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In one of those somber post-surgery moments a few years back, my doctor gave me the good news, bad news.
“Your knee surgery went just fine,” he said. “And I don’t want you to run ... for the rest of your life.”
But there I was on Saturday morning, catching the excitement that surrounds any running event. This particular one, the Mill Race Race, was making its final charge through Columbus as it gave way to the Cummins Marathon.
Those of you who run, or have braved the early morning hours to be around those who do run, know what I’m talking about. It’s kind of like walking through the fitness center and getting all charged up, at least until you pass the pizza joint on the way home.
Running is infectious, or to some, an infection.
I guess I’ve always shared the mind set of the latter since, if there was a cure to running, I would have taken it. In almost any sport, running is one of the most critical, and hated, aspects of training.
Yet, there is an entire culture of folks who actually enjoy the pain associated with getting from one side of town to the other, without the car.
These people congregated just outside Mill Race Park on Saturday morning, and prepared to run 9.3 miles.
One of the first things you notice when you approach the starting line of an event is that runners arrive late. They obviously have a very fast metabolism, so standing around for 20 minutes and chatting is not an option. As I looked up and down some of the city streets, I noticed runners pounding the pavement even before the event was about to start. OK, I understand some stretching, but why turn a 15K into a 17K? Did you have to run from home?
Certainly, runners aren’t tailgaters, as no one had the barbecue fired up in any of the nearby parking lots. You can take this health thing too far. No brats?
But there was something nice being out at a time I usually am deciding whether to hit the snooze button one more time. Hey, there were flowers in the median on Fifth Street. Nice.
And, geez, those post office employees really do arrive at work early. I guess they still work on Saturdays, too.
I looked over and saw one race volunteer walking up with a lawn chair. Now that just seemed wrong.
On one side of the street, South Decatur High freshman Justin Clark was stretching a bit as his father, Larry, tied his shoes. It’s always nice to get a little pampering before you go out to cough up a lung.
While all this was going on, race director Randy Stafford was literally running up and down the street, trying to get everything in order. You never know what might go wrong. Before the 5K race on Saturday, Stafford pulled the trigger of his starting pistol and got ... nothing. Being the guy who earns the big bucks, he did the next best thing. “Go,” he shouted, his gun still pointing skyward.
The gun did work for the 15K race and I watched as the runners quickly disappeared down Fifth Street. I started to do a little calculating. I knew I had less than an hour to get to the finish line.
So I strolled down Fifth to Washington and looked for a bakery. I ordered a scone, and since all that running had me feeling kind of healthy, I got a couple of cakes of butter to rub on it. I sat and flipped through the newspaper, wondering what it would feel like to be pressing the lead at a six-minute mile pace.
I then went down to the farmers market, and checked out the fresh fruit and vegetables. All this running was making me hungry. I was eyeballing a couple of Amish pies about the time that eventual race winner Joshua Knight was holding off a charge from runner-up Tim Proctor.
I ambled over to the finish line in the park, and waited until Knight zipped past the finish line, looking far too relaxed and fresh. In the ensuing minutes runners flowed past the finish, embracing and sharing their war stories with huge smiles.
If only I didn’t have that knee surgery. I could have been right there with them.
Well, probably not.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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