Losing my License

I had a quiet afternoon ahead of me. Go for a leisurely run, I had thought, sometime in the early afternoon. My shift didn’t start until 3, and I would have plenty of time to laze about–possibly even catch up on “House of Cards” before I had to be at work.

That is, until a little after 11 a.m. when my job called to let me know that it was kind of a slow day, and they’d probably not need me until closer to 1 p.m. This changed things.

I wanted to get a run in, and also head over to my car, parked in the far-distant land of Several-Blocks-Away-Because-Street-Cleaning-in-Boston-is-Brutal-ton. I also needed to eat food and get a shower in. I would probably have to condense some of these plans. Wait, why am I still sitting here, accomplishing nothing?

Cut to a few minutes later, stretched and dressed for the run, I head out my front door. My license is tucked into the Tunebelt armband so I can drive my car legally to one of the golden parking spots outside my front door. I use the walk there as my warm up, and intend to run for 20 minutes before heading home. The run is good, although short, so feel like I could go further, if I had the time for it. But, I head inside and grab a shower. My phone alerts me the run is finished as I climb the stairs.

It isn’t until I am getting my wallet together to drive to work that I realize the license is no longer in the armband. I check the floor around my bed, under the discarded mass of sheets I leave behind. No license to be found here, either. I run downstairs and pat under the driver’s seat, hoping to find it there. No luck.

Somewhere between my car parked over by Oak Square, Cleveland Circle, and Washington Square, I think, a tiny piece of plastic with my name, birthdate, address and license number is floating around. For those who don’t live in the area, this is about a mile radius, to try and find a 2-by-3 inch piece of plastic. This is the modern equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. I will need my deerstalker cap and no small amount of cunning to locate the damn thing.

And I have to be at work in 10 minutes. Which is just enough time to drive there. I will have to search later–likely on my break–because I am unsatisfied with my search of the car. I will risk driving like a reasonable human to get to work. With bills piling up, the last thing I need is to replace the damn license.

A few hours of selling high-end loose-leaf teas to the people of Chestnut Hill later, I return to my car on break. Moving the seat forward, and actually getting on my hands and knees, it’s sitting there. Waiting for me with my deer-in-the-headlights meets serial killer photo staring up at me.

Gratefully, I slip the plastic in my wallet. Glad I haven’t lost it while out on my run.

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Intoxicated by the Crowd’s Energy

By the time I turned the corner of my street, I was feeling dehydrated. Not so much because of the heat–although it was far warmer than I expected it to be. But simply because I had neglected to get enough water throughout the morning. It was too late, however, the run timer was on, and I couldn’t turn back now.

By the time I returned, my lips were bone dry.

Turning the corner, I passed a woman coming up the hill–struggling, slightly, as she ran. I wanted to call out, “You got this,” but it caught in my throat. I felt a little self-conscious, as I am wont to do. I am not much one for cheering and yelling at sporting events–I’m really not one for sports in general.

That said, there had been something in the energy at the Marathon, just a day earlier, of the people running, and the racers high-fiving. Standing outside of the crowd, looking in, I felt snarky and superior. In other words, I felt like my typical self. I had even remarked to a friend not 20 minutes earlier, that one of my big problems with the world of sports is that people are getting paid millions of dollars per year to play a game; meanwhile people who do worthwhile activities, like teach children and keep us safe at night, are struggling to pay their bills. I have described myself as a sports agnostic, “I believe that sports may or may not exist, and don’t much concern myself with their consequences.”

Then, I stood closer to the fence, the resented metal that separated half of Boston from itself for as long as the race ran. I got right in there. I put my hand out for a few high-fives, and was snubbed repeatedly. Apparently I wasn’t quick enough on some, or my energy wasn’t good enough for others, but the passing runners would get the two people next to me, and skip my hand. At first, because I started getting some people. I found myself cheering, calling out for random strangers. I simply allowed myself to be part of the screaming mass of people huddled around the 40k mark. I started to enjoy it, to be intoxicated by the energy.

By the time my friend Sam, who was running in the marathon, came around, I had completely lost my mind. We were yelling and chanting his name, he came by, slowed to a walk, and high-fived each of us in turn, before heading back down the street toward the finish line. I stepped back from the fence, and slipped quickly back into myself. I had tried on the sports persona, and didn’t hate it. but much longer and I would likely suffer an identity crisis.

