There is a running club that gathers at the unnatural hour of 6am on Saturday mornings and runs. There are two groups, one training for a full marathon and those training for the half, because we are only half crazy (old, old joke).
I am not a real dues paying member and I don’t know anybody there. I know I am the slowest one in the half group. I’ve been passed by strollers. It does slam my ego to get passed by runner after runner but I try to remember I’m a walker, one who is slowly transitioning to running. Slowly is my byword.
It’s also my secret identity. No one at work knows I do this walking torture on early Saturdays. I don’t mention it and I don’t worry I’ll be discovered because no one in my department runs. Few if any of my coworkers run, some work out at gyms but not that many. I also don’t worry about being found out because I don’t know any of the running club people. A few I recognize on sight, mostly as they pass me but I’ve never exchanged names or anything personal with anyone. People are focused on their run, no time to chit chat. I’m cool with that.
No one sees me. I am up at 5am, stumbling around in the dark, putting on my shoes in the car (I keep them there because its the only way I’ll ever walk, it’s easy to make excuses if I ‘accidentally’ leave my shoes at home) and drive to some place I’ve never walked before. This is helped by seeing a bunch of people, most very skinny, very fit and very energetic, already there. So I’m not crazy and I’m not alone. There’s usually some announcements about the route and water stops. The first time I did this I was so slow the halfway water stop was already gone. So I take my own bottle of water, looking like a dork but at least I’m a hydrated dork.
No one knows me, I don’t know them either. My dad knows I get up and leave while its still dark and return sometime after the sun comes up but has no idea where I’m going. Most times I’m not so sure myself. But no one else knows what I do, at least not until now. It is, was, my secret. I’m undercover. I don’t look like the serious runners or anyone else out there. I’m old and lumpy, I’m not white ( I’ve seen a few Asian and Black people but so far I’m the only brown one), I wear comfy clothes instead of serious running shorts and tech shirts. And I am slow, I’ve only seen a couple of other walkers but most are faster than me.
Today’s run was on Sunday and I went to Mass on Saturday so I’d be covered. I got up, made to the Catholic high school where the run was scheduled. So even though I missed Mass I was still on familiar ground, so to speak. The marathon runners did 14 miles today, the half marathon runners and I did 7.
There’s something stupendous about seeing the city before it wakes up. It’s like seeing things in a benign way, you are free and safe, there are no cars or people around when the run starts. lt’s almost like being a superhero, in a low-key way. It’s like we’re a bunch of ninjas traveling secretly through the city, no one knows. But as the sun comes us there’s more activity, more people, cars and reminders that we aren’t alone. It is somewhat comforting to see other people, but that spell of secrecy is broken. Yet most of the people walking dogs or riding bikes are friendly. People in cars, that varies.
I like seeing other runners, usually the marathon runners, as they pass me. I even catch up to some of the half marathon people, those who started out fast and passed me may be walking now and that makes my ego feel a little better. It almost makes up for being passed earlier. Even if I’m not as fast as the others it is a reminder than we are still out there, that we made the effort to get up freaking early and that this is worth it.
It will pay off. Eventually.
I also took these pictures along the way. Since I’m by myself and slow as a turtle stampeding through peanut butter my finish time doesn’t matter.