Sunday, August 15, 2010

The August Preservation Society

If I worked in the Department of Time, Preservation Division yesterday would have been a day worth preserving. Most of this summer here in the State of Concrete Gardens has been fairly rough weather-wise with a number of extended periods of extreme heat and humidity. Yesterday however, on the cusp of August's halfway point, Mother Nature treated us to a drop-dead gorgeous day. And while any beautiful day is to be appreciated, irrespective of where it falls on the calendar when it falls - as it did for me - on a day that includes a race and also some quality seaside time with family then it is a day to be savored. A day to be cherished.

In the not-quite-a-year since I started running on a regular basis and started running in races of varying distances I have learned that in every race those of us who are running have different goals. Of course there are those among the entrants who - irrespective of the number of runners - enter the race expecting to win it. For ease of reference, I refer to those runners as, "Not Me". There are those who enter knowing that they will likely do as much walking as running but they are in the event to get some exercise, to spend some time with friends and to do some good - helping raise money for whoever is slated to benefit from the event's fundraising efforts.

The third group whose presence I have become acquainted with in slightly less than a year on the road(s) in New Jersey is comprised of people who run not only to do good and feel good but also to push themselves in an athletic endeavor. Those runners whose only real competition in the event is the person who they see in the mirror every morning. I belong to this group. In an event with 11 entrants there is a reasonable chance that I would finish outside of the Top Ten. If I did so however while pushing myself to run hard and was able to achieve a good result, then I would go home satisfied.

Yesterday morning in a town whose glory days have seemed on more than one occasion to have passed it by forever but for whom better days certainly now seem to be on the come, on what was a picture-perfect day to run, I ran the best race of my life (bearing in mind of course that while I am 43 and change I have been running in such things for about 1/43 of that time). The good folks who organized the Asbury Park 5K had a day better than they could have hoped for for their event. The air had a feel more akin to late September than early August. The skies were clear. And sunshine was everywhere. It is almost impossible not to feel good while running on such a day.

As if the conditions atmospheric (natural division) where not enough to put a smile on my face yesterday morning, then the conditions atmospheric (man-made division) clinched the deal. The race organizers constructed a course that took us on two loops. From the starting line on 5th Avenue (about two blocks off of the water at Kingsley Street), we ran west to Grand Avenue, south on Grand Avenue to Cookman, northeast on Cookman to Ocean Avenue and then north on Ocean Avenue. The first loop required us to travel north on Ocean back to 5th in order toc complete it/start the second loop. However when we reached Ocean Avenue the second time around we were moved a block further east......so that we ran north on the boardwalk towards the waiting arms of Convention Hall and across the finish line.

Asbury Park is a town that has received its share of knocks over the years and candidly not every section of it is a place where I would do a dance of joy if my car happened to break down. However there is a serious effort afoot in Asbury Park to restore its long-lost luster. Based upon what the Missus and I saw yesterday, they have made some wonderful inroads in that effort already. The Boardwalk is beautiful and the beach is spacious and gorgeous.

Against this backdrop I ran the best 5K of my life yesterday. Prior to yesterday morning my personal best 5K time was 26:54. Yesterday I ran 26:35.54. To underscore just how mediocre to average a runner I am, my all-time best effort dropped me just about in the middle of the pack for overall finishers as well as for my age group. Now you know why I am one of those runners who competes against myself. All those other folks kick my ass......even on my best-ever day.

From Asbury Park yesterday morning Margaret and I headed south. We spent the rest of the day at Jill and Joe's, just relaxing on the beach with them and our two nieces (I did get a reminder as to how bad an uncle I am when I realized that Simone is getting ready to start her senior year in high school and Julia her freshman year when in my mind's eye each was still somewhere south of 12 years old) and Mom. Mom migrates north in the summertime, which enables her to not only escape Florida's summer heat but also to spend time with people she loves at a place she has loved her entire life - the Shore.

Traditionally I am not a huge beach guy. Given the fact that I am historically pale (I have the two skin settings innate to the Irish: white and sunburned) and prone to carry more weight on my frame than I should, it gets old hearing someone shout out, "Beluga!" moments before getting ropes wrapped around my ankles in an effort to drag me "back" into the ocean to save me from beaching. Yesterday though was simply terrific. And the best thing about it was that we really did nothing other than sit on the beach together talking. The surf was too rough for swimmers to be permitted into the water but with a nice cooling breeze coming off the ocean all day, it mattered not. There was no extreme heat from which anyone needed to seek refuge.

I was reminded yesterday - as Margaret and I headed home - just how right Mr. Einstein was with regard to relativity. We spent hours on the beach yesterday with Jill/Joe, Mom and the girls. The time passed in the wink of a young girl's eye. The memories however have a much longer shelf life.



-AK

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