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#4063 Calls It Definitely Quits. Maybe
by Allan Appel | Sep 2, 2013 2:11 pm
Posted to: Sports
By all the evidence I could muster—the bibs I’d saved— Labor Day Monday morning’s 36th annual Stratton Faxon New Haven Road Race would be my eighth. And my last.
Or so I thought.
In previous years I had been 3931, 2651, 2802, 3334, 3764, 3313, 3955. Monday I was number 4063. Maybe because I haven’t spent more than a day or two in jail in my life (and those stints were for war protests and civil disobedience), I rather like being given a number and, as it were, running with it.
But knees and other niggling health issues have slowed me down at 66 and going on 67. I don’t get out jogging much during the year. But I always somehow keep going so that I can finish the Labor Day road race.
This year I felt I still could make the three miles. But I’d just been losing, well, enthusiasm for running in general. I had decided to call Monday’s race my last.
I wasn’t sure why; I determined to dedicate this race to find out. Was it still worth it to run now and then throughout the year so I could participate in one race? Was the Labor Day road race so great? Would I miss it, and what aspects?
When you think you are in the midst of a present, which by your resolution is receding even more rapidly into the past than usual, you are in the midst of what the French nicely call a nostalgie pour le present.
If you handle it gingerly, it can be a sweet emotion.
That’s how I ran Monday’s 5K, or jogged, or walked, or dreamed, and talked to others along the way, taking in that which I was soon to leave and wondering what I would miss most.
But first the results for those who were not so afflicted and put in big time effort on a drizzly, runner-unfriendly, humid race morning: More than 6,500 runners took part, many wearing the nifty first-time long-sleeved blue and yellow jerseys.
In the long race, Portland-Oregon based Matt Tagenkamp (pictured) was the men’s winner ...
and Megan Petyton (pictured), from Minneapolis, was the top women’s finisher, winning her first USA 20K title.
In the 5K race, the top male finisher was Christopher Croff in15:45. The woman receiving the laurels Danae Rivers in 18:30.
Back To That Nostalgie ...
When you begin a last go-round of an endeavor, attire is important. Particularly since my knees and colon were being very cooperative, I agonized a long time over which hat to wear: Should it be my New Haven 1638, which I save for special municipally patriotic occasions? Or the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association?
I live along the Q River, and there’s a smallish loyalty there too. Mmmm, both are brownish and do a good job of absorbing the sweat without looking too yucky. ...
Oddly I chose not the cap reserved for red-letter moments, but rather the Q River chapeau. That should have been a first sign.
A second sign: Instead of turning inward to answer my questions, I began chatting with people. And asking, of course, why they ran. Because age was a general context for my so-called ruminations, I gravitated to some, but not all, folks with greyish or even brilliant white hair.
First up and just before the race kicked off at 8:50-ish was #1045, aka Allen Horner. At age 60, this Southington man has no doubts about why he runs and why he will continue and what he gets out of it most. He said he runs for enjoyment. I asked him to drill down a bit for me, as that was my task this day.
His reply: “God’s happy when I take care of myself. I’m a believer in Jesus. He appreciates when I take care of the temple of the holy spirit.”
Whoa! If I got anything near that out of the experience, I wouldn’t be thinking of giving it up. And I certainly would have worn my more important hat.
Security Not An Issue
I went over to chat with the 20K runners as they formed up on the start line Elm and Temple in front of the library. I strolled by the baggage tent, which was being manned by Kevan Regan and half a dozen other volunteers, all workers at Amtrak.
Everyone this year had to check items in see-through bags. It all went smoothly for Nikki Amarone (pictured) and the about 700 others, or about 10 percent of the field, who were using the service.
Amarone, from Wallingford, has been running for only two years. She said she hadn’t given a thought to the Boston Marathon bombing, triggered by a device in a left backpack until an anxious reporter brought it up.
Was I considering stopping at all because of security concerns and just not admitting to being an unpatriotic wimp? No, I didn’t think that had anything to do with my lack of enthusiasm this year.
I looked around. I liked looking at people. The pretty young women, the strong athletic young men, the whole human parade in all its size and shape or lack thereof variety.
Deep Thoughts Don’t Come
I chatted with #6314, Hillhouse High junior Shawn Fletcher (pictured), who runs to get in shape for the indoor track season, and was lining up to be first out of the chute. I realized I had never been in it much for the competition, but just to finish and have a few bragging rights, which, frankly, do get better and better as you get older. I guess I’ll lose those once I stop running the race.
That was something to think about as the stampede began and I tucked my notebook and camera in my pocket and took those first steps. They were, well, pretty grand.
In front of City Hall, after about, well, 100 yards, the crowds cheered. Everyone was looking pretty good. Even me.