I kept on past the woman, intending to hit my old home: the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I hoped the cool breeze off of the water would counteract my impending dehydration. I was also eager to get back to the distance needed for my impending 5k run. Four times between the reservoir and home, my phone let me know it had lost the GPS signal–odd, because there was nothing between me and the sky.

As I finished my turn at the reservoir, I hit Beacon Street for the run home. The marathon itself had largely disappeared at this point. The fence was gone. I had been thinking about that fence, while walking down the length of it, about its implications. Last year, there was no fence, and there was the bombing and the resulting manhunt. This year, there were neither, but I don’t think it was because of this metal fence. The fence was, in my mind, less a symbol of security, and more a symbol of inconvenience.

I was walking down to the Marathon with a friend, who told me she had overheard a conversation between a police officer and a family trying to cross Beacon Street at the marathon route. They told him they needed to cross, in order to visit their ailing grandfather in the hospital, he said he couldn’t let them cross until the flow of runners died down. They asked for alternate routes, and were told to try either Kenmore or further down the T, or hail a cab. They said they couldn’t do either of those, needed to get there fast, and as Orthodox Jews, couldn’t use the T or a cab on that day. They were stuck, and it seemed to me that the fence was causing more problems than it was saving.

The one thing the fence seemed to prevent adequately was “bandit runners.” People who hop into the marathon without a bib, and without authorization, and run the length of the race (give or take wherever they started). My runner friend said there were none of those this year. I hate being this cynical, but I feel like this was the main goal of the fences. and that the inconvenience to me and the Jewish family is the unfortunate fallout. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s worth it.

I finished my half-hour run, and was grateful to get home and chug a bottle of water. The warm weather made the run more pleasant than some, but I was really in need of a shower by the end of it.

The Marathon

I was not running in the marathon. Nor, am I inspired yet to do so. But, I had a couple of friends who went out there. Power to them! They should be as proud of themselves as I am of them.

I set out in the early afternoon, with the goal of seeing my friend Sam–one of the first people to read this blog, back in the day–as he made his run. A large group of Sam supporters gathered at the 40km mark, and waited for him to run past. We high-fived a whole mess of runners before he made it to where we were.

As he heard us chanting his name, he changed course and slowed to a brief walk to give each of us a high five and say hi. We yelled support. I later learned he had slowed his pace in the later stages of the race because of an injury. But, the fact that he stopped to see us, and started up again, was a big sign. He thanked us on Facebook the next morning, adding that he couldn’t have done it without our support.

Below are some photos I took from the race. I had intended to get a picture of Sam while he passed, but my phone’s camera apparently forgot how to camera for the roughly 30 seconds it took him to pass us…

This man was really excited, had a great energy, even with about two miles to go.

This man was really excited, had a great energy, even with about two miles to go.

Some runners helping a wheelchair racer past us.

Some runners helping a wheelchair racer past us.

How this man was not sweating his sack off, I will not know.

How this man was not sweating his sack off, I will not know.

The Citgo sign, a Boston landmark, and about a billion people running.

The Citgo sign, a Boston landmark, and about a billion people cheering.

 

Bonus, the MBTA is not as fast as the women’s running champion. Which makes Bostonians all feel justified in complaining. Or, in asking her to give us a piggy back ride.

Delayed Gratification

The new schedule was supposed to be easier on me: Tuesdays are opening up with one job, the other has short shifts on Thursdays and Saturdays. That said, as I got myself ready for my run on Saturday, I got a phone call. The district manager from one of my jobs needed someone to run downtown for a few hours’ assistance. I had evening plans, but could fit it in the meantime. Which, with my need for money, meant I was putting my run off again.

Come Sunday, filled with an Easter-themed meal and a surprise cupcake, I returned to my apartment from my mother’s at about 8:45 p.m. A sharp, but small pain ricocheted down my hip. It dulled as I pulled my running shorts and shoes on–I needed to get out there again (and without realizing it, the ladyfriend talked me into going out).

The RunDouble app updated, and had a far nicer interface than in the past. I wasn’t quite used to it yet, but tried to set it for a 20 minute run.

Streetlights poured light over to the sidewalks, the air hung cool around my shoulders. I turned onto Commonwealth Avenue, and noticed another runner struggling up the hill I was strolling down in my warm-up interval. I flashed him a thumbs up, and grinned at him. He shot back a slightly baffled look, so I added, “Keep it up!”

I then concluded that I am more of a “You got this!” kind of person, when it comes to encouragement for random strangers.

