Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Track & The Long View

old person runningI have a love / hate relationship with the track. I love the soft, predictable surface. I hate the killer headwind on the backstretch ("Carl"). I love never having to pause for stop lights or dodge strollers and dogs on thirty-foot leashes. I hate the monotony of running circles.

One of my favorite things about running at Kezar Stadium, though, is the people watching. To wit:

  • For one of the many high schools that use the track, girls' track practice seems to involve jogging a lap, doing a dynamic warm-up, then sitting on the infield for an hour. Coming from a rather, er, draconian track background, I find this interesting. (Maybe it's just some bizarre kind of PE class? Dunno.)
  • I love the old people that come to jog on the track; although I will invariably cover more distance, those old people are out there jogging when I get there and still out there when I leave.
  • kid runningThe little kids whose parents will occasionally bring them to the track. I watched one little girl (4? 5? 6?) try over and over again to run an entire lap without stopping. Each time she couldn't make it, her mom would say, "Well, try again." On something like try number four she added, "Only maybe don't start out running at your top speed this time." The girl reacted as if her mother had just changed the world of long-distance running forever. The look on her face said, "You know, it's so crazy, it just might work..."
  • Last week a little kid and an old person were at the track at the same time. The little girl pointed out the old lady jogging to her mom. "You know," she said, "I can't decide if that's a girl or a boy." To which her mom replied, "Marie, maybe you could practice not saying everything that pops into your head." I'm pretty sure the girl didn't understand the point her mother was trying to make at all.
  • The endless parade of, um, "personal trainers" and their clueless clients. Who knew you didn't have to actually know what you're talking about to get paid to watch people hurl themselves miserably around the track and them do a million sit-ups & push-ups with shitty form? And how do I get in on this action?
  • All the track teams that work insanely hard. I remember 20 x 200 with 30 seconds rest; for me those workouts are inextricably linked with the smell of the track on a hot day. Every time I see them out there I'm cheering them on in my mind, because I remember how much I needed it when I was them.
  • The day camp groups whose counselors somehow manage to convince a bunch of eight-to-ten year olds that doing hundred meter sprints is the most awesome / entertaining activity imaginable.

track practiceIt kind of reminds me that no matter what we're doing, whether we're running two miles or ten, 100 sprints or lap after lap of steady jogging, training for a marathon or just trying to get around the track once without walking, we're all just out there, doing the best we can, trying to make ourselves a little better than we were when we got there (except for the girls that just sit on the infield....I don't know if they're really any better). It reminds me to take the long view with my running, to think about myself twenty-five years ago, challenging other kids to a lap around the school yard at recess; fifteen years ago, doing whatever I had to not to disappoint my coaches; ten, twenty, thirty years from now, hopefully still blessed enough to be able to run and be my best running self, hopefully able to inspire younger, more serious runners to remember to take the long view.

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