The After Race
Savor, dictionary definition: to appreciate fully,enjoy or relish. To taste or smell, especially with pleasure.
Smartmom wanted to savor the sweet triumph of her half-marathon finish. And she did. Once she got home from the race, she took a long, hot bath. Hot. Her legs stretched out, her back against the porcelain, the steamy water soothed her throbbing muscles.
Oooooooh. It felt good after the pounding her body took. She didn't have any scary pain. But her body ached.
Eyes closed, she re-ran the morning over and over in her mind. The Eastern Car Service ride with T-leaf and Ed to Coney island; a long drive on the BQE thinking: and we're going to run all this way. The smell of wintergreen infused the car. Smartmom didn't know what it was. Turned out to be Ed's BenGay. A baseball field of runners changing, stretching, men putting Vaseline on their nipples to prevent chafing, lines forming at the Port-a-Johns for one last pee.
And then the race begn. No gun. But what was the sound? Eyes scrunched tight, she could not recall. You're not timed until your sneaker, with its electronic chip, touches the starting line. No need to run to the start. Smartmom walked until she had to run.
Warm water on her face, her chest, her tired, tired limbs.
Smartmom remembered the early morning light on the Boardwalk, the Wonder Wheel on her right, the ocean on her left. Turnaround at 36th Street. The Wonder Wheel on her left, the ocean on her right. The patterns of the wooden Boardwalk made her dizzy, a weird kind of vertigo. It zagged and zigged like Op Art as she ran carefully, trying to avoid falling down.
In the tub, moments flashed back to her. She wondered what happened to the woman who tripped on the boardwalk and was down for the count. Smartmom saw her sitting at a picnic table looking pained, massaging her calf, a cop standing by.
Smartmom laughed thinking of Coach Cane as he ran past her on the Boardwalk. Seeing her holding her trusty bottle of Poland Spring he yelled: "Get rid of the bottle. There are water stations all along the route. You're already running crooked."
You're already running crooked. Smartmom said the words to herself over and over, a mantra, an easy rhythmic phrase. But she didn't feel crooked. And she couldn't let go of her bottle of Poland Spring. Security blanket, transitional object, insurance policy that she would not go parched.
Smartmom finally ditched it after the hill in Prospect Park.
Quiet, heartfelt words of encouragement helped her along the way. "You look great. You can do it." Just a little more and you're there." "Keep it up!" Voices yelling from an Ocean Parkway window: "Go runners go. Go runners go." also egged her on.
The mile markers flashed by on Ocean Parkway. At seven miles, Smartmom knew that Prospect Park wasn't far away. Her familiar familiar. P.O.C. (piece of cake) one we get to the park, she thought. it'll be P.O.C.
The bathwater helped her limbs return to some version of normality. As she soaked, she saw the finish line. Is that it, is this really the end? That goofy guy with the megaphone was on the sidelines near the finish. Drat. Smartmom winced at the memory. Why did he have to be there nagging her agressively in thick Brooklynese: "Come on, just a little mawh. Yews can do it. Come ON. Ya almost dere. Come ON!"
He seems to be a fixture at Prospect Park runs. So be it. Another hardship to overcome in the 13 mile journey.
Once out of the tub, Smartmom lay her head down and slept for fifteen minutes. Only fifteen but it was a sweet, restful, essential fifteen.
Did I really do all that, she thought. Pinch me now if it's true. Did I really run all the way from Coney Island?
All the way.