I hit the five-minute mark, at about my usual starting point–after zipping between two slow-moving groups on the road–and started running. About 10 seconds later, the slightly new voice on my phone helpfully let me know that I was halfway through the run.

I then remembered that, when I had first made the custom run, it had defaulted to seconds instead of minutes. I had restarted the run, and kind of forgot to fix that… After completing the remaining 10 seconds, and then futzing with my phone for another few minutes, I was able to actually start the run.

The remainder of the run was fairly uneventful, outside of really wanting to get home and get back into pajamas. It had been a pretty long day. Hoping to work my way back up to running at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

Cold and Quick

Thursday morning came on cold, colder than I would have liked–the breath caught in my throat, like in the winter, in spite of the fact that it’s now mid-Spring.

Eventually, my body warmed up, as my body caught up with the running. I was then glad that I had made the switch to my shorts again. The go-faster stripe on the side doing its work, as I rounded the corner and headed back through Cleveland Circle and headed back toward home.

What I was worried about was, given my skipped run on Tuesday, I would have to cut the day’s run short. I was also a little concerned that my leg would snap back to its pained state. Neither of these things happened.

I returned from my run, showered and went to work. My evening plans were interrupted, slightly, by a friend from out of town inviting people out for drinks. Said friend was returning to run the marathon–an event that was now a few days away, but had barely crossed my mind in the intervening weeks.

I had still been too busy to really reflect on the events of the previous year’s Boston Marathon. With a busy day still coming, I was unlikely to give it more thought this day either.

Pulled Something, Pulled Something On

I woke full of hope that my leg would cooperate with me.

I had pulled something in my thigh a few days prior. It ached all day Monday, whenever I put my leg at a weird angle, or after sustained movement. Or, after resting too long before being moved again. I think it was during a stretch before my Saturday run.

My body hadn’t quite woken up as I left the bathroom, still clad in my pajamas. Leg felt fine until I changed into my running shorts–then a twinge. I ran on the spot for a few steps, to see if I could simulate actually running. After a few minutes of futzing, and quite disappointed, I pulled my running shoes off.

I was too awake to go right back to bed–I had woken up an hour early for a reason, dammit. My eye caught something in my closet. Last year, before I started running, I had picked up two pairs of shorts and a pair of pants at a thrift store. They were a size too small. I couldn’t return them, but I figured “I intend to lose weight, so I’ll keep them.” They would be my “skinny pants.” The ones that marked an arbitrary goal.

So, standing in my boxers on a Tuesday morning, I started to wonder: Last count, I was down 35 pounds. Even since the last time I wore my running shorts, I had to re-tie them. I wonder if I’ve lost a couple of inches amid everything else. One by one, I tried on the pants, then both pairs of shorts. I knew even before I had them buttoned up: I fit into them.

Five minutes later, content–even without the run–I fell back into bed. Feeling like, at the very least, I had tangible evidence that this running/dieting craze was doing something for me.

Keep on Keepin’ On

Thursday morning, I had a short shift at one job at noon, and a lot of determination to finish my run this time around. I had had a week off, and only got about 3/4 through the run the day before. I was willing to push a little harder to make this one land.

I rounded the corner onto Commonwealth, and saw a man dropping what almost looked like a banana peel into a mailbox. I am certain this is not what he was posting, but I couldn’t quite shake the idea–and fixated on it for a few blocks. It reminded me of a (pretty awful, in retrospect) short story I had written in college. The goal was to send the main character out on a mundane trip, and fill it with interesting vignettes from city life, only to have him return and report that “nothing interesting happened.”

Looking back, it was kind of a pretentious notion. I used it for a creative writing assignment, and didn’t get a spectacular grade for it. At the time, I was annoyed, but today, it was probably a lesson I really needed at the time. I was still at the age in my writing career where I thought everything I banged off was brilliant, when much of it was trite and cliche.

I needed to listen to my feedback then, but have learned a lot of that on my own, the hard way…

 

When I got back from my (complete) run, a story slipped across my newsfeed–and its warranted reaction from Jezebel also hit. Some runner somewhere had posted a message on his newsfeed. It was meant to inspire, but started off on the wrong foot, and ultimately landed on deaf ears (for the intended audience, anyway). An excerpt:

To the fatty running on the Westview track this afternoon:

You, whose feet barely lift off the ground as you trudge around the track. You, who keeps to the outside lane, footslogging in the wrong direction. You, who stops for water breaks every lap, and who would probably stop twice a lap if there were bleachers on both sides. You, whose gaze drops to your feet every time we pass. You, whose sweat drenches your body after you leave, completing only a single, 20-minute mile.

