon to be cut into apartments and eventual decline into ruin. I was inducted into the army at 401 N. Broad Street. Well on and on but you get the idea.

I use to die after City Hall but because I finally (at least in this race) did a better job at pacing I ran mostly comfortable through the entire distance. I never much enjoyed mile seven and perhaps that's why I lost a little focus in mile seven which was too slow but I picked it up and had two good final miles. Terrance Mahon who finished fourth in this race told me that everyone has one of those miles and usually it is the segment just past mid-way – for example the third quarter in a mile run.

Very impressed overall with the organization of this race - especially impressed with the volunteers who seemed particularly enthusiastic and gracious. When I handed my gear over to the kids at the baggage bus I said I'm going to recommend your boss gives you a raise - the young lady said, very seriously, we do this for free. I just laughed and said good for you when I was your age there's no way I'd be out here early on Sunday morning. The woman behind me said you got that right.

We runners take an awful lot for granted and exspect a lot for an entrance fee. If you are a runner always be sure to be nice to the volunteers and thank them a thousand times.