At Grove Street, where most of the runners are still able to talk easily, Amy Marx of New Haven Legal Assistance cruised by and said hello. She said at least 15 colleagues were running in the race; her organization is one of the charitable event’s beneficiaries. She gave a thumbs up, also, to the Independent, took a gaze at the multi-colored, multi-shaped throng all about us in a still close herd, and said, “I love New Haven.”
I thought to myself: She has a point. Can you feel as much part of that emotion as a spectator?
Why was I talking to so many people when I had l resolved to delve into my own thoughts on this day? Some people said they experience running or jogging as a form of meditation, where you zone out and you become thought-less in the Buddhist sense. I was doing neither. I was just yapping.
I decided to just shut up for a while.
Then I heard a mother, who asked to be nameless, castigate her little kid who was beginning to lag as he ran beside her: “We paid 90 dollars for those shoes. Use them!”
I stopped to look down at my shoes: They are so old, they have lost their make or their brand, if they ever had any. My running shoes are basically junk. I like them that way, I realized. I certainly have never run to look good, or to dress up, or as an excuse to make the next high-tech, gel-soled purchase. That will not be missed.
At the turn at Lawrence Street, we passed the groups of 20K runners blazing down Whitney in the opposite direction. That’s impressive, I thought, a distance quite beyond me. Maybe that’s another reason to tank the race, I figured. If you can’t get better at something, go longer, swifter, doesn’t that remove motivation? Must I look forward to the 87th race as no longer even a jog, but a slog?
The next runner I caught up with didn’t have that problem. Like Allen Horner, Cynthia Peterson, at 80 years old, was chugging right along with a clarity as to why she runs and will continue to do so.
Peterson lives in Middle Haddam and still teaches astronomy at UConn. She said she began running at age 42, when one of her kids was 9. Now that young man, with his mom as a model, is a marathoner.
“It’s the greatest gift you can give to a child,” Peterson said as moved along to the turn at Linden. She said she wakes up every morning and goes for her morning jog, then comes home “feeling like Wonder Woman.
“At my age,” she said, quoting Woody Allen, “I just have to show up.”
With only a mile to go, I felt my endeavor failing. I vowed to spend the last third of the race trying to have some Deep Thoughts about the matter.
I noticed one little boy jumping in every one of the many puddles along the track. “Puddle on the right, Jordan!” one of his adults called out. “Puddle coming up on the left!” The child splashed right in. Hitting each and every puddle was clearly this young jogger’s motivation.
It occurred to me to step into a puddle and to see what that gesture might do for me. I knew that on the right side of the right shoe my socks were visible at two points. That would not be a solution, or an insight toward one.
A Voice Calls
Then something, well, remarkable, happened. Just before Humphrey Street an anonymous voice called out, “Keep going, 4063!”
That had never happened to me before. True, my wife was loyally waiting for me to finish on the steps of Center Church. Over the years maybe once or twice someone recognized me beneath cap and bib and gear and said hello.
But no complete stranger had ever before called out encouragement to me. To #4063.
I loved it. The anonymity of it. Anonymity of caller and number-bearer, who just happened to be me.
I ran on. No faster. But something was different.
I finished in a time that will not be mentioned. [I stopped many times to chat with folks.] Suffice it to say it was several seconds after Bill Tribou crossed the finish line. At age 92, Tribou (pictured), from Granby, is the perennially oldest runner in the race. He was hardly out of breath at all.
Never mind that in 1943, as a college student, his 4:11 mile ranked 11th in the nation.
I met my wife. We gathered our Chabaso Bakery garlic loaf, and the rest of our healthful free loot—apple, banana, yogurt—and went home.
I wondered: Had I been overly dramatic in declaring this race to be my last? Was I just trying to lower expectations? Or to indulge in some weird psychological calculus whose significance I still know not?
I wondered as well: Was that anonymous voice —“Keep going, 4063”—potent enough for me to hear it on the Sunday before Labor Day next?
No definitive answer was available by press time.
Post a Comment
posted by: Nhv.Org on September 2, 2013 3:16pm
Nice article Allan! I hope you continue to run in the NHRR
If you want to see what it’s like to walk around. you can always watch:
Why no Kenyans?
The way I heard it is that in the 80s the Kenyan running community got wind of the New Haven race and flew in for the purse…basically blew everyone away. Supposedly that dampened domestic enthusiasm for the race so they restricted it to US citizens. Not sure if its true but that’s what I heard.
“The pretty young women, the strong athletic young men”
please stop furthering this gender stereotype.
I must second JuliS’s comment about Mr. Appel’s very sexist statement. I am appalled.
Matt Feiner and Wild Bill Kurtz