Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Brooklyn Half

Smartmom, along wth hundreds of other runners, nearly missed the start of the Half-Marathon waiting on one of the many long Port-a-Potty lines in the field next to the Coney Island Boardwalk.

After a bit, she decided to bag the whole idea and joined the eleven-minute-milers on the Boardwalk. She was sure not to get stuck near the really fast runners - a great way to get trampled.

A pitch perfect day for a run, the sky was blue, the air was crisp and the ocean was right beside them as the race began. The amusement park was desolate and boarded over as they ran past Astroland, the Wonder Wheel, Keyspan Stadium, and the newly repainted Steeple Chase with its red, yellow and green scaffolding.

But it was seeing Beautiful Smile on the Boardwalk that nearly made her cry. Standing at East 30th Street with her daughter and two grandchildren, Beautiful Smile was smiling, waving and cheering Smartmom on. Smartmom ran up to East 36th Street and saw Beautiful Smile again on her way back down the Boardwalk.

The run down Ocean Parkway past fancy Orthodox Jewish homes and Yeshivas was long and flat. Going in reverse alphabetical order from Avenue X all the way to Avenue C with lots of names streets in between - who knew there were so many streets - seemed endless.

Only the mile markers helped Smartmom gage where she was in her run. When Smartmom saw the 7 Mile sign she knew she had only 2 miles to go until she reached Prospect Park - her home turf. That made the Parkway go faster. As did the conversation with T-Leaf, Smartmom's good friend and running partner. They talked about everything from their boys, who are best friends, to theater, the movie "Garden State," their future plans and more. It made Ocean Parkway speed by.

The Parkway was closed to cars and there was a big traffic jam on the service road beside the Parkway. A man yelled at a cop "I've got a woman in labor and I've got to get to the other side." Smartmom never heard the end of that one. People cheered from apartment building windows and some street corners. Others watched as they walked to shul for shabat services. One group of bystanders had a sign that said, "Keep the Pace," which Smartmom initially thought said, "Keep the Peace."

After Ocean Parkway, the runners got on the Prospect Expressway - Robert Moses' parkway to nowhere, and exited UP the Park Circle off-ramp. It was an unexpected hill, the only one so far, but Smartmom knew Prospect Park was coming soon, which took the bite out of it. Home turf. Even if she did have to run up the hill after the Zoo, it was a hill she knows very well. Coach Cane had them run up and down that hill five times at one practice. Smartmom would be in her old familiar and that would be all the motivation she needed to get to the finish line.

Prospect Park also meant she'd be seeing her friends and family. Hepcat was waiting at Grand Army Plaza with his camera. He cheered her on and gave her a big kiss as she passed, a wonderful uplift for Smartmom's sagging energy. At First Street Groovy Aunt and Bro-In-Law were cheering and waving, shouting and saying funny things. And at Third Street, Smartmom saw Real Fruit Jelly who was leaving a message on Smartmom's voice mail: "I think I missed you. I'm really sorry. Omigod, I think I see you now. Yes. There you are..."

Smartmom's fitness trainer called on her cell-phone near Ninth Street and kvelled over her progress. "Congratulations. You sound great!" On the way down the hill on the south west side of the park, some bystanders wearing crepe paper hats with big signs ran next to Smartmom, "What's your name?" they asked. When Smartmom told them they started to sing: "We are fans of Smartmom and she's looking great. Really, really great" The sang and ran with her for a while and then turned to another runner coming down the hill.

The last mile or so was through the transverse next to the lake, one of the most exquisite vistas in the park. A woman on horseback cantered in a horse run as Smartmom ran over an idyllic green bridge. Post-race runners were walking the other way, cheering on those still running.

Crossing the finish line after a 13 mile race is everything it's cracked up to be. Triumphant, anti-climatic, a much needed rest, a reckoning with what's come before. Hepcat was there - snapping a shot. He told Smartmom she ended strong. And she felt strong. Smartmom cooled down walking to the water table, eyeing the bananas that were the runners' reward, drinking plastic cup after cup of cold water. Soon, she realized how bone tired she was, how much her legs hurt, how much her body had just been through.

And she felt like she'd just run a half-marathon, which is exactly what she did.


At 8:34 PM, Blogger brooklynfox said...

Woooooo Hooooooo! You did it! I'm so proud of you. I almost cried again when I saw you. You are amazing! RFJ

At 7:20 PM, Blogger elswhere said...

For some reason this post made me choke up. And I don't even like running!

It sounds like a wonderful run. Congratulations.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Brooklyn said...

Hey, congratualtions! Sounds like you had a great run! Hopefully I'll see you in the Park sometime. I'm the goofy-looking guy with bluemirror shades and a beard. Maybe we can compare notes.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Udge said...

Congratulations! Well run - and it even sounds as though you enjoyed it. (Even sounds as though such a slug as I might enjoy it ....)


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