Monday, October 31, 2005

Last but...

On Wednesday, one of the Assistant Deans of my school sent out an e-mail, calling for Social Work graduate students and faculty to run on the intramural team. This is the dean who is in charge of all the work at the school I plan to get involved with - all the privilege and oppression stuff, all the student experience stuff - and I figured he would be a good guy to get to know. Grad student and faculty intramural. That couldn't be too bad, could it? I figured there would be some folks who don't run that fast, and the dean was very specific in that running speed did not matter. And, I run 5K - it's my training run, and I'm running it consistently at the fastest speed I've ever run it (this, from someone who never ran as a child, an adolescent, or a young adult...this, from someone who should be revered by procreating small-scale societies...this, from someone who is starting to say: "I get to define who I am. If I say I'm a runner, then, by Jove...")

This is all well and good, of course, but on a frosted October morning, when you are stumpily standing around in a field mostly populated by whip-thin young men who are doing that scary rapid, knees-up runner's stretch, and the people around you are talking about which marathons they ran this year and about their times...You might begin to realize you've made a bit of a calculation error. I almost slunk off the field right then - but I was holding onto the last number for our team, and I couldn't go.

And, then, when the director of the race asked those who were shooting for around a 15-minute race time to step towards the front, I panicked.

Let's clarify, shall we: I run 5-miles-per-hour. It is the fastest I've run, it's a good speed for me, I'm working up to 6 over the winter, but I'm happy where I am...Okay?? That translates to (for those of you bad with math) a 12-minute mile. This means (again, the math avoidance) that I was planning to finish in about 36 minutes.

AGAIN, I'm pretty comfortable with that -

Except when I'm in said frosty field with said speedy runners.

I knew the race was gonna be ugly, and by the first 1/4 mile I knew I was going to be running my own race. Not that I was okay with that - I wanted to quit after the first loop around the athletic grounds, before we'd crossed the river and headed East towards Gallup. You see, I'm not used to being bad at things...not that I'm good at everything, I'm not. It's that I don't generally try things that I know I *won't* be good at - like running. I promised myself I'd quietly drop out at the round of every bend, and at the bottom of every hill. The cold hurt my lungs, and the initial speed push of the crowd had left me weak, and, did I mention how I loathe running in the morning?

Anyway, I did it. I ran myself through the finish line on my little Christmas Hams, and the rest of my team was there waiting and cheering. I began coughing and haven't really stopped.


There's a thing that runners and others say to each other on the trail - "Good Job." It's said low, and forcefully, in a tone that brooks no argument and no denial. Because it is a good job - everyone on the course is running at the top of what they can do - whether it's the fellow in the custom ice-blue Nikes, or me in my crooked number and dirty sneakers.

Believe it, the race was harder for me than it was for him.