Sunday, March 14, 2010

Next thing we need is a secret handshake.

When I was growing up my dad collected Corvettes. A beautiful '68 convertible; a brand-new silver '81; a slick black '87. Sometimes it was less "collected" and more "drove for a certain time until he was tired of it or it got repossessed." Either way, for as long as I can remember, he owned one, sometimes two. He really appreciated everything about the 'Vette - the body, the horsepower, the status of owning one. And it seemed he was part of this special club of Corvette owners. The people who - upon passing each other on the road, in the parking lot, wherever - would wave to each other. Not so much a wave as a simple raising of one hand, akin to a tip of a hat or a simple nod. Like "I got you - nice ride." We mercilessly mocked my dad for this, but maybe deep down we were all a bit jealous that he shared a kinship with others for something he loved so much.

I did the wave the other day. With another runner. And I kind of get it now.

I was in LA last week for work. Near the beach, and a runner's paradise. Each morning I would spring out of my hotel bed as the sun came up, so pleased to finally run outside. I logged quite a few miles while there, only because each new stretch of pavement brought something more awesome than the previous one and I was anxious to keep pushing the sunny envelope.

Yeah, I ran that. It's called The Strand - a 22-mile stretch of beachfront pathways along the coast. Nope, didn't get close to 22 miles - I stayed on one segment of it that, roundtrip, was about 8 miles. I can't begin to describe the feeling of running when you are smiling inside and out. Enjoying every second of the clean ocean breeze. I even ditched the Ipod and found that I really dig the sound of my Vomeros on sandy concrete.

Egads I need a tan.

Oh, calm down, Manhattan Beach. Cindy gets nowhere near 8MPH unless she is being forced by Lynne The Trainer to do sprints.

I haven't taken one of these in a while ... Happy Running Cindy!

When you're running in New York, you don't really acknowledge other runners you pass. Exception to rule: running CP before it's completely light outside and when you're on a lonely stretch and see another person, you look them in the eye and mouth a "hi" so you can hope you've discouraged them from clubbing you over the head and dragging you into the bushes, now that they know you can positively ID them in a police lineup. (Please excuse the incorrect use of the pronoun "them" but I didn't want to implicate an entire gender in that scenario. Ahem, him.)

So it's not a chatty city by nature. And I'm always thrown off my axis a bit when running elsewhere. Case in point: when I was in California for the holidays I ran a beautiful 11 miles with my good friend Erin. I sometimes forget that I come from a very picturesque area, complete with farmland, green hills, dusty back roads and wineries. Erin, however, always appreciates these things, and whenever she can steal some time from her busy home of three sons, she hits the roads. During our winding jaunt on a gorgeous December morning, we passed dozens of people also appreciating the scenery. People walking, taking dogs or kids for a stroll, other runners. And to every single person who passed, Erin gave them a cheery "good morning!" Most of the time, the people passing beat her to it and greeted us first. The first few times this happened it totally freaked me out. I'm fairly certain I glanced over my shoulder each time we passed to make sure the person wasn't double-backing toward us to drag us into a remote field. Eventually, however, I enjoyed feeling like we were all taking in the day together.

So when I ran the beach last week al fresco (also known as no Ipod), it gave me an opportunity to listen to snatches of conversation as I passed people walking or running the same path. A pattern emerged: everyone was really happy. So it was no surprise that as I got to more isolated stretches, people smiled at me or raised a hand to wave hello. And I found myself doing the same thing back.

It made the run about a thousand times more pleasant and I was suddenly sad that my tough city encourages people to be closed off to their own little world.

On my last run before heading back to New York, I settled on a nice stretch from my hotel and around the marina, emptying out on the water and curving over to Venice Beach.

For the first couple of miles, it's somewhat residential and there's some traffic, which means there are few pedestrians and almost no runners. But as I turned a corner and hit a long stretch to the water, I spotted a runner. And he was a real runner. Wrap around shades. Check. Garmin strapped on wrist. Check. Little tiny Dolphin shorts that showed a little too much leg. Check, and eeeeu. But as he passed me, both of us with earphones planted, he gave me a slight raise of the hand: the runner's salute. I instinctively threw it back and in an instant, it was over: we were past one another and headed in opposite directions. But for like 3 seconds, we shared a connection that only someone out for the love of feet hitting pavement can understand.

Two minutes later a car pulling out of a driveway nearly plowed into me and I threw not only my hands on the hood a la Al Pacino, but a couple of f-bombs, including something about "crazy woman driver."

Oh well. You can take the girl out of New York City ...


And one last note ...

I'm announcing my big news on the 2010 marathon front: I'm registered to run a new city! October 10, 2010, I will be running (drum roll, please) ....


And I'm very excited about it. Not only do I love this city, but the marathon has a reputation for being flat and fast. Perhaps I'm stacking the deck a tad, being that I am looking for a major PR this year. But the course looks incredible - it snakes through most of the city's neighborhoods and is supposed to have great crowd support. (Hey! Andrew and Leslie! Make your signs early!)

Being the midwest, however, weather can go either way and I believe like 150 runners died when the city had an unexpected heat wave a few years back. Okay I made that statistic up.

Chicago 2010 here I come!

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