The following is an excerpt from my book, Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo. I got all misty eyed thinking about my book and my running “career” this past Saturday, when I ran this race for the third time. This time, I ran with two of my favorite people who are not related to me. We ran without a plan. We ran without even studying the course. We ran and we had fun and then we had beer.
The day before my first ever 15K, I had to pick up my race packet. I drove across town and circled the parking lot for a good 20 minutes, watching the constant stream of people dressed in running tights walking briskly and with purpose, carrying their race packets as if they were gold medallions. To be honest, I was both looking for a parking space and trying to screw up the courage to walk in the building. I finally snagged a spot, parked badly and entered the “Fitness Fair.” The name of the event alone gave me a mild panic attack. “Will they let me in?” I wondered.
I had not worn my fitness gear and I certainly didn’t have my short pixie hair pulled into a bouncy ponytail; not only that, but my short tresses, if one can call short hair tresses, were woefully missing blonde highlights. I thought someone would immediately spot the impostor among them, like a mean, adult, real-life version of that game from the kids’ TV show: One Of These Things Is Not Like the Others.
They’d see me and assume this middle-aged, short-haired, no-gear-wearing chubster was picking up a packet for her younger, hotter husband, or teenage spawn. But I had to get that packet if I wanted my official time. I really wanted my official time.
If I thought the name of the fair was scary, inside awaited a veritable
gauntlet of gorgeous: someone had cloned Denise Austin, sent the lot of them to tanning beds, dressed the many of her all up in running gear and made a human tunnel out of them for me to shamefacedly traverse. I did not belong here. My mouth went dry. My throat closed up. I looked about anxiously, trying to pretend like I was totally supposed to be here and I know what I’m doing, okay?I found the letter “L” section where my packet would be but because my name has many letters that are unpronounced, the helpful fitness guy couldn’t find my name. It took him so long that anxiety sped like a missile toward me. While I waited, I started to sweat. My mind spun a sad tale: “Oh, crap. They can’t find it. I didn’t register right. They know I can’t finish the race so they pulled my name. Someone alerted them. Would it be bad if I started crying, right here, right now?” I was so upset I almost didn’t want to get in line for my t-shirt.
But I wanted that t-shirt, even more than I craved my official time, because, I told myself, if by some act of God I was able to cross the finish line, I planned to wear that t-shirt to every single public event I could get myself invited to. After successfully procuring my t-shirt (in a size smaller, thankyouverymuch), I booked it out there to find a glass of water and the privacy of my car.