Starting This Race Is the Real Start of the New Year For Me

That’s a photo of the start of the Manhattan Half-Marathon in Central Park, which, to me, marks the real start of the new year.

On the big day, I get up early, when it’s still dark outside, and my cat is like, yo, what the fuck?

Usually I have to worry about waking up my partner-in-crime. But this year, she’s off living the dream, surfing her way through South America, inspiring me from afar, cresting waves and crashing through the lofty heights of her own high-bar aspirations.

Which is all well and good, but I’ve still got plenty to worry about.

Such as, getting out the door. Which I do, despite not having done what I was planning to do, which was to have all my gear laid out and my food and coffee (fuel) all ready to just be consumed without having to do anything but consume it. Instead, it’s a clusterfuck and I’m half-asleep and rushing around and sure that I am forgetting something important as I head out the door.

Soon, it is confirmed: I forgot my MetroCard. And this is how I respond (cue an overdramatic wailing at the turnstile): “FUCK!”

But really, who the FUCK cares. Why do I let the minor hassles of life get to me? Isn’t that part of the reason why I run? Why I do these races? To find some sense of equanimity. Yes. Yes it is. (But please don’t use the word “equanimity.” It annoys the shit out of me.)

And to hammer it home, because I did get on the subway (I had packed some cash, thank God), I was treated to this as the mostly empty subway car rumbled over the Manhattan Bridge:

Seeing the sunrise, that’s a gift, and it has the unique ability to bestow upon you whatever it is that you need at the moment. Calm. Renewal. Reflection. A very specific memory. Feeling a million miles away, or feeling right at home. A cushion for exhaustion, or the spark to light you up. All of the above. None of the above. Maybe you can’t remember anything but the light streaming over the landscape, and you, in that moment, just took it in.
I like what I thought about this morning. I’m going to keep it for myself. It was just for me.

Alas, the race. The point of all this.

I’ll be honest: It was slightly painful, on account of the cold and how it’s a bit harder to “train” during the early-to-dark days of winter. But it’s a good kind of pain. Because I am allowed to talk to it, to argue with it, to beat it the fuck down. I am old. I am not old. I am at mile 6 and I can’t feel my legs and my back hurts, and what’s the use of even processing the aches and the pains because mile 6 isn’t even the halfway point, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to finish. And that hill, the one on the other end of the park, that cruelly seems to twist and turn never ending — I despise you. But I also love you, because there you are, and here I am, and we are both still winding our way. I, too, twist and turn never ending. I am old. I am not old.

We runners, we finish hard. Race or no, that last stretch, we pick up the pace and take that finish line DOWN, whatever the mark, no ribbon necessary. In the Manhattan Half, the last .1 mile of the 13.1 mile race is uphill. I curse it, but I also treasure it, because it makes crossing the finish line that much sweeter. And damn does it taste good. All of it. Even that terrible bagel they hand out at the end of the race.

Great start to 2015!