Gelukkige nuwe jaar! / 新年快樂! / Bonne année! / Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος! / annum faustum / 새해 복 많이 받으세요! / ສະບາຍດີປີໃຫມ່ / Поздравляю с Новым Годом! / Feliz Año Nuevo! / Chúc Năm Mới Tốt Lành / እንኳን አደረሱ
Greetings for the new year in Afrikaans, Mandarin, French, Greek, Latin, Korean, Lao, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Amharic! And American Sign Language here (just the first five seconds; the rest are my resolutions).
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One of my resolutions for 2015 was to run a race, like a 10k or a half-marathon. Well, 2015 came and went, and I did not accomplish that goal. However, in late December, a friend of mine told me she couldn’t make it to a 15k in San Francisco that she had signed up for, so I bought her bib off of her and resolved: I may not fulfill the resolution in 2015, but I’ll only be ten days late. Today, I ran my first race!
Technically, in 2013 I did a 5k Color Run, but… as fun as that was, it hardly counts. The San Francisco Hot Chocolate run is fifteen kilometers, or 9.3 miles. I have never run continuously for that distance before.
So with just a few weeks to train, I got a new pair of running shoes and downloaded a running app. According to Runkeeper, I was averaging 8:30/mi on my practice runs around Berkeley, and I never ran more than 12km (7.5mi) in a day. Yesterday, I didn’t run at all, just rested and ate a lot of fried noodles.
This morning, I got up at 6:30am, looked outside, and thought, “What the heck did you sign yourself up for, Andrew?” I was not looking forward to running for over an hour in the cold and the dark in San Francisco. But I steeled myself and drove to Golden Gate Park anyway. (The sun rose beautifully over the Oakland Harbor as I crossed the Bay Bridge.)
Again, this was my first time running any kind of real race, so I didn’t know what to expect. I just had my sneakers, shorts, and a cool sweat jacket that all participants got upon registration. My phone was in a workout armband. I looked around at the thousands of other people, many of them decked out in cooler gear and looking much more prepared. But I figured: I may be a novice, but at least I know how to run, and that’s really all I have to do for the next… several dozens of minutes, let’s say.
Before I knew it, I found myself in the starting corral with two minutes left until the race kicked off. I snapped a quick selfie and then stretched in the crowded space (it hadn’t occurred to me earlier that I might want to warm up!)… and then we were off!
Of course, starting out, it was frustratingly crowded, and I quickly did some tight, hazardous swerves to pass slower folks ahead of me. But after one kilometer, the hordes thinned, and I found my stride and settled in for the long haul.
There are two things I was really thankful for in this race. One: the first third was almost entirely downhill, which was great for timing (and the second third was entirely flat!). Two: there were official “pacers” who were trained to keep a steady minutes-per-kilometer pace for the entire run. I first found myself behind the 8:30/mi guy, but soon passed him, so I looked for the 8:00/mi guy and eventually passed him, too. My goals were small and systematic: Find a target runner a few yards ahead of you, then pass them. Find another target… Repeat. Don’t slow down.
The views throughout the course were gorgeous, too. Golden Gate Park was damp and very green, and once we turned out of the park and onto Ocean Beach, I couldn’t help but stare to my right at the huge waves crashing toward us. It was lovely. The poor volunteers who were cheering really loudly and handing the runners cups of water or cups of chocolate and candy (per the race’s theme…) were a little less lovely.
By the final third of the race, I had my eyes set on the 7:30/mi pacer and really worked hard to pass him, including a sprint toward the finish line. It was a literal uphill battle, but I repeated to myself a few mantras one of the fitness instructors at the RSF has drilled into me: “I can, and I will.” “I am tough, never tired.”
Seventy minutes after I began the race, I jumped over the finish line, fist-up Mario-style, and I hope the photographer got a good shot of that. Then I put my face in my hands and thought, “Wow. You did it. You’re crazy. You did it. Get water.”
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Recreational running is a curious activity. One is very much alone while engaged in it, and the distractions come fast and often, yet the cheers of bystanders and other runners is actually pretty encouraging. I had no music to listen to, so my mind would wander. And more than once, I thought, “Why am I doing this? Why are we all doing this?” What was I running from? What was I running toward? Why, after an hour of unclear flight or pursuit, did I end up right back where I started?
I wouldn’t say it was fun. Fulfilling, I suppose. (And the chocolate they gave to race finishers at the end was nice.) I think the original reason I had a race as a new year’s resolution was that the training regimen would have been good habitual exercise. When the race itself was over, I felt happy, but also dazed, disgruntled, and slightly in pain.
But at least my friends seemed happy for me, too, as photos I posted to Facebook began to rack up likes. I think what people like about races is that they are very simple and unambiguous instances of goals set and achieved. A lot of decently healthy and able-bodied people can jog for a couple hours; that’s nothing special. But noting that this was a first-time achievement for me, or that I was fulfilling a past resolution: I suppose that is what made it meaningful to not just myself, but to my friends who cheered me on.
I ran into a first cousin (once-removed) at the Hot Chocolate Run, completely unexpectedly. I mean, I knew she was a frequent distance runner, and I had thought it would be funny if we saw each other, but our paths crossed before the race, and so we also met up and caught up over our hot chocolate and fondue post-race. She and her husband have lots of experience (think Ironman and marathons), and I learned from them that when it comes to runners, well, the crazy ones who actually win the actual races, who can keep up a 6:00/mi for twenty-six miles, always have some amazing story behind why they run. Maybe they overcame some physical ailment, or maybe they run because they go into a meditative state and escape from the world somehow. Well, my story is nothing like that, but I’ve told it now… and I wonder if this is just the beginning?
Happy New Year!
Word of the Day: kvell, which comes into English by way of Yiddish (קוועלן), means to be extraordinarily proud of something, to delight or revel in… usually, a mother kvells over her child’s achievements. I don’t think my mother was wholly aware that I was running a race today, though. I reminded her last night when she asked why I had to drive back to Berkeley so early, and she said, “Oh! Yeah,” then texted me later asking if I wanted some guacamole she’d made.
P.S. I enjoy choosing a Word of the Day for each post, but I also enjoy reading about the Word(s) of the Year chosen each year by the American Dialect Society, a sister organization to the Linguistic Society of America. The annual meeting just concluded in Washington, D.C., and the chosen word for 2015 was the singular/gender-neutral they. Great choice, in my opinion. Read more about it here!