A lion in the sky.
The 11th Annual “In Like A Lion” run went off early this morning, and I made my second appearance in the field.
I got in the car and headed north around 9 p.m., driving with one finger poised over the station-cycling button on the radio, stopping mostly on 1980s-tunes (at least the ones I could stand) and just kind of letting my mind wander.
You ever get those strange tugs of memory and emotion which arrive practically unbidden at the sight of a particular tree or the sound of a certain few chords? I was heading north on Route 8, and it’s obviously after dark and as I passed an intersection and caught sight of a street sign, I was suddenly caught in the brief but strong grip of a weird emotional swirl: nerves and fear and sadness and adrenaline and inspiration – what the hell?
I shut off the radio.
Then I realized: I’m passing the exit for Boston Mills, remembering the morning of the Towpath Marathon, driving up in the dark before sunrise, all jitters. This was mingling, then, with a weird melancholy of I may run other marathons, but none will ever be like that one, becasue it was the first one, and I’m realizing I kind of miss that preparation and anticipation and uncertainty of what it was going to be like and would I be able to finish it?
And then: I freaking DID it. Just down that winding road a ways is a small building that stands next to the spot where the Finish Line was, and I sat next to that building and dumped a pebble from my shoe and felt my legs quivering and aching and I was almost overwhelmed with relief and joy and fighting tears because I had done it and it was over, and even right then I still felt a little sad for that fact.
The whole thing lasted just a minute or two, but was glad for it, given the ups and downs of the past 11 months, and it put me in a good mood for the run to come.
Around 10:30, we’re all gathering at Keith’s house. There are 7 of us running this year, and we’re amazed and surprised at the “race packets” which are bestowed upon us, including this abso-freaking-lutely cool SHIRT – yes, an honest-to-Hal Higdon RUNNING SHIRT complete with time, date, and a freaking Blade Runner font logo. (I have mentioned, right, that this is a totally just-for-fun jog that includes absolutely no pressure in regards to speed or time, and everybody gets a Shamrock Shake at the end? And yet we have AWESOME SHIRTS because Keith and his wife Marcia kick ass.)
The run was a 3.1-miler, out under a low sky with that reflected orange glow that kept it from feeling like midnight. We ran mostly on packed and slushy snow, and there was no wind to speak of, and at one point, kind of In The Zone and on a semi-solo stretch, I got caught up in the moment and took a back plunge, arms outstretched, into an untouched snowbank alongside the path.
“The March wind roars / Like a lion in the sky, / and makes us shiver / As he passes by.”
- author unknown (But it’s printed on the back of our shirts!)