"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream." -Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
I had a 20-miler scheduled for this weekend and, because of Hurricane Earl coming up the East Coast, plans were up in the air. By postponing my weekend getaway for a day, I was able to do the run with 4 guys who were also doing their long training run. I know them all in different ways and, while most of them have taken my Spinning classes, I had never run with them. Actually, I had never run with a group of men. Admittedly, I was a little worried that bringing a girl into the group would change their dynamic. At the same time, they know me and my style and I had been invited, so I figured it wouldn't be all that bad. I felt a little bit like Jane Goodall, dropping in to observe this strange species up close: The 40-something Male Runner.
Eh. Much like the non-hurricane that swept past us, my observations were mostly uneventful:
1. They like their gadgets and supplements.
2. They are more concerned about their nipples than any woman I know, except for the breastfeeding ones.
3. Yes, they, in unison, crane their necks to check out any and all female runners passing by. But, they do the same thing with expensive sports cars and bikes.
4. They talk about their kids, work, financial "stuff," who lives in the giant homes we ran past, and all of the above.
All joking aside, I was a lucky girl to run with them, they are great, and it was my strongest 20 ever. I really enjoyed staying in the back, not having to plan or think about the route, discovering new roads and being challenged to run the ones I usually avoid. After getting home, having a recovery drink and taking a cold water bath, I rushed to head out to Montauk, to meet Tim, who had been there all week. On a gorgeous Saturday, Labor Day Weekend, this was sure to be a 3-hour drive and really interesting for my legs.
I hit the deli on the way out of town, conveniently, as my appetite kicked back in. The young guy brought my sandwich to the counter, looked down at everything else that I had piled up there, and said, "All this too?" "Yup," I replied. At that moment, my body must have started settling in a bit, because I let out an audible sigh. "You ok?" he asked me. A bit embarrassed, I smiled and said, "Yeah. I just ran 20 miles, which is what this is all about," gesturing to the picnic on the counter. His eyes widened, "You OK?" he asked again. "You JUST ran 20 miles...WHY?" I laughed, "Marathon training, have to do it." We chatted a few more minutes about running and, then, he said the golden words: "You're about my age, right?" "What?" I thought I misunderstood. I'd been coming to this deli off and on for 12 years, and he had seen me through 2 pregnancies. "You're about the same age as me, right?" I smiled and shook my head no. "What, you're about 32..no?" Again, I smiled and shook my head. With more caution in his voice, he finally asked, "How old are you?" I admired his courage. "I'll be 40 next year." "Wow, you'd never know," he replied. "And THAT, my dear, is WHY I run." This is not really true, but it sounded good in the moment! Now, my experience with my male running friends may have been limited, but I do know a bit about men, and I am not totally naive. However, on this day, I chose to believe that my deli friend was sincere and, if my legs would have allowed me to, I would have hurdled the counter and hugged him.
The drive was, in fact, long and I listened to The Alchemist on audiobook for about half of it, until my mind started to wander with my own thoughts of universal truths. That's when I realized I still had my running brain turned on. Even though I was driving, I was assessing each incline that was rolling out before me, calculating how much energy it would take to get to the top. I laughed at myself. Cool.
All of my driving time allowed me to reflect on the end of this very intense summer and come up with a list of things I also think are really cool right now:
1. The guys for letting me tag along on their long run.
2. My friend, Terri, who, riding her bike past me at mile 19, had no idea how long I had been out there, but stuck out her hand, gave me a high-five and shouted, "You Go, Jen!"
3. I'm turning 40 in 6 months, but not necessarily looking it.
4. My pink Zensah compression socks.
5. That I tossed my hand-held water bottle around mile 15, forgot to stop back for it, but it was still there a day and a half later.
6. That, in the same time I spent running in the morning, I drove from one end of Long Island to the other.
7. The ocean the way it looked before and after the storm.
8. My 11 year-old son telling an exhausted me, "Mom, I had a really great summer."
9. That last lobster roll at Duryea's, eating it with my greatly recovered legs (see #4) dangling out the back of Tim's car, a hint of fall in the wind, talking "life."
10. That there is so much fear and hype before a storm, which is often not as bad as predicted and, it can leave, in it's cleansing wake, the most gorgeous day ever.