There’s something you should know: You f**ing rock.

Well-intentioned, I will give the guy. But, at someone who started running for his health, it also hit me weirdly as well. I think for some of the reasons mentioned in the actual runner’s reply, excerpted here:

Your whole post insults me like no end. I do not eat midnight snacks or drink beer. You probably think all “fat” people do this. Well, we do not. I ate better than most at 300 pounds. In fact, I have not had a drink in well over 20 years.

A couple of weeks back, I was feeling particularly magnanimous as I hit the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and saw another runner who looked like she’d been at it for a while. She looked tired, she looked ready to quit. I wanted to help, and flashed her a double-thumbs-up and a manic grin. Then, immediately felt self-conscious about whether that came across as “You go, grrrrl,” or a Borat-esque “Very Nice.”

In the end, I hoped for the best and pushed it from my mind. But, the backlash to the Westview “Fatty” post made me feel like it was best to keep to myself in general. At the same time, I have really loved getting encouragement from complete strangers–hi fives and “You go!” calls from on the track. They haven’t really made or broken a run, but I have detected thin bursts of energy coming forth from that kind of encouragement. While positive feedback on this blog usually falls prey to my self-deprecation.

Perhaps, that’s where the original poster went wrong: keeping his thoughts to himself, and expanding on them later.

… Or does that mean I need to stop blogging?

Shirt of the Day: Food Zombies! (Healthy cartoon tomato, with a face, screaming and running from a pack of moldy bread, mushroom, and rotten fruit)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Why I Walked

Note: This is not a post about running, but about walking. Specifically me walking in the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change. So, it’ll probably be more of my musings on the reasons I went out on a slightly damp, overcast Saturday for a good cause. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip ahead.

 

 

27 Minutes. Next bus leaving at 9:05 a.m.

31 Minutes on foot.

The route mapped from my house to DCR’s Artesani Park, site of the BARCC Walk for Change for which I have been raising funds for the last month. I had aimed to beat my goal from last year–my super-generous friends donated a total of $500, and I dressed in a costume picked by my top donor. This year, I was going cheap, and going to dress in my Finn (from “Adventure Time”) costume, leftover from Halloween–and from being a huge nerd.

Me at the 2013 Walk for Change. The top donor picked a colonial outfit.

Me at the 2013 Walk for Change. The top donor picked a colonial outfit.

I didn’t make my goal, however, and set out in my regular clothes and the BARCC walk T-shift from last year. I set out on foot, deciding the 4 minute difference was worth it getting there a few minutes early.

The weather on the verge of raining from the moment I left my apartment. I immediately regretted dressing as lightly as I did–so, in many ways, not unlike when I go for a run. I found my friends, including an adorable and excitable puppy named Stormageddon–Stormy for short, and we got ready to walk along the river and back. I carried an umbrella and, as a member of the BARCC Hotline fundraising team, a sign that read “Hotliners are hot!”

I started walking last year, in part because I have a handful of friends who work for the organization, and in part because it feels like the right thing to do. The much-maligned phrase “rape culture” became apparent to me after the Steubenville rape case. Watching reporters wail about the future of the young athlete rapists, rather than the future of the survivor was eye-opening.

But even before then, the big moment when I realized there was something wrong was sitting on the train, a few months prior, with nothing particular going through my head. An epiphany struck when I realized that, for me, one of the biggest things I fear when I wander through some of the less savory parts of town, is being mugged, robbed–and in rare occasions, injured. I know I am statistically quite safe, as a straight, white, 6-foot-tall, male. I am also fortunate that I usually feel safe when I wander through town.

The girl sitting opposite me on the train, eyeing a particularly loud and creepy gentleman with suspicion, possibly had worse fears going through her head. (I grant, I have no idea what was going through her head in reality, but I was more likely dubbing the fears expressed by female friends in for her actual internal monologue). When the train stopped at its final, and all of our stops, she let him get off first. I kind of wanted to offer to walk her home, but worried that, in context, that would be equally creepy.

Fundamentally, there was nothing different between me and this woman on the train. We were two twenty-somethings who happened to live in the same neighborhood. We lead different lives, but there is nothing inherent in me that makes me “deserve” my fears, nor anything that makes her “deserve” hers. So, it struck me as vastly unfair that I’m scared someone will take my wallet, and this woman (a stand-in, really, for the people I care about) was afraid of being sexually assaulted.

