Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No More Running for the Shelter

Harry had flipped the alarm on, then off, then on again when he figured two red LED dots meant it was post meridian and the alarm was on, he had somehow confused himself just before falling asleep and switched the alarm off. Apparently convincing himself that one LED was enough, two were overkill and would piss the radio off.

He woke up at 3.58 am nonetheless, pissed that he didn't oversleep because he had had a pretty good list of excuses cooked up for missing the race. None of which the team would believe but none of which would incent then to jump in a car for the hour and a half ride to Harry's, like the hour and a half ride he was about to make to the starting line of the marathon relay.

The relay was a team affair; twenty six point two miles run in five unequal legs that the team had named after various past girlfriends. Tanya: Short sweet and over with far too soon. Kathy, long and hot but with irritating switchbacks and the dissatisfaction of having run it but still not being finished. Harry, due to his training regimen having consisted of being the last group to board an airplane and smuggling Cuban cigars into the country, took the shortest leg. Lisa: Fun but you could walk away when you were finished.

Jamie, the first leg, the one you could complete but never quite get over, started at seven in the morning and Gary, the team's captain insisted that the team meet up at six thirty for what was either going to be a pep rally or bitch session. Probably the latter for standing in a parking lot in shorts at sunrise, the day's satisfaction being having found a dark grotto to pee in. So Harry packed the truck up at quarter to five and found the race staging area and dark grotto first.

They were, or had been The Knitting Circle on any other day. Harry, Mike, Lou, Jim and Gary who all worked at or near the magazine that ate Harry's brain on a monthly basis, made the time to run a few miles at lunch three times a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Somebody at a sister publication had stared out the window once and cooked up the team name derisively, no doubt in lieu of getting their column in on time and correctly spelled. But Knitting Circle wasn't punchy enough for the race or they chose to preserve the anonymity of their clique or they were just embarrassed by the name, so they called themselves Mother's Little Helpers.

Partly the name came from Harry who was eroding the Stones' in his CD drive the first time they entered the relay. Partly too, it came from the race committee's rejection of their first maternally inspired team name. That didn't stop Mike from explaining the latter origins of the team name to the Vegi-Juice gal, leaving her open-mouthed and Mike without a free sample.

Part of the fun and adventure of the relay was the obscurity of the handoff points. As the race coursed through four towns, there was plenty of opportunity for tours of seedier neighborhoods of each and the organizers didn't skimp. They plotted streets you'd normally do fifteen miles over the limit on and planned handoffs in parking lots frequented by short skirted men and women just a few hours earlier than the runners. The other part of the fun was getting from one handoff point to the next, the roads at that hour being basically filled with early morning church-goers on the way to service, not understanding what a bunch of guys wearing underwear in a Volkswagen Jetta were doing honking at them for driving just under the limit. Truth be told, the guys had no idea where they were going and had Lou simultaneously driving, reading the race organizer's directions and checking them against the GPS on his iPhone. Not that it occurred to any of the four men in the car to actually pull over and ask for directions. No, they were going to find this thing.

The most fun of the thing though was the fact that they were all together again, The Knitting Circle. Once upon a time they had been an inter-office phone call or walk down the hallway apart. Once upon a time they had all given their best to a common cause and while their careers had merged into the slow lane, there was the satisfaction of a job well done for whomever might read their magazine and the camaraderie of five friends working together.

That was gone, the magazine sold and they had wound up everywhere from self employed to hamster on a corporate wheel to the backwaters of academia. This was one of only two times per year they would all see each other again. Hands were shaken, gifts exchanged, families caught up on and somewhere just before the starter's gun went off the patois of dirty jokes, sarcastic comments, caustic observations returned like it had never left and for a few hours on a Sunday morning as the clouds blew away and changed the day from a cool, comfortable race venue to a Pillsbury 10K bakeoff, it was as if nothing had ever changed.

Good race. Same time next year boys?

Bunny on.


Blogger Sis said...

I've missed Harry.

9:20 PM  

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