Ride of Silence

I seem to have one of the few adult tricycles in Columbus.  Elsewhere, they are not so unusual.  (A friend who has traveled and taught all over the world said she often saw them in The Netherlands and in Israel, especially in the bigger cities.)  Despite that, I hauled myself and the three wheels of my Schwinn Meridian to City Hall two weeks ago to take part in the annual Ride of Silence, which honors bicyclists injured or killed in accidents with cars.

The ride launched from the east side of City Hall, sent off to the sound of “Amazing Grace,” on bagpipes, after reading the names of bicyclists who died or suffered major injuries when riding with cars.  (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) always comes to my mind whenever I hear “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes–it’s like hearing the “William Tell Overture” and thinking of the Lone Ranger.)

This is something that could only happen to me: In a ride dedicated to bicycle safety, I had my first accident.  I had not gone far in the ride, when I took my hands off the handlebar to aim the camera on my phone.  The handlebars and front wheel made a 45-degree turn, and the trike tipped over.  I spilled out of the saddle and landed hard on my right knee.

The only real casualty was my pride, except that my right knee still has a bad bruise.  The first few days, I could not bend the knee without pain, which made climbing stairs an ordeal.  Standing up and taking the first few steps caused pain, but I was able to walk once I cleared that hurdle–although I logged “only” seven or eight miles those days.

This is the perfect time to promote the fine work of Paradise Garage at 921 N. High St.  I adhered to the adage that when the horse throws you, get right back on.  Unfortunately, the trike handled very sluggishly, and it took all my energy just to pedal it a short distance.  With much effort, I managed to get to the Short North (the ride was long gone by then), and to Paradise Garage.  They realigned the trike, inflated the tires, and straightened out a bent fender, and it rode smoothly afterwards.  Their work was so swift and efficient, and reasonably priced, that I was able to jump back into the Ride of Silence as it came south on High St.

August Critical Mass

Another biking event, the Critical Mass Ride, prepares to launch from the west side of the State House.  (No pictures of the Ride of Silence, since I wiped out so early!)

This was not my first cycle accident.  I did not learn to ride a bike until I was 17, and on one of my first trips out on my own, I was riding on the sidewalk and hit my neighbor’s front steps.  This sent me over the handlebars and into a rose bush.  I tore my clothes and had various scratches from thorns, but I was too grateful I didn’t injure my eyes to dwell on my pain.

There will come a time, I am sure, that bicycles and other human-propelled vehicles, will be much more common on city streets.  They may even become more the rule than the exception.  I am not sure whether that will mean increased, or decreased, fatalities and injuries.  More bikes on the road increases the likelihood of more accidents, but if drivers–especially the conscientious ones–are more aware that they are sharing the road, it will be safer all around.

Both sides need to respect the power of the automobile.  A car outweighs a bicycle by about three tons, and can accelerate much more quickly, and travel at a greater velocity, than a bike.  A driver should not be behind a wheel when fueled by anger, booze, narcotics, or ego.  Bicyclists should never forget this, and “drive defensively” is a mantra a bicyclist should heed even more than someone driving a car.  (I always heard that defensive driving means assuming everyone else on the road is drunk.)

Unfortunately, at next year’s Ride of Silence, there will be new names.

From Corral G to CMH

Bay to Breakers is well known and respected in the world of competitive runners, and either a joy or a curse for people who live in San Francisco.  On a national level, though, not many people seem to know about it.  I took an uncharacteristic look at the Sports page of The Columbus Dispatch‘s Monday edition, and there was no mention of it, not even a one- or two-paragraph mention.

I waited in Corral G for the air horn signaling that it was time to take off.  Corral G the corral for walkers, and it’s the penultimate corral–the last one is Corral H, which is reserved for families.  Now that I’m a veteran of two Bay to Breakers race, and one Capital City Half Marathon, I am beginning to see that walkers are pretty much second-class citizens in the world of competitive running.  This is most evident in the media coverage.  I DVR’d WBNS’ coverage of the Half Marathon, and sure enough, they pretty much closed up shop after runners began crossing the finish line.  Reporters were stationed at various points along the 13.1 miles, but they were long gone before we were anywhere close.  (To their credit, volunteers along the route did stay to root for us, and to give us cups of water and Gatorade.)

