Monday, August 10, 2009

You don't tug on Superman's cape.

Spitting in the wind? Perfectly acceptable on a long run (See: You may think it's funny but it's snot.)

I Am Legend.

In Own Mind, maybe. But really ... how cool is this picture?

(For those of you non-New Yorkers, if you encounter any city street where cars are not allowed to drive and you can actually run down the middle of the road, you've either a) stumbled onto a movie set and are about to encounter Tom Cruise, semi-automatic slung around his chest, sprinting away from a pack of wild rabid dogs chasing him; b) actually survived the End of Days and are now the last person on Earth and might find a pack of wild rabid dogs chasing you; or c) really pissed off a pack of dogs that have broken away from their dog walker and you're frantically running in the middle of the street, screaming like a girl for the nearest building you can duck into.)

In other words, open space simply does not happen in this city.

I channeled my inner Will Smith this weekend as our team enjoyed a closed-off Park Avenue for our Saturday long run. Turns out, this is done for several Saturdays every August in New York City; it's called "Summer Streets." Had I spent any time awake before noon in previous Augusts, I suppose I may have known about it-slash-taken advantage. It's a long stretch closed to cars from Foley Station (way downtown where the courthouses are located), all the way up Park Avenue to 72nd Street and it's a pretty big deal. This year, our TNT team was picked to kick it off, which meant Head Coach Ramon runs through a ribbon and we lead the pack of thousands of eager runners and cyclists anxious to hit the open roads of NYC.

An obviously jubilant Elkin (possibly excited about the rainbow of Gatorade colors on his butt?) and I enjoyed a totally pleasant 13.2 (so important to get in that extra point-two) up and down Park Ave., even though I was a bit weighed down by (as Ramon calls it) a Fuel Belt Buffet. Two waters, two Gatorades, two Gus and two Sports Beans. But to add insult to injury, I also brought along my camera. Yeah, yeah, the whole empty streets thing was cool ... but I really did it because we were supposed to have an honored guest running with us and I thought I would shove my way over to him to snap a picture of us in cute matching running shorts. Mayor Bloomberg was slated to run with us and there was a buzz in the air. I had breezy conversation starters at the ready and imagined myself dispensing advice on the production quality of his current TV ads.

(But I also had several nervous conversations with Mike beforehand where I was convinced I'd get flustered while near the mayor, have a spaz and suddenly grab his privates, only to be taken down by seven dozen beefy security guards. I cannot explain how my mind works.)

Alas, Bloomie never showed. And here I was, wearing my official TNT t-shirt (grudgingly, since I have a serious case of OCD when I run and simply cannot have sleeves) and oh-so-cute matching black TNT headband. But the change of scenery did wonders and Elkin and I agreed that the run went so much faster when we had different sights to take in. I've also noticed that as my runs get longer, I am much more of a smiling idiot afterward. Not because I'm freaking happy but because I'm freaking tired and freaking glad it's over:

But back to our discussion of superheroes. Not that I'm tooting horns here, but I'm beginning to think all TNTers have to have some superhero qualities. I think back to the first time I had ever heard of TNT. Came from my California girls. See, I have this incredible group of beautiful, smart, accomplished, giving and totally well-adjusted girlfriends I have known since my teenage years. We have stayed close and I consider them my best friends and biggest inspiration. They raise children, have successful careers, find time for family and friends ... and then manage to run marathons and compete in triathlons while raising money for LLS. After seeing my friend Kerry do her millionth triathlon for TNT, I felt woefully slacker-ish. After I made the decision to do the Nike, I knew I'd join TNT as well.

Who knew there would be so many do-gooders in this world. And my favorite kind ... do-gooders who drink. This is us at our TNT trivia night (Mike likes to call them ice cream socials) with our head coach, Ramon, who is a total superhero:

And I've shared all my Elkin and Barbara stories ... they're my running superheros who I actually now need on either side of me for practices:

(Oooh, don't we look clean and pretty when we're not in our running clothes?!)

So I join TNT and then I discover another group of superheroes ... all those people who come out of the woodwork to donate money. People I only casually know or haven't seen in years donated, sharing stories of family members and friends who have battled cancer. My entire family came out in full force. So did my very best friends. Walter challenged my goal by calling me a p---y. (sorry, mom!) so I upped it. And he and his wife Kim donated big time. Every time I get an email telling me I had another donation, I nearly weep like a chick at my desk.

But just today, I found those totally worthy of red capes. Mike had mentioned my marathon-slash-TNT training to a coworker who, unbeknownst to me, is a cancer survivor. I received an email of thanks from him - thanks from him! - for raising money for LLS and he shared his own story of survival with me. Word got around to another of Mike's coworkers - also a leukemia survivor. She had hoped to run the Chicago Marathon but recent chemo has prevented that. She also sent me an email of thanks with words of inspiration as I continue my training. They told me that I was doing something great. Me? I don't think so. Running 26 miles is dwarfed by what they have accomplished simply by surviving and being strong enough to share their stories.

I'm not known to be an emotional person but reading their emails brought big, giant tears to my eyes.

Superhero? Doesn't begin to describe them. Raising a little money and pinning a ribbon in their honor on my singlet? The least I can do ... and I know I can do more.

As for me? Just because I ran a half-marathon distance (awwww yeah, kick-ass style!) down the middle of a New York City street doesn't mean I'm ready to throw down on aliens invading Manhattan just yet. My friend Claudette and I spent a great Saturday evening catching up but it was the end of a very long day. In not-so-superhero-ish fashion, I was doing a head-bob into my red wine around 10 and was totally passed out by 11:15.

Hey come on, I hear even Wonder Woman was a big advocate of the nap.

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