I don’t end up spectating at road races very often, and when I do, after a flicker of regret about being on the sidelines, it’s a complete pleasure. At my best, I run 7:45-8:00 minute miles, which means that when I race, I see the fastest runners–their backs–for about 30 seconds. When I’m able to witness what the lead runners are capable of, it’s an education, and deeply moving. At this year’s Mid Winter Classic 10-Miler, in Cape Elizabeth, I spent the morning with my friend Rebecca. We roamed around the high school with my dog, Oliver, until it was gun time.
We decided it would be fun to plant ourselves somewhere on the course. Earlier, on our way to the race, we’d stopped for coffee and donuts, and once we’d pulled over about 2 1/4 miles from the finish line, near the entrance to Crescent Beach, we sat in the car listening to music, telling tales, cracking jokes, and munching donuts with coffee…not a usual race day. After 40 minutes or so, the first runners came into sight. We hooted and cheered and checked out the range of running styles. I only had my iphone but decided to take a few shots.
After seeing the first woman pass, the inspiring Erica Jesseman, we scooted to the finish just as the lead runner was breaking the tape. Dan Vassallo of Massachusetts had held his position from the 8 mile mark.
These runners have a gift for the sport that’s a joy to witness. I’ll never touch their ability or speed, but there is something about the experience that’s available to me. In a few races, I’ve set out at a good pace, and then, at the right point in the course, found my edge and maintained it to the finish, but mostly, I’ve felt the deep pleasure of the daily ritual. Running marks time in the best possible way. It’s funny that I sometimes have to overcome my own resistance against doing something that I love, though it usually only takes a few strides to forget that I wasn’t in the mood.