At Bay to Breakers, from my perch embedded in Coral G, I could see that the serious racers–as well as the ones who were there for the Mardi Gras and party aspect–seemed to think of the walkers as the tagalong younger siblings who’d go away if you’d give them a quarter.

I know that the walkers can’t be released with the other runners, especially the seeded runners and Corral A, but it was a good 45 minutes before they moved Corral G up to the line, by which time runners were already crossing the finish line at the Great Highway.  (Isaac Mukundi of Grand Prairie, Tex., won with a time of 35:23.)  This year was better than last year, when we waited at least an hour before we were able to start pounding asphalt.  That meant that we were still standing there with people through tortillas at us while the runners were already finished.

My overall time was 2:34:20, which was an improvement of 10 minutes from last year.  I was in no pain when I was finished.  Indeed, according to my Fitbit, I accumulated a total of 21 miles of walking the entire day, beginning with my walk down to the Embarcadero in the morning, and my walk back from the Great Highway.  I averaged about a 21-minute mile, but I did much better on the Hayes Hill Challenge than I expected.  The hill has an 11% grade, and I scaled it in 12:49.61, not an easy task because many of my fellow walkers were dodging and weaving the drunks around the house parties.

The after-party was still full of energy, unlike last year’s in The Panhandle, where it had pretty much lost its momentum by the time the walkers had made it back.  The party concentrated this year around Mile 4, on either side of John F. Kennedy St. in Golden Gate Park, and featured a much broader area than The Panhandle, so people could relax, hang out, and have fun.

I had the sense to walk back to North Beach–a long walk, even if you haven’t already walked 7½ miles and then some–by another route than Russian Hill.  Hayes Hill has a steep grade, but the 27% grade of Russian Hill is much worse, especially when going down, where you’re fighting gravity the whole way to keep your legs from collapsing.

When Bay to Breakers posts the results on the Website, they should specify walkers versus runners.  Comparing a walker’s pace to a runner’s makes the walker look like a complete invalid.

Bay to Breakers specifies a walker’s corral, whereas the Capital City Half Marathon application asks your estimated finish time.  I decided to err on the side of caution and say four hours.  I think they should specify walkers’ corrals.  (I surprised myself by finishing in 3:23:51.)

The trip home was uneventful, which was great, since departure could have been disastrous.  I rode to the airport in the Supershuttle, with a driver who drove with recklessness that surpassed Steve McQueen’s in Bullitt (1968), where the chase scene took place in Russian Hill.  While on the ride, I realized my Fitbit was not on my wrist.  I went through my phone and found a picture of me in the Green Tortoise’s lobby just before I left–I was wearing it in that shot.  I was about to phone the hostel to ask them to mail it to me if they found it, but when I opened the door to the shuttle at Southwest’s drop-off point, I found the Fitbit on the floor.

After booking my suitcase, I went to my wallet and could not find my debit card.  I was about to call the Telhio Credit Union when I had the sense to look in another part of my wallet–there it was, in a different pocket than where I usually keep it.

As Commander William Riker says, “Fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.”

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A scene repeated with each gate.  Impatient runners wait for the air horn and the splitting of the tape.

 

Race Eve

This evening, there has been a No Wi-Fi Pre-Party Hour here at the Green Tortoise, before many (if not most) of the guests here tumble out for a pub crawl.  So, I’m doing teetotaler things, like writing in my blog and letting my dinner from Tony’s Cable Car Restaurant settle.  Probably having such a heavy meal on the eve of Bay to Breakers wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done–I’m just hoping it won’t come back and haunt me while I’m hitting the bricks tomorrow.

There are memes all over Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr about how you should stay in touch with people, let them know you love them, etc., because you can’t take for granted that you’ll get another chance to do it.  It’s very trite, and its endless repetition has made me dread seeing it in my newsfeed, but I have learned during this journey that, like many a cliché, there is more than a grain of truth to it.

