Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Step One....

While I do not run in many races these days - much to the delight of my wife and to the chagrin of t-shirt manufacturers everywhere - this past Sunday morning my running partner Gidg and I joined upwards of six thousand other runners on the Rutgers University campus for the 4th Annual Unite For Charity Half-Marathon.  In the interests of full disclosure, the race organizers kept speaking of "six thousand runners" being in attendance on Sunday morning but I have no idea how many participated in the shorter-distance race that morning, which was an 8K, as opposed to the Half-Marathon.   I was pleased with my effort in the Half-Marathon, which I completed in 1:53:42, a time that worked out to 8:41 mile splits (which I shall take any day of the week - including but not limited to on a Sunday) and a time that was slightly better than three minutes faster than the time I posted in this very same event last year.  With age comes a reduction of three minutes off of my time.  Who knew?  

Sunday morning was not as much about the result however as it was about the process.  At our little get-together on the campus of the State of Concrete Gardens' State University we the runners did what runners have done worldwide in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon.  We saluted the first responders and the law enforcement officers who apprehended the evildoers.  We celebrated the lives of and eulogized those who were murdered both one week ago Monday and this past Thursday by the aforementioned evildoers.  And we reclaimed our turf.  We the runners gathered to do what it is runners gather on race day to do:  we ran.  

A number of people ran carrying small American flags that race organizers passed out in the starting area.  I only carried mine a couple of miles.  I had it in my right hand up until the point I passed a dad and his two little moppets sitting on a curb clapping for all of us as we passed by.  The smaller (and I presumed younger) of the two had a smile that could melt the most ornery of hearts.  And when it did I gave her my American flag to wave.  She was still smiling ear-to-ear when I waved goodbye and sped off.  Yes I dared to use the word "sped" to describe what I did.  Have you never seen someone take dramatic license before? 

In the heart of central New Jersey the race course was awash in runners wearing shirts and/or signs affixed to their shirts celebrating Boston, its people and its fortitude.  The Half-Marathon course meanders through the RU campus on both sides of the Raritan River, beginning near the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center and then rolling past the RAC and Rutgers Stadium on the Piscataway side of campus before descending into Johnson Park prior to crossing over onto the New Brunswick side.  This year (as I think it did last year) the race ended on College Avenue, a few blocks past "the Barn", which was the sobriquet affectionately hung on RU's old basketball arena - the place it called home in the pre-RAC era, when its basketball fortunes were entrusted to the steady stewardship of Eddie Jordan.   Apropos of nothing, I was fairly certain that I saw someone parking Professor Peabody's WABAC Machine in a "Reserved" space at the Barn as I ran past it on Sunday morning.  Hmm....

I had been experiencing serious trepidation regarding Margaret's presence in the finish line area on Sunday morning in view of what had happened in Boston six days earlier.  I was not alone, however, in my concerns about security and safety.  While they were not an onerous presence to be sure, there were a number of law enforcement officers (I noted the uniforms of the Piscataway Township, City of New Brunswick and Rutgers University Police Departments as being more prevalent than any others) throughout the 13.1 mile course.  Their presence was especially pronounced in the finish line area.  Margaret apparently reached the finish area twenty to thirty minutes before I did (she is a pie-eyed optimist my wife).  When I met up with her after crossing the line and we had a chance to talk, she raved about the presence of the police and what an excellent job they did of making themselves visible.  She felt better for their involvement.  As did I.  

I have no delusions as to my own intellect.  I would not pretend therefore to know what constitutes "normal".   Nor would I pretend to know if and when we shall be able to span the distance between where we are and whatever and wherever "normal" might be.  I know simply that on Sunday, in the chill of a late April morning in suburban New Jersey, a few thousand people - both runners and the loved ones upon whom we rely for support and for inspiration - did our part to bring it back.  Perhaps we were able to do it for only a little while.  Perhaps the only equilibrium we attained was our own.  It matters not.  What matters is that on that morning and in that place we achieved it.  You may call it a baby step if you like.  I prefer to think of it as the important first step....

....on a journey of a thousand steps. 


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