This weekend, M and Nat and I all headed out to the Boston area to do some visiting. We stayed with our friends, Ryan and Summer, whom we hadn’t seen for at least two years, and also went to see one of my former students, Cristina, perform in the Vagina Monologues at Brandeis, where she’s a Freshman. It was a great (though very busy and exhausting) weekend, but I’m here to write about running, not the rest of my life.
Saturday morning, as we were discussing our plans for the next few days, Ryan casually mentioned that we might have a hard time driving around the neighborhood the next day, because “they’re closing a bunch of the local roads because of some road race.” My ears pricked up. Road race? “Yeah, there’s a 5k run of some-sort around here tomorrow morning.” For the rest of the day, I kept thinking that it would be sort of neat to just spontaneously run a race while out of town, just in a sort of “what the hell, lets run a 5k!” moment.
I didn’t think of it that seriously, however, until the next morning when M and I sneaked out of the house to take Nat to a park while Ryan and Summer were still sleeping. (People who don’t have toddlers often like to sleep in past 8 am on Sundays, and it isn’t always easy to do that if then can hear the screams of “Super Grover!” coming from another room in the house.) I was going to go for a run, then rejoin the two of them at a playground we’d gone to the day before.
As we were walking, there was a steady stream of people dressed in running clothes, some of them wearing race numbers, hustling past us, all headed the same direction. “I guess we really are close to the course,” I observed. Then we passed a municipal building which all the runners kept entering and exiting, and those leaving were in the process of pinning on numbers and sporting shirts for the Ras Na hEireann 5K. “Huh, that’s got to be the number pick-up spot right there,” I said, continuing my string of brilliant observations. M noticed as my gaze kept sliding back to the door. “It looks pretty popular, I bet its sold out.” Pause. “Though I wonder if they have any room for same day registrations . . .”
At that point, M fished out here wallet and smiled. “Go on — you might as well go see. You never know.” So I kissed her and Nat and bounded off with a credit card to the registration table. It turned out it was still possible to sign up, but 1) the race didn’t start for another 90 minutes, and the fee was $31, cash only. Not only did I not want to hang around until 11 (what sort of road race doesn’t start until 11?) and I only had a few dollars in cash on me, but no matter how fun the idea of just randomly running a race was, I wasn’t about to pay $31 for a 5K. I’m used to paying $18, maybe $20 or $25 for a NYRR race here in the city (though now that I’m home at my computer checking the prices, it turns out that’s because I’ve become spoiled and used to the “members” prices. Last weeks Coogan’s, for example, was $18 because we signed up early and are members. For non-members, the early price was $33, day-of was $40). Besides, since literally every other runner was decked head-to-toe in green and Irish imagery, I was slightly afraid I would have been disqualified for running in my blue NYC Marathon shirt.
So instead, I just headed back outside and ran a quick 4 miles. I didn’t know the area at all, so I just struck off in a random direction. I came across a bike/running trail that cut through the town, and followed that for close to two miles before losing it somewhere in an apartment complex. The route was very flat and easy, and I tried to keep up a pretty decent pace — ever since Coogan’s, I’ve really enjoyed getting some speed in. After each mile, I did 60 seconds at a full-out sprint, then slowed back to a moderate run to catch my breath before continuing at the brisk pace I’d set for myself. What felt really good was that, other than when I was doing a dead-sprint, it didn’t feel like it took that much effort to maintain a pretty face pace — I did the first mile in 7:16, and while I slowed a little, my average when I stopped after 4 miles was 7:30, which I think is pretty damn good.
I finished my run right as the stream of runners jogging towards the start became a flood, and as three of us walked back to Ryan and Summer’s I kept getting confused glances, and the other runners tried to figure out why I was headed AWAY from the starting line. A race would have been fun, but my solo run was way less crowded. And involved a lot less shamrocks, leprechaun hats, and face-paint, which I like to think is a good thing.