I spent the afternoon with my friend Gerry Nicosia, author of the definitive Kerouac biography Memory Babe, in Berkeley this afternoon.  Before coming out West, I suggested to him that we try to meet up with Richard Castile, who lived in a retirement home in Mill Valley.  (I had known Dick since 1979, mostly as a pen pal.  He was an advisor to Bay Area youth in Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the Unitarian Universalist youth organization that was the focus of my adolescence and early adulthood.  We met at General Assembly 1980, which was in Albuquerque, N.M.  Gerry gave a poetry reading at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco, where Dick was a member, and they learned that they had me in common.

Dick and I lost touch when he moved to Stockton to live with his son’s family, and I lost the address.  Gerry had offhandedly mentioned that Dick had moved back to Mill Valley, so I suggested that the three of us try and get together.

Gerry’s voice mail this morning brought news that I did not want to hear–Dick died three months ago, aged 84.  I doubly kicked myself because I learned last year, when I was in the Bay Area for Bay to Breakers, that Dick had moved back to Mill Valley.  Gerry suggested we visit him, but I didn’t feel right about just showing up uninvited.

Dick taught high school history in the San Francisco schools, but he had a year-long hospitalization after being marooned in Donner Summit during a blizzard.  This meant he had to retire from teaching, after many extensive surgeries and therapies.  He always seemed frail to me, but his energy was boundless.  Besides being an advisor to LRYers, he was very active in the Unitarian church in San Francisco, and served on the Board of Directors for the World Affairs Council of Northern California.  He mentored generations of students, and, despite never marrying, adopted a teenage son.

The last time I saw him was when Steph and I visited San Francisco for our honeymoon.  We had a long meal at a restaurant at Giardelli Square, and Steph was fascinated by him and his many travels.

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Gerry and I had a good lunch in Berkeley, and we tried to find parking places and navigate the chaos around the U.C. Berkeley campus–on graduation day!  That meant we had to cut our time at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave. much too abbreviated.  He marveled at how much walking I have been doing, both in San Francisco and in Ohio–I’ve filled him in by letter about my extensive walking in Columbus and my walks to Athens.  He said it looks like it has been getting me in shape.

I’ve asked myself if this devotion to walking–for longer distances, trying for shorter durations–has meant that I have become what I never wanted to be: an athlete.

I have written in prior entries about my lack of athletic prowess, and how I have never had any interest in any sports at any level.  For a long time, it was impossible for me to grasp that my peers were doing athletic activities voluntarily.  (I remember one Saturday morning when I was about 11, and a friend and I were hanging around the playground of Washington School, the elementary school I intermittently attended, and I saw guys, some of whom I knew, walking into the gym.  There was some kind of basketball clinic that morning.  They were going to something like a phys. ed. class without having to?)

One of the few things my parents did right was not to force me into trying out for athletics.  I saw a lot of my friends who did tee-ball and Little League, but I never considered participating.  As I grow older, I often wonder how many children were forced, and how many did it without really wanting to so they could please their parents.

When I go to my Friday night yoga session in Worthington, I have a 20-minute walk from the bus stop to where the class takes place.  My walk takes me past a park where I have seen boys as young as 10 or 11 playing and practicing lacrosse.  I usually associate that with fraternity guys, the Ivy League, and excessive drinking and violent partying, so I found it unusual that kids that young would be playing it.

At one job I had, a woman who worked there proudly wore a pin all summer.  The pin was large, and it featured a color picture of her son, who was probably about nine, in a baseball uniform.  Two things jumped out at me at once: One was that the bat almost looked bigger than he was, since he was a small and rather scrawny kid.  The other was the expression on his face.  He was not smiling, and he looked like he really didn’t want to be there.

Walking will probably be the extent of my athletic prowess, and many people have complimented and marveled at my speed and my stamina.  And I have begun seeking out events such as the Half Marathon just so I can pay money  to walk a distance I have walked many times for free–and without as many people.  (Bay to Breakers’ allure is all the craziness and an excuse to go to San Francisco, as much as the walk itself.  After 5½ years of living in Cincinnati, hills aren’t a novelty to me, and Hayes Hill is an incline that I think will be easier this year, since yoga has improved my lung capacity.)

So, if I’m paying to walk, and have started to accumulate bibs, T-shirts, and medals, maybe I have ventured into that unknown territory I have never sought to explore.

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Here is a picture I took last year.

