Stephen Levine wrote "Go to the truth beyond the mind, love is the bridge." As I headed back to the running community that was kind enough to let me into a marathon with a stroller once, this quote seemed so adequate for me, a guy with a damaged brain. It would be my 4th time there, the second time doing the Pleasure Island Bridge Half marathon and 10k (http://www.sportssocietyforamericanhealth.org/styled-3/). While the previous year, I had done the half this year I was taking on the 10k. The drive out there was just me, but it didn't occur to me till the day before but for the first time in years, I was driving myself to an out of town race. While most races I've taken company (or company has taken me), I went out there knowing the privilege of focusing on that community was my primary goal for that weekend. While there was a 10k on the calendar, it was literally in the same week as a marathon so I didn't know how realistic it was to be in full race mode. They had been kind enough to say just run it however I want giving me some leeway but everyone who knows me well knew I want to do it is with as full intensity as possible.
Still the primary goal of that weekend was one thing and one thing alone, to say thank you to a community that had shown kindness over and over. From letting me in to that first race, to helping me repair a flat stroller that day to cheering with conviction, I continue to return there the same way one returns anywhere where true love exists. Not that fleeting love which turns out to be nothing more than infatuation but that love which isn't merely a feeling, it's an unbreakable promise. This is one of those places, no those type of people where that's always true.
So from the mere arrival at a dinner where we were trading stories about various races. There was a couple who had also been at the New York marathon and gave me a hard time about how I had not looked for them on the race. There were people sharing their stories about wanting to run a race once a month, others who are getting into the 50 states club. Others who feel like they don't get any faster so they keep going for longer distances and are training for a 100 miler (and here I thought something was wrong with my brain). Someone asked what my goal was for the 10k itself and I finally said it out loud, "to get PR and keep a sub six mile pace" since my previous 10k PR was a 6:03 pace. I took the next bite of food with more conviction and more nervousness but grateful to be in good company as both the food and the idea sank in.
Race morning arrived and it was the best conditions I've ever had for a 10k and for many races period. It was a cool, crisp overcast morning. I'd forgotten my usual pre race shot block but someone was handing out chocolate with almonds so I took the noble sacrifice and had some Hershey's instead. I was also part of a team of 3 where the results would be which team came in with the fastest average of the three with the Golden Triangle Strutters so we discussed our complex put one foot in front of the other strategy. This 10k has a serious bridge on a fair share of it with some seriousness steepness that is both beautiful and beats you up as you take in the scenery and the pounding. For the first two miles I was at a sub six pace with tired legs then we started going up the bridge... then the pace wasn't quite there anymore. By the time the bridge was done when we were about two thirds of the way done, it was a 6:01 pace and let's just say the legs were... crying, I mean sweating. When I got to the 5 mile mark I was at exactly 30 minutes and knew it was time to turn on the heat for 1.2 miles. It would prove harder than I thought but I would end up finishing in 37:05 with Julie, the cyclist who accompanied the second place runner filming my sprint finish. This would put me in
second place for the 10k. While I had placed in the previous races in this community, it was my first time ever to get my fastest time in any distance there at a 5:59 pace. I couldn't help but think they sure know how to hand out happiness here.
The handing out of happiness would continue as I got my award medal and our team got the first overall team award. But then I figured, if you've been handed so much happiness, you should hand some of it off so I went to the finish line and handed out medals. The responsibility was primarily the responsibility of a team of a college softball team from Lamar, the Seahawks, who was volunteering it to give back to the community. They would make fun of the singing I'd been doing as I'd passed them by on the way to the finish line; they made fun of me a little less when I brought them some of the pizza and chicken wings that the race had provided. But we kept giving out medals, receiving people with cheers and high fives and sweaty hugs. Some were pumped about PR's or first time covering that distance. And we'd be there to watch someone get helped in from an injury. And there till the very last finisher who several of them would walk in side by side for her with the last share of it.
But the race was only the start of the day. It would wrap up with dinner and dancing later. I bowed out of the line dancing joking that I was too brown to line dance and so later in the night I was taken to the dance floor and expected to perform James Brown style. I'm not sure I lived up to it but I tried. (Speaking of trying, someone handed me a piece of alligator and talked me into trying it by saying it would taste like chicken).
I started this with Levine's quote of "Go to the truth beyond the mind; love is the bridge." On my 4th
trip back with this community, I couldn't help but remember, recognize, realize that when I was a stranger with brain cancer wanting to push his kid in a stroller for a marathon, they looked beyond that part of my mind and offered a bridge of love to make it happen. A year before when NBC was filming the race, they were no different. So I think over and over and they had looked beyond my mind and bridged it with love. And on that Island for one day, a 10k personal best, surrounded by good company, it was nothing but an absolute pleasure.