Feet on the Street

Photo shows teal blue sneakers with criss crossing orange lacesIdeas pop into my head and if I don’t nurture them they evaporate. An idea that seems really great initially can fall apart without the needed follow thru. Whether it’s intentional or an oversight, ideas will always be coming and going in this mind. It’s all about sorting through the noise and deciding which ones remain promising.

My friend Greg happened to tell me his nephew was running in our hometown’s 5K. Stockton and I could visit my parents that weekend, so I agreed to support from the sidelines maybe with some silly signs if I could scramble up a sheet of poster board. I cheer on healthy lifestyles.

As race day neared, another idea occurred to me as I skimmed the race webpage. It’s the kind of event you can compete in or take less seriously and dress in a costume while completing the course. This year’s theme was the 80s. Many of the girlfriends I grew up with live near my hometown. Some of them ran cross country or track like me in high school, others jog recreationally. Hmmm. Half of my life has passed since I graduated from high school and it’s been plenty of years since I ran a 5K, but I found myself sitting at my desktop drafting a mass email to my girlfriends.

Sent.

As replies trickled in, excitement grew. Many friends were busy, but a few were interested in doing the 5k, too. Stockton agreed to run with me as well. I was curious how it would feel to go fast over a relatively flat surface again. I’ve hiked and biked and swam with vision loss, but not really run. Not only had I not done a 5K in years, I haven’t gone faster by foot than a charity walk with these eyes. If I’m honest, I never ran to run, I ran because I liked spending time with my teammates and staying fit. The desire to run left me for activities like yoga well before my retinas acted out.

Blindness doesn’t stop people from running. A few of my newer friends living with vision loss compete in running events. My friends Becky and Kathy completed marathons. Some people use a tether line that you hold between a sighted guide runner and the runner with vision loss and with communication you can easily do a race. Sometimes people wear shirts emblazoned with things like BLIND RUNNER to encourage others on the course to vocalize position. In my hometown 5K, if I signed up, I figured with an aware friend by my side it would be enough. Plus of course sunlight minimizers, my sunglasses.

As I thought about 80s costumes, I went on a google deep dive. I came across a particular death metal band. It’s not really my type of music but that’s okay. Once I was assured the German group was not affiliated with neo-nazis, I felt comfortable wearing a vintage t-shirt from the band called Blind Guardian. I searched for some shirts, but I couldn’t find any good ones to order in time. A missed opportunity. I registered for the 5K anyway.

The morning of the race, Greg texted with some advice:

Stretch and drink water. U R old.

He had a point. I dug out running shorts and a college shirt with a throwback logo and legit flare from my elementary school jean jacket. And I drank water. My friends arrived at the busy staging area decked out in neon and leg warmers and sweatbands and the like. The sun was shining as a race organizer called us in for a group photo. The crowd contained a mix of serious runners and costumed participants. A friend I grew up with who runs regularly was hoping to place with the top finishers. Meanwhile a Madonna and a spry Richard Simmons made appearances. It was a hip crowd.

Lined up with the other participants, my heart beat quick with anticipation. How would it feel to run–well, actually jog–again in a group? I chewed my lip-balmed bottom lip and shifted my weight from my left foot to my right. The race started and we inched forward. A gap opened and I found an easy pace and chatted as we passed familiar houses and turned familiar corners from my childhood. My sneakers made a familiar thump on the pavement. I didn’t feel out of place. I’ve been here before.

Stockton teases me about not walking in a straight line. I wasn’t sure if I would maintain a straight enough line as we jogged along, but it turns out it’s no problem when your friend Beth is wearing a handmade pink tutu. That gauzy layer is like a tulle warning track preventing collision. As distance accrued, participants wearing neon shirts were beacons of contrast to follow. I’m sure there were spectators and even fellow participants that I knew, but with these eyes I’m not going to get that kind of detail. I hear general cheering and feel the lively energy of the crowds lining the streets. I enjoyed the feeling of my body moving through my effort, spending meaningful time with friends and Stockton.

At one point the course doubles back on itself. We heard the race cart approaching and the leaders sped by including the friend I grew up with. They closed in on Mile Two, we neared Mile One. Greg’s nephew was somewhere in between, on his way to placing second in his age group. We rounded another corner. The neatly uniformed Boy Scouts worked the water break area, lined up with arms extended and ready to serve. I said thanks as I accepted an offered cup of cool liquid. Ahh.

Later, Stockton saw my dad in the crowd and grabbed Tilly for a trot. He sprinted ahead with her for the last mile or so while my friends and I continued jogging. Spectators in lawnchairs clapped or hollered encouragement and rang cowbells. I rolled my shoulders back and took another deep breath. Not much distance left to go. Beth led us home by telling Siri to play Madonna’s Like a Prayer. I sang along. We crossed the finish line smiling. Turns out, the 5K was a great idea.

Anyone want to join me next year?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Casee says:

    You write such descriptive posts. I feel like I was there! I’m glad you had a good time. I like to watch runners, but even when I was younger, I didn’t have the feet, knees or stamina for it. You go girl! 🙂

  2. floweringink says:

    I love this – you inspire me!!!!! So glad you did it and had a blast!

    1. It was so much fun. Thanks!

  3. Susan, this is one of your best. I’m glad to see you included Stockton and Tilly!

    1. Thanks, Bridget! I think people cheered louder for the terrier than any runners or walkers ha!

  4. albert says:

    Great description! I was with you all the way. (I was about to add that I’m too old to run, but your spirit reminded me to leave that attitude behind.)

    1. Nothing wrong with walking in my book.

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