 

Bozos on This Bus

I never developed any enthusiasm for The Firesign Theatre, but quite often I have invoked the title of their fourth album, I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus.  I think it quite often when I ride COTA in Columbus, and the title was ringing in my head as I was travelling across country this week to San Francisco.

I am typing this in the ballroom of the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco’s North Beach.  The time is just before 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time, and I arrived here in the city by the bay just before 7 a.m. today.  I’m early arriving at the hostel, so I had breakfast, and I’m blogging here while waiting for my room and my key to be available.

Last year, I came out here for Bay to Breakers, the 7½-mile footrace from The Embarcadero to the Great Highway, run annually since 1912.  I had such a blast that I decided that I will make this an annual event.  (Last year was even more unique in that I flew out here, and then took a bus trip to Titusville, Fla. so I could be in Brevard County to see Susie graduate from high school.)

I am a long-time veteran of Greyhound travel, and I think that if they had anything analogous to frequent-flyer miles, I’d never have to pay for it again.  This trip was no exception–when I announced my plans to friends, jaws dropped over, heads shook, they made the latest of many doubts about my mental stability.

The trip began Tuesday night at 11:20 from the Greyhound station in Columbus, and ended this morning at the station on Folsom St. here in San Francisco.  I changed buses in Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

The bozos on the bus came to the surface as we were crossing Kansas.  The trip from Columbus to Kansas City was uneventful.  I was disappointed that it was too foggy in St. Louis for me to see my beloved Gateway Arch, especially since its other name, the Gateway to the West, would be especially appropriate.

Once we crossed into the Sunflower State, that was when things began to be… noteworthy.  I have crossed Kansas before, but I was totally in awe of the section I saw, so atypical of the prairie, very high skies, and desolation I had experienced in previous journeys, and what usually comes to mind when someone says “Kansas.”  (On the other hand, having grown up in the Allegheny Plateau in Southeast Ohio, I wondered why so many people think Ohio is flat.)  The area was hilly, and rich with vegetation.  I texted my friend John in Madison, Wisc., who has traveled with me many times by bus and by thumb, and who was Google Maps before there was such a thing.  Totally taken aback, I texted him: Leaving Junction City.  Can’t remember Kansas being this hilly and un-prairielike.  He told me I was in the Flint Hills region of eastern Kansas, known for its cattle ranching, and an area quite unlike the rest of the Kansas grasslands.  (I have not read William Least Heat-Moon, but I understand he wrote quite extensively about the region in PrairyErth.)

My awe about this soon took a back seat to the wildlife riding with me.  There was a kid of about 19 on the bus with his girlfriend, and dressed like some of the white gangsta wannabes I saw when we lived in Franklinton–baseball cap turned sideways, the nightgown-sized T-shirt, the pants tailored for clowns, and a skateboard.  He went back into the bathroom, and after about a minute we could all smell cigarette smoke.  (Smoking has been 100% forbidden on buses for at least a decade, although I remember when it was permitted in the last three rows of the bus, although they did not allow cigars or pipes.)  The driver wasted no time in pulling over, and telling the kid he would be getting off at the next exit, which happened to be Enterprise (pop. 855).  The kid tried, in vain, to stay on the bus, but the driver would not budge.  He pulled over the bus, and I saw the kid hop onto his skateboard and roll away, leaving his girlfriend whimpering in the seat they had shared.  (The postscript to this story is that he managed to hitch a ride almost immediately, and reached Denver ahead of us, where he met his girlfriend when we arrived.  Commander William Riker has said that “fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise,” and I guess this proves that.)

There was a food and rest stop in Salina, and a woman on the bus apparently did not learn from the lesson of the smoker who could not wait 30 to 45 minutes for the rest stop.  A new driver took the wheel at Salina, and the woman–who had boarded at Pittsburgh and was riding all the way to Riverside, Calif.–was so bold (or stupid) as to roll a blunt right in front of the new driver, while the driver was reviewing all the logs and paperwork before getting behind the wheel.  So, we were minus another passenger when we pulled out of Salina and headed westward.

We were an hour late getting into Denver, and I worried that this would throw off the rest of my schedule, but I worried for no reason.  The new bus managed to make it to Las Vegas on time, and I surprised myself after dawn by spending my time with my nose against the window, totally awed by the rock formations, plant life, and high canyon walls that flanked I-70 at that point.  (My first trip across the semi-arid land in New Mexico in 1980 put to rest my pre-conceived notion that the desert was just one huge sandbox, but I was not ready for what I saw as I crossed southern Utah.)  I took many pictures, and posted them to Facebook in real time.  Friends in St. George and Salt Lake City told me that this was part of the allure of living there.

Las Vegas was every bit as dismal as I expected.  When the first thing you see is a man in an underpass, wrapped in a filthy sleeping bag like a mummy, you understand the nickname “Lost Wages.”  Even the hotels and casinos I passed had a sad look about them.  (I’m not enough of a New Ager to say they exuded bad vibes or had a negative aura, but they broadcast “Stay away!” to me.)  During his four years of self-imposed exile in the penthouse of the Desert Inn, Howard Hughes wrote in a memo to Robert Maheu, his majordomo and chief cook and bottle-washer, “I like to think of Las Vegas in terms of a well-dressed man in a dinner jacket and a beautifully jeweled and furred female getting out of an expensive car.”  No question he never ventured outside his penthouse when he thought that, and managed to turn the city into his own personal Monopoly board.

I did not gamble in Las Vegas, because within 20 minutes of my arrival, I was in line for the bus to Los Angeles, and I was blessed with my own seat all the way to Anaheim.  We made stops in Barstow (which made me recall the opening lines of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which may be the “Call me Ishmael” of 20th-century American literature) and in San Bernardino (which I heard a woman on the bus call “San Bernaghetto”), and I fell in love with Riverside, especially its theaters, churches, restaurants, and clubs as our bus moved down Mission Inn Ave.  I want to come back and explore it more some day.

Going from Anaheim to L.A. drove home the point that Southern California is no place for a non-driver.  Even after 10 p.m. on a weeknight, the 91 Freeway was moving slower than a funeral procession, with vehicles very close together moving a few feet, stopping for several minutes, and moving again.  I thought at first there was an accident or an event getting out, but it seems to be typical for the Los Angeles area regardless of the time of day.

I slept most of the way up I-5 from L.A. to about Livermore, except for some parfait at a rest stop in Avenal.  I watched out the window more than I read for most of the trip, because the trip left I-70 at Beaver, Utah and took I-15 all the way to Los Angeles, which was unfamiliar terrain to me.

Arriving here in San Francisco just after 7 a.m., I immediately walked up to the Green Tortoise here in North Beach, happy to be walking again after sitting almost non-stop since Tuesday night.  There will be much more to blog about between now and my flight out of San Francisco on Monday afternoon, so stay tuned.

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Your celebrity blogger, Green Tortoise Hostel, North Beach, San Francisco

 

Hitting the Streets

My 53rd birthday was Friday, and I honored it by venturing into unfamiliar terrain for me.  Before heading to work on Friday, I actually set my DVR to record a sporting event–probably the first and last time this will happen.  I set it to record WBNS’ coverage of the Capital City Half Marathon on Saturday morning.

Why?

Because I was one of the people participating in this event.  It has been a springtime event here in Columbus since 2004, and I had never acknowledged its existence, except to curse it while it delayed and rerouted buses well into the afternoon.  I have been walking more and more in the last two years, often doing it during the early afternoon on weekdays in lieu of eating lunch, and since the weather is mostly better (although, this being Ohio, it is quite erratic at times), I’ve been walking more than I have been riding the bus.

One of the reasons I signed up for the Half Marathon was to mentally prepare for Zappos.com Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, which is two weeks from today.  I had such a good time last year that I decided to make it an annual event, both for the trip to San Francisco and for the 7.46-mile journey from The Embarcadero to the Great Highway and all the festivities and celebration that accompanies it.  (It’s much more sensible, and less dangerous, than running with the bulls in Pamplona, which has been on my bucket list since I read The Sun Also Rises in high school.)

The two events are quite dissimilar–in distance, in terrain, and in atmosphere.  Bay to Breakers’ reputation has been for its party atmosphere, involving costumed and naked runners, massive alcohol consumption, and an after-party which necessitates having fleets of paddywagons and ambulances at the ready.  Every year, the organizers have vowed that there would be crackdowns on the open containers, the littering, and the public urination, while at the same time realizing it’s as realistic as issuing an edict banning thunderstorms.  Serious runners participate, but the majority of the people who will be in the Bay City’s event on the 15th are there for the revelry.

