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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Paddy's Day Dash: Florence-style

I’ve been running the same race over spring break since I started college. Yes, I’ve only run it twice, but it’s something that I most look forward to when I go home for the week. I’ve got the altitude on my side, the training (if I’ve actually been training), and the thrill of running on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, overlooking the sound. The city closes down the Viaduct for the race, and every time I cruise on the Viaduct, on foot or in a car, I think, “I run here.” It’s a pretty snazzy feeling, to say the least.
I didn’t realize I would be missing the race because I’d be in Florence until it was all said and done. I was accepted to the program, had picked out my classes, taken out loans, bought the plane ticket, etc. Not that it would have changed my decision to go abroad had I remembered my Spring Break running tradition, but it did make me sad to think that my junior year of college would be the only year in which I wouldn’t run the race. Knowing this, I left my “Erin go brach” shirt at school, thinking I wouldn’t have a use for it.
I sat on my couch this past week running the upcoming dates through my head. Midterms on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Matt arrives Thursday, then Spring Break….but I realized I had completely forgotten all about St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not a drinker, so it’s never meant much to me at all (sorry Irish ancestors). The only thing about St. Paddy’s Day that sparks an interest in me is the race.
No, I wasn’t going to be in Washington for the race.
No, I wasn’t going to go to bed early and eat well the night before for race day prep.
No, I wasn’t going to get up at 7 AM, be at the starting line at 8:50, for the race at 9.
No, I wasn’t going to be running with over ten-thousand other Seattlites from the Space Needle to Safeco.
And no, I wasn’t going to get to see that great view from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
But so f’in what?
I’d do it in Florence.
I’ve been running pretty regularly here, no thanks to my temperamental IT band that makes my knee seize up. I’m not in the best shape I’ve ever been, but those hour-long runs do something.
I roughly knew where 3.5 miles was on the out-and-back route I usually run (not a real 5K, which is 3.1 miles, because the distance between the Needle and Safeco is just over 3.1), so that was figured out. I had a green shirt, my mint-green CSU Rams shirt, proudly purchased from King Soopers in the Fort last fall. I didn’t need much else.
I thought about eating well the night before. I kind of did. I thought about going to bed early, but I read into the night instead. I thought about getting up early to beat the dense crowds that swarm the Ponte Vecchio later in the morning. Instead, I woke up, finished the book I’d started the night before, suited up around noon, and headed out the door. Maggie lent me her digital watch and I was prepared to run under 8-minute miles (like I said, not in the best shape).
I cruised. There weren’t thousands of other people running with me, but the view was certainly great. The Arno swept upriver noisily by my side and the Ponte Vecchio sagged with all the tourists on it. My first mile was something like 6:45. And my knee was shot. I tried to go out another half mile, almost making it halfway through my “race,” but by the time I got there, I was limping. Usually, I would’ve kept going. But this IT band wasn’t having any of it, so I walked the thirty minutes home. Awesome.
So it wasn’t the real Henry Weindhard sponsored race, but I still felt like I participated. I didn’t have a real timing chip attached to my ankle. But I was there in spirit and dammit, I wore green. No, I didn’t run the entire race, but I walked every step back. Things change, we adapt, we do the best we can. Sometimes the best you’ve got is a shitty IT band, a green school shirt, and you’re the only runner in your race. The greatest thing about it, though, in these kind of races you always win. I’m also aware that I also came in dead last, but I don’t care. I finished the bastard. Besides, who says I have to follow all the same rules? I’m in Florence and, as Amanda Williams says, “I do what I WANT!” I think I need to start adopting more of that mentality. I think that started today.

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