Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Run With a View

When running gear companies film commercials, they often show clear blue skies and crisp air cool enough for gloves & a hat yet perfect for shorts.  The runners are focused but have just enough curl in their lips to show inner contentment.  Film crews should have been at the Army Ten Miler on Sunday morning.

Approximately 20,000 lined the perimeter of the Pentagon and wound their way past monuments and parks for brisk 10 mile tour on foot.  There were brass bands and adoring families on the sidelines; stories of infantry reunions and demonstrations of remarkable comebacks.

There was also another moment worth recounting, though it could hardly be classified under "inspirational" or "commercial worthy."

It involved a struggling runner, who, deceived by the cool air, went out way too fast and was hurting near mile 8 (that would be me).  It also includes an old friend who eternally considers herself coach & running mentor to everyone pounding the pavement.

Well, when Coach noticed that my head was pretty close to giving up on my goal time, she directed my attention to the most perfectly round, tight-enough-to-bounce-a-coin-off-of-it, beautiful rear end on a man about 15 feet ahead of us.  She said 'chase that bottom and don't let it out of your sight.'  For a good half mile, we cracked up about stalking a random body part and I forgot I wanted to slow down....but then HE started to slow down significantly.

Coach jumped into action.  She pounced on our 'hare' and told him that this race wasn't just about him anymore.  He's got people counting on him.  "I have a friend in this race that is watching that perfect butt of yours and if you slow down, SHE slows down, and if SHE slows down, I slow down.  Now, get your head in the game and lead this team to the finish line!!!"

I'd like to think that he picked up his pace based on the flattery (rather than fear), but never-the-less in an instant: two struggling strangers became partners under Coach, indivisible, with empathy and blisters for all.  One, a handsome black man humbly striving to lead and the other, a painfully embarrassed plodder, trying not to appear as pathetic as she felt.   In that final mile, we ran side-by-side glancing at each other to make sure we'd both finish (and to silently concur that Coach's effortless trot was annoying). As we came around the closing turn, we both screamed "OH THANK GOD! and clutched hands in an enthusiastic shake.  

In a sea of remarkable finishes- runners who found strength from the memory of lost friends or who battled war wounds- depending on a Perfect Butt (or knowing someone is literally watching your backside) can seem pretty shallow, but, hey, we can't all have epic stories!