Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'd look awesome in Dri-Fit and puka shells.

So I'm turning 40 in January (audible gasps, I know it's simply unbelievable), which is kind of a big deal in my family.

Call it our really effed up preoccupation with aging (we think birthdays that deserve black balloons are cool, not an excuse for locking yourself in a closet with a bottle of pills), but everyone who has turned 40 has had a blowout party that we all make, no matter where we're located. We all flew to Minnesota for my sister's 40th (props to us for making that trip in January, eh? It's like the frozen freaking tundra. I have never been so cold in all my life.) and we flew home to California for my brother's 40th as my sister-in-law Trish threw him a huge surprise party ... huge as in hundreds of people and a commercial margarita machine. Because every awesome party has a margarita machine.

We do these things big. So 6 months out, Trish has already started bugging Mike about what we're doing for mine. Now by contrast, Mike and I are total last-minute planners. I think I threw together Mike's 40th (I got the 'aging ROCKS!' gene and embarrassed him with a surprise party, complete with Mike masks. He hated every second of it, which thrilled me to no end) in about two weeks. I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying, this is who we are. Trish went on to explain that they are trying to plan a work/family trip to Hawaii in January, so they didn't want a conflict with my birthday.

I gave it about 43 seconds of thought before I Googled "marathon" and "January 16 2011." Imagine my surprise when I found one ... in Hawaii. No joke, the Maui Paradise Marathon, held on my 40th birthday. Could it be that we could get the whole family together in tropical paradise for the big 4-0? Upon reading through the website, however, there was this small note:


June 30, 2010, Aloha! While conditions are improving on Maui, unfortunately they are still not conducive to putting on a world class marathon, half marathon, and 5K events for Sunday, January 16, 2011. Runners and participants deserve the best when coming to Maui. Unless the MPM team can guarantee that to its participants, they will not hold the event as much as they would like to do that for all of you who want to come to Maui to run/walk and combine it with a first class vacation. Therefore, the January 16, 2011 event will not be held on a formal basis.


What?! Not held?! Do you know what January 16th is?! Okay, call me dense, but I refused to believe that a few potholes would delay an entire marathon on my birthday. Don't they know who I am?

I emailed the head of the MPM, who promptly responded with an "Aloha, Cindy!" (Let me just say here that I want to live in a place where you have an alternative to "hello." Yes, one could make the argument that "Hey, asshole! Move your truck!" is the official greeting of New York City. But if you're looking for warm and fuzzy with a hint of exotic, Hawaii's version of "hello" is for you. And if you say "hello" back, they know you're not from there. Love that!)

Anyway, he tells me that yes, they've decided to hold off on an "official" MPM. But behold the rest of his email:


Aloha Cindy. Sorry for the delay in responding but we were doing some things that might have an effect for January but nothing happened to change it. There will be no formal event at this point. However, we are going to start gathering names of those who might want to do a group type run, informal if you will. Means you would need to carry your own supplies, no cops, none of the things with a formal race. However, if we get enough to do it, I will see about getting finisher's shirts and medals and then have a low fee to cover those items. Couple other things could go along with it but in effect, it would be very low keyed.

We can always do a special birthday party run for you and your family! We have the course laid out so you could easily enough do it. I fully understand why you would want to do something like that seeing how it also is a new age group! For us runners, those are the only birthdays to celebrate.


He then signed off with a "mahalo" for my interest. (I might start using "mahalo" in grocery stores and banks. Do you think people in Manhattan would think me odd? Or perhaps just recently returned from the islands and not yet grasping being stateside again?)

Even though it seemed improbable that there would be an island marathon for me to run on my 40th birthday, I couldn't get over how touched I was that a running club on the other side of the Earth was willing to basically throw something together for me. Okay, so it wasn't just for me ... and yes, they would dig having a bunch of tourists on their island spending money ... but it all goes back to this weird runner's kinship that I've often tried to describe.

My favorite story since beginning this odyssey is still when Mike gave up his shoes to the runner at the Queens Half Marathon last year. (And if you don't know the story, read it here. You won't be disappointed.) Although Mike isn't a runner, he gave them up without thinking twice. But what I might love more is that the dude who asked for them - thought nothing of doing so, assuming that everyone at the race that day was of like mind.

I'm reminded of my friend Erin. She's a high school friend and in my group of girls who have managed to stay close all these years despite careers, husbands, children, diverging interests and miles in between.

On paper, Erin and I couldn't be more different. Her politics are conservative and she's a Sarah Palin fan; I studied at Berkeley and think Bill Clinton was the Second Coming. She's heavily involved in her church community; I'm a "twice a year"-er whose church prayers usually begin with, "crap, God ... sorry it's been so long." I drink and swear like a sailor; the hardest thing I've seen her drink was an ice tea with a shot of Splenda. Although we've known each other for over 20 years, sometimes I imagine I appear to her as strange rebellious teen.

But our common ground is running. Erin is an avid runner and has finished - and finished well - many marathons. Here she is during the San Francisco Marathon this past weekend. Oh, and she did it as a training run. Show off.

Erin is currently training for New York in November. When she got in through the lottery, I was as happy as if I had gotten in myself. She got in, along with a girlfriend, and they would be travelling cross-country to run one of the greatest marathons in the world. Would Mike and I be able to house a couple of runners come the first weekend in November? Of course, I replied. There were disclaimers: there will be an airbed involved, and most certainly a shihtzu staring at your face every morning, but if you can handle it, then mi apartamento es su apartamento. This is what runners do.

Our pasts are the reason we met - and our presents are diametrically opposed - yet going forward, I'm happy to have someone else in my life who understands the native tongue. We both speak the international language of "Holy crap, where's the stupid finish line already?!"

Mahalo for reading.


  1. I am so keeping my fingers crossed for your hawaii birthday marathon! That would be the most amazing thing. Ever.

    And it's so true...runners do have a secret language. And a secret handshake. And a bond that involves mass amounts of Gu gels and disgusting blistered feet and lots of sweat. It's awesome.

  2. Only someone who has experienced those last 6 miles can truly understand. We hate every second of that last hour or so, yet rejoice at the finish and immediately start worrying about what we'll do next.

    Cindy, you are a rock star! I love reading about your running adventure!

  3. thanks for being an inspiration, ek!

    and thanks, joanne ... i hope HI happens, too. if i'm gonna hafta turn 40, may as well do it there.