Sunday, March 20, 2016

Saint Patrick's race day memories

Happy runner, 1980
The Saint Patrick's Road Race, held yesterday, brings back intense memories.

One of my parents took the photo at right as I finished the race in 1980. I don't look much worse for the wear after running the course when it was longer, about eight miles, going up and down the hills at Holyoke Community College. A bunch of us at the Transcript-Telegram would run up and down those hills after work. I didn't have many cares except for starting my career in journalism and catching the eye of the editor who I would later marry.

My time was pretty good, I think about 54 minutes when the course was reduced to a 10K. By that time I was at the Sunday Republican, talking to my runner friends the next day about how I could have run faster if I tried. They said that if I ran speed intervals I really could do it. One of them said jokingly (I think) that I was a wuss. Or something friendly like that. I did occasionally pick it up between trees or other markers on the road and sometimes on the treadmill got to eight minute miles, but that was about it for me.  Now if you ran or even walked with me you probably could not believe I was ever that fast.

 Here is the link to the essay that I wrote for the New York Times magazine's Lives page after my fatigue and slower time during the 2003 race led to my leukemia diagnosis. The other photo is of me at the Quabbin Reservoir when I got out on a break from chemotherapy and just wanted to be near the water. My mother took the photo. I must have been cold because I had two sweatshirts on. I look at both of those photos and can't believe either of them was me. After the little outing at home, it was back to the hospital and on to the rest of the story.

Showing off my bald head, 2003
As people who know me know, I have run the race many times since. I have the energy to run it again. I know because I played two hours of tennis Friday night and could have played more except for my toe starting to hurt and the sight of the pizza calling to me.

Just as I was incredibly frustrated by plantar fasciitis, now I am frustrated by one big toe that hurts after I run. People who know me also know that I never complained about leukemia but complained, and continue to complain, about my feet. I think I could ease back into it in my new Hokas, but as of yesterday I was not ready to try it.

I was sorry when I went down to watch Ben that I wasn't doing it. I have mixed feelings about being there. But I wanted to see Ben and be in the mix of it. Well, I parked my car so far away that I walked about a mile to get to the start. When I walked to the finish I was on the wrong side and had to walk all the way around to get to the side where I could see the finishers. I stood there with my camera ready, stood there for about half an hour, and then realized I had missed him. With thousands of people milling around, I decided I would never find him or Joe.

So I walked down to Canal Street. And realized that a nightmare of mine had come true. In my nightmare, I'm walking, usually around New York, and am unable to find my car. There I was in Holyoke and I couldn't remember where I parked my car. I thought I might have to flag down a police cruiser to drive me around. I didn't write it down because I thought I would remember it.

Then I played a memory game. I remembered it was the last name of a woman with whom I had recently connected on Facebook. And then it came to me. Wendy Bower. It was Bower Street.

I was sad that I couldn't run the race, but happy that I found the car.

I treated myself to a Coke to wash down the hotdog that I had bought, drove home, and thought about something else. I was glad to talk to Ben later and find out that he had a good run.

No comments: