For eight years now I've had a habit on my birthday. I've taken the day off of work, or the Friday before if my birthday happens to fall on the weekend, and blocked the time on my work calendar as "Jeff's Annual Day of Reflection." It's only partly a joke; I actually did spend a good portion of the time reviewing what I'd done in the past year and thinking about what I wanted to do in the next year. My ADoR usually also involved a movie, golf, or a drive out to see some obscure Texas landmark.
This year was different, because I had no job to take off from. Although my work logistics for the past decade have been extremely flexible, there's nothing like the flexibility of not having a job at all.* Given that every day can easily be a day off, taking "time away" for the Annual Day of Reflection just didn't seem all that special.**
My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and I realized a week before that the Honor Connor 5k run was scheduled for that day. One impulse sign-up later…
I've never run in an organized event. About six years ago I was training with friends from work to run a half marathon, but I broke my foot and never ran the event. Last fall I started running again seriously; from September through the end of January I ran at least five times per week. After January I let the layoff news from work derail my exercise; I didn't run again until, well…the week before the 5k.
In case preparation could make up for practice, I read the "How to Run Your First 5k" page. I picked up some really solid pointers. Don't wear the souvenirrace t-shirt in the race itself. Your number goes on the front of your shirt, not the back, and not on your leg. If you're not one of the competitive runners, line up toward the middle or back, so those who are really racing don't have to work their way around you.
Race day. There are more than 3000 participants and I'm adrift in a sea of race day, souvenir t-shirts. Okay, it's a fun run, and a memorial event, so that makes sense. Maybe I should have worn mine, instead of the sweat-wicking, super-breathable, space-age high-tech amazifying makes-you-look-better-run-faster-and-dance-smoother running shirt that I normally use for, well, running. Mindful of the true competitors in the crowd, I line up about halfway into the pack.
When the horn sounded I started shuffling toward the mats which activate your race sensor. That part is another cool buildup; you slowly pick up the pace as you get closer to the line and people in front of you disperse. Cross the line -- and I'm stymied. Stuck immediately behind two women, walking side by side, chatting away as they push their strollers.
And one's a double stroller.
For the first two or three hundred meters I dodged my way through a horde of people walking. People with strollers, people with their kids on razor boards…at one point I'm pretty sure I struggled my way around a set of conjoined sextuplets. I probably burned more energy on crazy Ivans in the first half mile than the rest of the race, looking like Marion Barber running twenty lateral yards for every yard of progress downfield.
I eventually broke free of the pack, though, and spend about 4.5k trying to catch up with a few of those serious runners. I did make it; I ran the entire way, actually made a time that I was happy with, and didn't have a heart attack. I think I can call that a good day.
*Of course, not having work AND not having money would put a real damper on the whole flexibility thing, but I'm not going to get into that. This isn't an economics class, you know.
**No, I haven't been watching Netflix and playing Heroes of Might and Magic III*** for four solid months. I've been working, but since all my efforts are entrepreneurial, I don't have to coordinate with a team or manager to be away. If you've been there, you get it.
***I admit, I have played a lot more Heroes of Might and Magic than I should have in the past few months…and I may have binge watched "West World."