The Capital City Half Marathon, on the other hand, is quite different.  It is an event honored by serious runners worldwide–people come from all 50 states and from outside the USA.  I was one of the most bizarrely dressed people to participate.  I was in jeans, a black hoodie (The Weather Channel predicted a high of 60 degrees) that read TIMES NEW ROMAN, and gray tennis shoes that looked like they came from Goodwill for $3.50 (which they did).

The Thursday before the race, I went to the Columbus Convention Center (my bad-weather site for walking), weaving my way through the participants and exhibitors at the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet.  It contained my T-shirt, my bib (I proudly wore #7489), and an event guide that was about 90% ads.  It reminded me of my trip to Fort Mason in San Francisco last year to pick up the same material, except the Fort Mason location was much bigger, and the salespeople were much more aggressive in pitching their wares (shoes, shirts, Fitbits, energy drinks, etc.).

I knew that I would be banished to Corral J, the furthest back from the starting line at the corner of S. Front and W. Town Sts.  The event assigns runners based on anticipated finish times, with the fastest ones being in Corral A, and the release times are staggered.  There would be too much of a free-for-all if everyone exited at once, and walkers and slower runners would not fare well in the stampede.  (Bay to Breakers has a designated “Walkers’ Corral,” Corral G.)

At the Half Marathon, Corral J was over three blocks south of the starting line, and the loudspeakers did not carry sound well enough to hear what was happening at the front.  The only way we knew when corrals were released was when we moved forward toward the starting line after corrals in front of us were off and running.

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The race is officially under way, and those of us in Corral J are still a good three blocks south of the starting line.

Per the results emailed to me late yesterday afternoon, I crossed under the starting banner at 8:29:07 a.m., almost a half hour after the first starting gun.  When you first begin, you think that the walking is a cinch–one foot in front of the other, repeat as necessary.  Nothing simpler!  The previous week, I did my first Nelsonville-to-Athens walk of this calendar year, on the first weekend, which is less than a mile shorter of the Half Marathon, so I passed under the banner, stepped on the rubber pad, and then the chip began clocking me.  (The timing chip was on the back of the paper bib bearing my bib number and corral assignment, and it activated the timer when I crossed the starting line, and timing would stop when I crossed the finish line.  This article explains it in more detail.)

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The course of the Capital City Half Marathon.  The green runner silhouette represents the starting line.

The first two miles or so were familiar terrain–part of the course I walk every lunchtime up Front Street.  It was not under the third mile that we first saw “refueling stations,” places where people (often schools, informal running clubs, or church groups) were giving out free cups of water and Gatorade.

I pleasantly surprised myself when I was keeping abreast of my time. I started the stopwatch of my trusty Casio Super Illuminator as soon as I stepped onto the rubber pad, and did a small double-take when it neared the one-hour mark.  Almost exactly as I reached one hour, I passed the four-mile mark, while I was on the Olentangy Freeway crossing Woody Hayes Dr.

The eastbound leg down E. Lane Ave. was familiar turf to me, especially as we came closer to High St.  (When I visited my mother in Columbus while in high school, I mentioned to her that one of my friends lived on E. Lane Ave. near campus, and she told me that it was an area “with all these cruddy bars and porno theaters.”  This may have been in the waning years of The World Theater at 2159 N. High St.  It later became the Roxy, where I would see The Song Remains the Same (1976).  Hearing about all the cruddy bars and porno theaters made me want to visit E. Lane Ave. all the more.)

The southward stretch of High St. was familiar turf.  I frequently spend hours on end at the McDonald’s, and often eat at either Subway or Qdoba in the same block, although I don’t log as many consecutive hours anywhere as I did at the Subway in Cincinnati in the early to mid-’90s.)  I even felt a little rebellious running in the middle of High St. on a Saturday morning.

Friends and family stood at nearly every block holding up signs while cheering on family members participating.  The onlookers thinned by the time we were well into the race–indeed, I suspect many of the faster runners had already completed the race.  No one was there for me, although I did hear “Go, Times New Roman!” from two or three people.

