robertisenberg

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Winter Race: 4

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm

“When I see the finish line,” Ky tells me later, “I go for it.”

The last leg is a continuous uphill battle — a steep, winding road that seems to extend forever. But as I watch the runners round the final corner, emerging from the trees, their legs quicken. They dash, hurtle. No matter how burned-out they are, mind electrifies muscle. Only once does a runner lose his sunglasses and turn in a circle to pick them up. The rest of the racers turn severe. Their faces are white with snow; even the women’s faces are frosted along invisible hairs. Their lips downturn; their eyebrows turn into V’s. The soft thrum of shoes gets louder; the soles hammer the pavement in the final 100 yards. As the cross the finish-line, a loud “beep” sounds; but some keep running, up the driveway, over the hill, out of sight.

These are people who would rather die than stop before it’s time.

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Winter Race: 3

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm

For the Pittsburgh Marathon, hordes of people line the race-track. They scream and hand off water-bottles. The shake their fists in the air, telling runners, “You’re doing great! Keep going! You’re almost there!” Never have so many strangers encouraged so many individual strangers.

But this race is different. There are only two water-stations, and the cold air keeps fans in North Park’s municipal lodge. After 20 minutes or so, non-runners congregate at the finish line. A videographer mounts his camera on a tripod. Friends ready their point-and-shoot cameras. The ribbon is strung over the finish line.

The first racer pounds over the pavement, a quarter-mile ahead of his closest rival. He sprints, and when the ribbon tears against his body, he smiles with abandon. I can tell, the way he half-heartedly punches the air, that this is not the first race he’s ever won.

Winter Race: 2

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Runners are a weird bunch. Racing is a solo sport, like tennis, but no sport in history has incorporated as many competitors in a single event. Where soccer and field-hockey are fixed, a race can include hundreds or thousands of runners. But only one can win. For the thousand people who “lose,” the glory is in making good time, beating friendly rivals, showing off physical prowess and swank gear. They flaunt the legendary 99% mental stamina that keeps a runner going. Climbers salivate over summits. Runners freak for finish lines.

Winter Race: 1

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Sunday.

9 a.m.

5° F.

If you’re smart, you’ll spend this frigid January morning indoors. With pancakes. And maple syrup.

If you’re my girlfriend, you’re in North Park, gearing up for a five-mile run with a few hundred others. The race is a benefit for some kind of youth ministry, so the pressure is low. But Ky has begun her 16-week training for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and winter running is a must. Ky has never run such a short race. “Pacing is key,” she keeps saying. “I need to not burn out too quickly.”

Easy f0r her to say. I can’t run around the block.