I didn’t know what to do about this, but I wanted to do something. Then, one of my BARCC friends sent out an email inviting people to the walk.

The walks themselves are token gestures. I spent both walking and chatting with friends, and building connections with them. I aimed to raise more money this year, but ran out of time (that said, the Walk for Change donation pages are still open for contributions).

The speakers at the kick-off events insist we are making a difference, and I’ll admit that I don’t really feel like I am–at least, not directly. I know that my presence alone supports my dear friends who are working on the front lines at BARCC. That my friends appreciate me being there to support them, so that they can go and support survivors through some of the roughest times in their lives.

That is kind of priceless. That is worth coming back for next year.

 

Stealing Luck

10 a.m. on a Saturday is apparently when all the runners are training. As I discovered, coming around the corner of Beacon Street at the Cleveland Circle end. Runners going with and against me, as I tried to navigate the already crowded commercial street.

I was following one group of runners–some of whom were wearing the same shirts; all of whom seemed to know each other–when another group started to run past, outside of the Eagles Deli. As the two groups neared each other, there were cheers. Then hands shot up to snag hi-fives. Never one to be left out from a good time, I stuck mine out as well. This prompted some odd looks, but some (possibly reluctant) hi-fives.

What was odd, to me, was the short speed boost that came with it. I was suddenly keeping pace with these more seasoned (I am guessing) runners–for a block or two–and feeling less tired. Some weird sort of crowd-photosynthesis was taking over, and propelling me through the blocks.

(The Eagles Deli, home of a challenge burger of the same name, is famous in my mind for the attempt a friend and former manager made to complete that dish. Each time the meal is defeated, the restaurant adds a half-pound each of meat and fries to the edible obstacle. By the time he tried it, I believe it was 5 pounds of meat, 16 slices of cheese and bacon, served on a bun (with three skewers holding the thing together) served with 5 lbs of french fries.

What they neglected to tell him, as he started methodically going patty-by-patty through his dinner, was that there is a  time limit–they charge you $50 if you don’t make it.  He was informed about 1/3 into the repast, that he had about 20 minutes remaining. He ate burgers for the rest of the week.)

It wasn’t until I hit my T stop when I encountered the runner training turnaround point. Three women stood off to the side with a sign bearing the logo for the “Marathon Coalition.” A symbol some of the runners had on their shirts. The Boston Marathon is coming up again–and the city is preparing for it, and for the anniversary of a terror attack. It is expected to carry a record number of runners–and sales dollars–into the city.

This revelation also explained the confused look, as I usurped encouragement from a group of strangers. With a smirk, as the runners I was behind turned on their heels back at me, I kept going through toward my 20-minute running route.

Cut my run a little short, a few minutes after the run. Just ran out of steam, and was eager to get home so I had a few minutes before work to go home, take a shower, and see a visitor I was eager to spend time with.

Shirt of the Day: The Apathy Coalition (Join us. Or don’t. Whatever.)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Back At It

A weak cough escaped before I laced up and set out, determined to at least put some miles (at least one) on my shoes. It had been a week since I was last out, and I was considering a new schedule because of my typically crazy Wednesdays: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, was how I aimed to proceed with my running.

A week off from being sick, and a spotty performance in the prior weeks because of weather. Tuesday morning, as the alarm went off, waking me an hour early for my work shift, I grumbled to life and slipped into my running pants.

New England shook off the last dregs of winter, which were fading slowly like a particularly odd dream, and was finally starting to reach reasonable weather. In fact, I was starting to doubt the long pants were the way to go about halfway through the short, 20-minute route I had planned for myself. I would have to remember to pull out shorts when I got home.  (Spoiler alert: I totally forgot).

The halfway mark, as announced by RunDouble, the same app that brought me through the C25k program, came a lot further down the track than I expected. Legs were starting to feel the burn–I was a little out of practice from being sick.

15 minutes I made it. After fifteen minutes running, my legs and lungs decided it was time to call it a day. I was also needing to get myself organized and out the door for work. Home and a short shower, glad I started my week with a run.

(Note: This post is a week late, because last week was a little busy. I didn’t have a chance to update when I was actually running! For those who were worried last week, I was on the run! Conveniently, the BARCC donation page is still open, which means I’ll keep that as the fundraiser until I sign up for the 5k).

Shirt of the Day: (Fallout/Doctor Who mashup) Tennant’s Timepiece Repair.
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.