Last Wednesday night, I stayed late on campus to have dinner with Delia, Sabrina, and another teacher named Alice. (This was the dinner where I started eating shrimp with shells and heads and beady little eyes.) After indulging in dish after dish of stringed potatoes and sweet pork and tofu-wrapped dumplings and sweet potato noodles, I suddenly realized it was after 7. The last bus leaves campus at 7:30, so it was time to head home.
As the four of us approached the intersection of whatever little road the restaurant was on and Tianmushan- the main road that runs from downtown to the HFLS campus- I could see the 310 (aka My Bus) to my left. A solid block to my right was the next stop. Sidebar: city blocks here average ½ mile in length. I know this because I’ve Google Pedometered the distance. So I had 2 choices: wait maybe 10 minutes for the next bus, or run like hell to the stop. I threw my bag across my shoulder and as the 310 moved into first gear, hit the pavement. Fast.
I’ve had to run to catch the bus before- lots of people do- but this was a full-on sprint. In my green wellies. (Come to think of it, this little jog was probably a major contributor to the recent and tragic separation of the right heel from the rest of my right boot.) In my mind’s eye, I could see this parallel universe where I trip on one of the many uneven sidewalk bricks, and because I’m going so fast, I fly spectacularly through the air and fully lay out onto my face, at which point I lose several teeth and also an earring. Undeterred, I ignored this phantom Jenne and pumped my left arm faster (my right arm was holding my bag tight against my side). My legs were moving in that perfect pattern of 90 degree angles that hurdlers use. And…
I made it. Just as the last person in line stepped up into the bus, I made it. My heart was pounding-pounding-pounding as I collapsed into one of the backwards loveseats. My phone buzzed- a message from Delia. Wow! You made it. You ran so fast! I smiled. And this is when I decided to run another marathon.
Trisha and I had talked about running Twin Cities this year (she’s already signed up), but I was nervous about it. I’ve had more running injuries this year than I ever have (most of them minor, thankfully) and my body still doesn’t feel 100% healthy. I do so much walking here that I’m experiencing some new aches and pains, including some sort of bruise on the bottom of my left foot that I’m convinced is a stress fracture in my big toe and a tightness in my hip that can only be a sore IT band. But as I sat there on my loveseat-for-one, recovering from the sprint and relaxing into its burst of endorphins, I thought about the Philly marathon. How at mile 18ish- right before I drank the beer that some enthusiastic race fan held out for me- I thought, After this is over, I am never running again. I never have to do this again. And more sternly, Jennifer, remember this. It. Sucks. You will never do this again. Then, how that little voice exploded into sunshine and rainbows when I crossed the finish line with my arms above my head, an epic Arcade Fire tune coursing through my iPod, salt caked all over my face. For better or for worse, I have an addiction to that feeling. I’m not ready to give it up.
But I decided that I needed to have one good run before shelling out the hundred bucks for a number. On Tuesday afternoon, the rain finally quit and the sun came out on my walk home, so I pulled on my pink running shoes, wove my apartment key through the laces, and took off for the lake. And it was not merely a good run. It was a great run. Because it was nearing rush hour, there was no shortage of pedestrians and thus, no shortage of shameless staring, but the audience seemed to make my form better, to help me move a little faster. And when I got to the lake and onto the Bai Causeway, I saw that the rain had opened up tiny green shoots everywhere. I was traveling through a softly neon green tunnel of willows and new grass. I passed another runner- a Chinese man- and when I caught his eye, I smiled and waved. Things were just clicking. And then, about 5 minutes from my apartment, I heard the pulsing guitar that opens the epic Arcade Fire song (it’s called “Wake Up,” if you’re interested), the one I crossed the finish line to back in November. It was a sign. It had to be.
Of course, I had just flipped through the 54 songs on my Ragnar playlist until I found it. But still! I wanted to hear that song. So as soon as I came sweating and heavily-breathing through the door, I registered for the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon. Put October 2nd on your calendars, people.
I even have a goal this year (well, more of a goal than “finish and don’t die”). Because Yahoo is now my most reliable email option, I feel compelled to read the headlines of the ridiculous stories that rotate on my homepage. The day I registered for the race, I learned that a sumo wrestler had just set the new Guinness World Record for Heaviest Man to Finish a Marathon. He weighs 400 pounds and ran the LA marathon in 9 hours and 48 minutes. I have decided that I will run Twin Cities in half that time, which puts me across the finish line at 4 hours and 54 minutes. This is 10 minutes faster than my Philly time (yes, I am slow…slow and awesome), so I think it’s a reasonable goal, although it’s not technically proportionate to my weight. You may be shocked to learn that I do not yet weigh 200 pounds, but rest assured that I’ve got plennnnnty of time to gain, and there are literally 6 places to get milk tea within ¼ mile of my apartment.
As my great-aunt Diana says, game on!