The race made the rubble that had been the Northside branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library seem beautiful, since it was at Mile 6, which was pretty much the halfway point of the race.  (The real figure is 6.55, half of 13.1, but there was no marker for that.)  As long-time readers of this blog will remember, my memories of the year I lived in Weinland Park are not fond ones, but one sign of the transformation was the remodeled Kroger, which replaced the much derided Kroghetto.  (I did not recognize the produce section of the new Kroger without a cloud of gnats hovering above it.)

When we reached Mile 8, turning onto S. 4th St., I again checked my stopwatch.  I was amazed that I was still maintaining a 4 mph pace.  I was a little sore, but I was breathing well and my body was sending me no signals to slow down or (God forbid!) to stop.

The route became more intricate, with turns occurring every few blocks, instead of miles, once it came through German Village.  Columbus is not hilly, in the way San Francisco or Cincinnati is, but I welcomed any downward incline, no matter how slight.  As we were going south on S. 3rd St., we heard the bells of St. Mary Catholic Church chiming 11 a.m. (a few minutes early).  I said to the woman next to me, “Send not for whom the bell tolls…” and she said, “Don’t say that!  It won’t toll for us until we cross the finish line.”  I felt emboldened when we came into the double digits–the marker for Mile 10.  For anyone in a half marathon, whether running, walking, or participating in a wheelchair, that is like watching all the zeroes roll over on a car’s odometer.  Only 2.1 miles to go, and that is the longest part of the race.

I began to think there may be an end to this madness when I turned off of Deshler Ave. and began going north on S. High St.  The sight of the skyline buoyed my mood, and it cancelled any negative feelings I experienced as a light rain began to fall.  None of had the spring in the step that we had at 8:30, and some had dropped out at the five-kilometer mark, but we received much encouragement as we kept going.

I crossed the line at 11:52:57 a.m., and my official time was 3:23:51.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see that I had finished in less than 3½ hours.  Indeed, I was worried that I could not finish in four hours.  I knew I was a little under 4 mph when I hit the 12-mile mark, but I knew that, barring a fall or the aneurysm deciding at that minute to burst, I would be finishing before four hours had elapsed.  (The officials would begin closing up shop after four hours.)  According to my Fitbit, I reached 10 thousand steps at 9:21 a.m., when I was 72 minutes into the event.

Once I came home, I barely moved the rest of the afternoon.  As far as my breathing was concerned, I was feeling fine.  The many Friday evening yoga classes at The Dharma House in Worthington are showing results, and this was after my thinking that my breathing didn’t need improvement, since I have never been a smoker and have never had a chronic lung condition such as asthma.

I felt more pain in my legs after this event than after my three previous walks from Nelsonville to Athens.  The last one, which I did last weekend, was longer than the previous two.  I began at Rocky Boots, instead of at Robbins Crossing on the Hocking College campus, which added over a mile to the route.  (Laurie, my significant other–more about her in an entry in the near future–drove me down to Nelsonville, instead of my taking the GoBus to the Hocking College campus.  She drove ahead to Athens and met me there.  This walk, which was 12.8 miles,  took over four hours.)  I think the reason why I was in so much pain this time was because I had maintained a faster pace than normal–keeping a pace of over four miles an hour over 13 miles is not easy, whereas with the Adena-Hockhocking Bike Path, I walked at a leisurely pace, stopping to enjoy the scenery, check out train trestles and bodies of water that were new to me, and pay my respects to the goats at the fence of the Good Earth Farm.

Indeed, I was not out of energy by the time I crossed the line on S. High St. by what had been Lazarus Department Stores.  Only chafing prevented me from going another mile.  During Sunday, walking has been more painful, but that is because the callus layer and the dead skin on the soles of my feet came off while I was in the shower, and has exposed two or three spots of raw skin, and putting any weight on them is painful.  I’ve experienced this many times before, and will again, so I still plan to walk at lunchtime, and I will proudly display my finishers’ medal to my co-workers (a very heavy piece of bling) and wear my T-shirt.

And I’m already checking the Nelsonville weather forecast to see if the weather will make a walk next weekend feasible…

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Those of us who walked the whole 13.1 miles all looked like Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow by the time we crossed the line, but the medal and the sight of a camera rejuvenated us, if only for a moment.