Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Runners and their Races

The photo at right is of me finishing 
the St. Patrick's Race in the 1980s.

Most runners have a race they feel is their own. The St. Patrick's Race in Holyoke, Mass., a challenging 10K, is no more my race than it is that of the approximately 2,500 runners who run it every year a day before the city's big St. Patrick's Day Parade. But when people mention the race, I say, "Oh, that's my race." It's not because of my speed. I'm not especially slow, and not especially fast, but I am committed. I think my best time was 52 minutes. I'm not one of those people who keeps a log of race times. I look it up every year, but I never write it down. I have lost count of how many times I've run it, but it's probably around a dozen.

I started in the 1980s with friends from the former Holyoke Transcript-Telegram, a good little newspaper that lived and breathed the race, the parade, and the colleen coronation ball, which I remember as being the time when my strapless bra fell down around my knees during a dance. We went to the race for the fun, the festivities, the camaraderie and the challenge. At that time the race was longer by about two miles, following the hilly 
road that cuts through Holyoke Community College. They lopped 
off that extra challenge to attract more participants.
I took a break from the race after each of my children was born, and 
each time felt that I had finally come back when I could do the race again.

After my leukemia went into remission, I ran the race twice -- last year and the year before. For reasons that I will explain later, I couldn't run the race this past Saturday, when it attracted a record-breaking number of participants, more than 3,000. I did, however, go for a little jog at 1 p.m., the time the race started.

Our area has two big races: St. Pat's and, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Talking Turkey race, six miles around a beautiful reservoir also in Holyoke. My friend was raped at that reservoir, and for her, running that race was proof that she was stronger than her fears.

Similarly, when I returned to St. Pat's, the race that led me to the discovery that I had leukemia, I felt like I was facing some kind of demon and also celebrating a rebirth. I was nervous, excited and scared, all at once. Most importantly, I was a runner, not a patient. And when I finished, at a little over an hour, my mixed reactions showed me that I was thinking like a runner, too.
First came the exhilaration of crossing the finish line. Then came the critical thinking.
"I feel pretty good," I thought. "I could have gone a little faster. Well, maybe next year."


Patty Lubold said...

THis is great Ronni!

Howard LaFranchi said...

An uplifting post. And thanks for the (vicarious) memories, Ron (As you may recall, I never ran in that race...)