Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What if a Race Were Like Work?

"We're going to need Molly off your project for a few days," they told me at work the other day. I tried to mentally calculate the effect of losing Molly on my already-behind project, but my mind started to wonder. What if a race were like work...........

I know I can set a PR. The course is flat, I've trained hard, and the weather is perfect for a run of 13.1 miles - cloudy and cool. I look at the thousands of other runners and walkers as I find my gate. "Lets do this," I say to myself. "The PR is there, waiting for you!" The gun sounds, and soon enough – just minutes after 7AM - my corral crosses the start. After dodging other runners for a mile, the field opens up, and I fall into a nice, steady pace. For once, the effort of running feels nearly effortless. Three more miles fade behind me.

Suddenly, a race official steps onto the course in front of me, extending his hand. "Stop!" he shouts. "We need you to do something. There's this old lady, and she ordered this book from the library, and they are closed today. We need you to hop on this bike, and deliver it to her. She only lives four miles from here. Then, come on back and resume the race. You still have plenty of time."

I stare at the man as if a gecko just crawled out of his left nostril. "Are you kidding? I'm kind of in a race here!" I state.

"Look, I hate to do this, but this lady really needs this book. Today! Come on, you can do this. It’s not like you were going win. Hop on the bike!"

"Bike? I haven't ridden on a bike in years," I say.

"No big deal. You'll do fine. It’s kinda like.... well, it's like.... yes, that's it! It's like riding a bicycle!"

Grumbling, I take the directions, the book, and jump on the bike. I see my PR flying away, wings beating steadily but slowly. But I find the lady, and she is so thrilled to have the book that it makes this all worthwhile. Less than an hour after leaving the race course, I'm back and running again. It takes a while to get back in a rhythm, but eventually I do, until the seven mile mark.

"Stop!" another official shouts. "We need you to move this Civil War cannon a few feet. A runner nearly crashed into it. Of course, if they hadn't been texting, maybe they would have seen it. But no matter, it will take you just a few seconds."

"Move a cannon? You might as well ask me to convince Lindsay Lohan to stop drinking," I say.

"No problemo! I have help lined up. Fred, Manny, and Joe are going to help you with this. It will take you guys one minute," the official says.

"OK, let's go, then! Where are they?"

“Should be here any minute. Manny has a leg cramp so it might take him an extra second or two. Just sit down and cool your jets for five minutes.”

32 minutes later, Manny hobbles up. Fred and Joe got here before, and the four of us manage to move the cannon enough so that someone who is not paying attention doesn’t end up with the barrel shoved up in an anatomical place that could cause them great bodily harm. I start running again, but have stiffened up. It takes me a while to get going, and I start passing a few stragglers. I reach the 10 mile mark, when another plea to stop comes.

“We need you to take this box of cookies to that hermit living on the island on the James River. It’s only a mile to the river, and we left you a canoe. We know you used to canoe, so it shouldn’t be a problem – just be careful near the rapids. The hermit is hard of hearing, and his dog isn’t the most friendly thing in the world, so just proceed cautiously when you get near his house. The last guy we sent there, well, it didn’t … You know, you don’t want to be bored with all these details. You’ll be fine. Here are the cookies, and take this steak for the dog. It just might save your … err, it might help make him friendlier,” the race official said.

I won’t talk about all that happens during the execution of this task, but let’s just say that when I stumble back to the 10 mile point – soaking wet, clothes shredded, shoes muddy, fang marks in my right calf – it’s pitch black and I am the only one left on the race course. I stagger more than run the last 3.1 miles, finishing just after 10:30PM. The only one still there at the finish line is a drunk, who applauds and cheers wildly before tumbling against an overflowing porta-potty, tipping it over. I only have partial success avoiding the noxious river of foul-smelling and dark liquid heading my way like some kind of deadly wraith in the night. Chip time: 15 hours, 22 minutes, 17 seconds. Yep – a new PR!

And that is why if races were like work, there wouldn’t be anyone there to do the race!

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