There will be more recapping of the Barefoot NYC shindig, but I’m still waiting for the thoughts to settle in the snow globe that is my brain. Until then, let’s discuss the fastest mile of my life.
Time: 4:57 (ten years ago I ran this race in 5:54)
I stood out a little bit. Not just at the race, where I was the only barefooter (that I know of), but I was also the only barefooter at the NYC Barefoot meeting of the feet/feeting of the minds who was thinking about numbers, time, PRs, and cardiovascular agony. Sweet, intoxicating cardiovascular agony.
I flew into town Friday morning. After checking into the hipsterific Ace Hotel, I wandered around a bit, getting my brain re-cityfied. It didn’t take long – jaywalking with authority, avoiding eye contact, taking in everybody’s individualistic fashion stylings. In NY, your clothes are your car. Fashion is an expression of the Everyman Self more so in that city than any other place I know of. In case you’re wondering, patterned pant cuffs are very in, which I rather enjoyed. Unfortunately, the skinny tapered jeans are amazingly still hanging on. Maybe they’re so tight, the wearers just can’t get them off. I can’t imagine anyone would actually choose to wear those things anymore.
After having lunch with a long lost friend, I journeyed up to the New York Road Runners office for packet pickup. The sky was dumping buckets of rain, and my fashiony Ted Baker sandals were becoming a slipping-off liability. So they went into my pockets and I splashed carefree through puddles down 89th street.
Understand, this whole time I’m struggling to absorb the reality of packet pickup. The familiar old building, the craze of runners, the feeling of smallness. In Cackalacky, I’m a regular-sized fish in a small pond. NY, I’m a minnow in the ocean. My running life is incredibly different than it used to be. New me, old stomping grounds. I was giddy.
I even tripped on the same stair that I would always trip on. Just like old times.
After picking up the bib and an awesome shirt, I walked back to the hotel down 5th Ave.
Back at the hotel, I cleaned up and rested up for dinner. That was consumed in the company of fellow bloggers Tucker, Peter, Justin, and a few Merrell folks. It was nice to meet the 3D versions of internet friends. Then, time for bed (for me, at least).
The next morning I woke up, had breakfast with Christian, Nick Pang, Tucker, and… crap. I don’t remember who else was there. That’s the risk one takes when namedropping, I suppose. Anyway, I made my mile ambitions public: I hoped to finish in 5:15.
I made a caffeine and nerves-induced jittery exit to prepare and get to the start. Riding the 6, listening to the train musicians, surrounded by people living the beautiful struggle. Runners with shorty shorts and race bibs blended in with the workers going to work and partyers going home as we jostled north.
At the start, I was alone in a sea of runners. Again with the little fish in the ocean. I have grown accustomed to being surrounded by familiar faces, and no one here knew me. Just like old times. Except for the feet, of course. I warmed up, watched a few heats, cheered the runners running their guts out, all alone. I was too focused and nervous about my upcoming effort to notice, but I was lonely.
Then it was my turn. I found a spot near the front, surrounded by runners of all shapes and sizes. That’s another difference in NY: with so many different kinds of people, you can’t judge speed based on how someone looks. Not that I’ve ever been very good at that anyway, but what I’m trying to say is that the there’s a lot of variety on the podiums around here. Anyway, I hoped I picked a good spot.
I remembered a quote from some runner somewhere: I’ve run thousands of miles. This is just one more.
The gun went off, and off we went. I tucked in behind a guy who didn’t look like he should be fast, but I struggled to keep up. My feet were burning – I didn’t start very gently, and was spinning my feet faster than the ground was moving under them like a cartoon. Eventually I settled in, and focused on the game of catch and don’t get caught. The crowds on the sidelines roared. I inhaled their cheers – it was like Super Oxygen. I started passing people at around 70th st (halfway).
At that point, I wasn’t thinking about anything except running as fast as I could. Any agony I felt was eased to a great degree knowing it would be over soon. My mantra was HANG ON LIKE A PAIR OF SKINNY HIPSTER JEANS.
Ahead I saw the pace truck pull off. Already? That gave me new wind. Suck it up, buttercup. Passed another one. Looking down the road a fer piece, I saw the clock: 4:43. I couldn’t believe it – I had a shot of finishing in under 5. Passed two more. I saw a guy ahead who flew by early on. Caught him. One more for good measure. I finished 15th.
I walked by the banana and bagel table, thinking I’d have all the time in the world to grab a bite to eat. Not so – I left the corral and wasn’t allowed back in, what with all the heats, they couldn’t have runners just milling about at the finish I suppose. No big deal, though. It’s not like I was missing out on chocolate milk.
I hung around for a bit, as if waiting for friends. But I was alone. I wasn’t Barefoot Josh, or Joshi, or That Guy Seen At Races All The Time, or The Chocolate Milk Guy, or The Charlie’s Soap Guy, or the Bed and Biscuit Guy. Or husband. I was legs with a number. Just like all of my races prior to 2006. I was perfectly content with that then, but now I want handshakes and high fives and hugs and smack talking at the end of races. So I took the train back to the hotel and drank the Beverage of Barefoot Badasses:
So that’s that. My next race will be the Cannonball Half in Greensboro. I look forward to the familiar faces, my people, and hopefully I’ll perform well again.