While some Savannah runners were soaking up the sun at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, others were debating over whether to drive to downtown Savannah in a downpour that left spirits and city streets in a cold gray funk, but the promise of some really neat trophies including slave tiles (ceramic brick fired garden tiles that were used as grave markers by African American slaves in Savannah) and reclaimed wood from older Savannah homes, made coming out to the park more enticing… after all, fewer runners, means a greater chance of winning something and what runner can pass up an old wood plank or a brick tile to sit on the mantle or in the case of most of us, on top of the refrigerator or bookcase?
It was easy to find a parking space nearby and had it not been for the red white and blue Fleet Feet arch balloon and a few orange cones set up down the center line of Drayton Street, it would have been easy to drive by and not even know a race was going on.
I parked next to the Temple Mickve Israel, the oldest Jewish Synagogue in Savannah and built in Gothic style. I felt a little guilty walking past the synagogue in my short shorts on the Sabbath, but scurried past and made my way to the Forsyth Park Café for a quick bathroom break and my idea of a warm up… standing inside a heated building until the race was about to start.
I was a bit nervous about the race considering the last time I had run the Rails to Trails race, my bad hip and leg and seized up and I had to limp run and walk the last two miles feeling like an utter beginner and barely making the 3.1 miles in under 45 minutes, but I had been jogging lightly several times a week and only had minor issues, so was hoping for the best.
Runners donned trash bags, expensive micro-thin rain jackets, cheap plastic ponchos from a bar downtown or just polyester running gear, though few were bare shirted this day. One athlete wearing a cut off SCAD shirt ran the whole race barefooted. He looked a little like a bear with giant muscles and that short stocky grown up toddler look that hardcore muscle builders have and it was hard not to imagine him as some real life cartoon character that would freak out and lift a car over his head and hurl it at some arch enemy along the route.
Police officers were dressed in bright yellow ankle length reflective rain coats that made them shine blindingly in the headlights as they directed traffic and ignored rude people who yelled at them out their car windows wanting to know when they were going to get all those stupid runners out the way so they could cross the road to drive to work. There used to be a time when people were polite to police officers, but now they just scream insults at them and question their authority to block the roads, but luckily the car did wait there and not plow the runners down in a show of anti-government defiance.
The race was supposed to show off the historic preservation and restoration in Savannah, but to be honest, most of us were looking at the wet pavement and trying to avoid puddles and manhole covers and watching our step on wet bricks and sloping pavement.
The 5k turned around near the railroad tracks at Bull and Victory, but the 10k went past the tracks around Daffin Park and back again, with several runners having to wait for a train to go by before continuing to run! While they enjoyed seeing the train go past, it did have a negative impact on their race time and might be something race directors might consider next time around, kind of like those automatic water sprinklers that soak the Enmark bridge runners every year as the race is about to start.
Nearly three quarters of the runners went home as soon as they finished the race, but a small loyal gathering stayed to cheer the winners at the awards, which were almost impossible to hear, since the microphone was located about 200 feet away from the speakers that were facing away from attendees, so that many people, including me, did not even know they placed in their age division, but luckily friends grabbed me later and told me, so snagged a nice little key chain, my first award won in over a year and another good reason to stick it out in adverse conditions (because the competition is a lot less stiff!!!).
There were a lot of free snacks and enough beer for everyone to have two servings, though for the life of me I cannot see how anyone can drink beer after running at 8 a.m. in the morning when I want to barf just smelling it at any time of the day, but then I feel the same way about coffee, so maybe I am just weird.
Coca Cola provided the water and as the crowds thinned they brought out the good stuff; mini cans and bottles of Coca Cola products including Powerade (We've never known why they wait to put these out until the crowds thin, but it pays to wait around).
Hopes of hanging around downtown or going shopping after the run were dashed by sopping wet clothes and hair, but it was fun while it lasted and one brave soul even ran the 10k in a chicken suit. Gives new meaning to playing chicken with a train I suppose, but he arrived back at the finish line safely with his feathers (well yellow terrycloth suit) unruffled.
As for me, I managed to maintain a steady 10 minute mile pace for the first two miles, but slowed down a bit on the last mile, which leaves room for improvement, but was better than anticipated and all went well until I attempted to outsprint an eight year old at the finish line and nearly pulled my hip out of joint again… why do I do these things????
When you run, it is hard not to be competitive, with yourself or with others. It is not pleasant and even a little embarrassing to sit out of a race and watch other people running when you can’t because of an injury and no matter how hard you train, it never seems to be enough and you chastise yourself for not being more disciplined, but in this particular race, all of us who had second thoughts about showing up for it due to the rain, were very glad we decided to participate.
There is a part of every runner that thinks, if I get better running gear, take more potent vitamins, eat better food, push myself harder, train faster, I will be a better human being because of it and yet it is sometimes a hollow victory.
The real thrill of running is that it allows you to go places and cover ground you might not ever see the same if you are in the car.
You can cut through cemeteries, run down boardwalks and onto the beach, zip through alleyways too small for vehicles, go from pavement to grass to gravel to sidewalk and up stairs. You are the ultimate all terrain self maintaining vehicle; the envy of robotics makers.
There is a certain joy of feeling the wind on your face and being one on one with the elements; of seeing a hawk snatch a squirrel out a tree or hearing two owls in a verbal altercation in a tall tree above your head; of watching the man in the mansion on the waterfront walk out to his mailbox in his boxer shorts to get the morning paper when he thinks no one is looking before the sun has risen, or to hear the middle age woman coaxing, “come on Tricky, go potty baby, good boy… wanna go potty?” from behind a wood board fence and hoping she is talking about the dog and not her husband.
It is a bit ironic then that the Seacrest Race for Preservation and Restoration has as much to do with the preservation and restoration of the human body and soul, of working hard hours in the gym and on the streets, of waiting faithfully in the hopes of recovering from an unexpected injury that seems to take forever to heal; to wondering financially if you will even be able to afford new running shoes or take a break from work to jog ten minutes without collapsing from exhaustion or of having to take care of others so much that you do not have time to take care of yourself.
Running can bring you closer to who you are as a human being. It can bring you closer to God and nature. It restores that primitive part of you that needs movement to feel alive.
At one point during the race, we saw two small children in a double stroller. One would think that children would not enjoy being bumped around on the pavement in chilly weather with water spraying on them, but the two boys were grinning widely and laughing as their dad hit a bump and a dip that splatters them in muddy water. These two will grow up to be runners. They will run in the rain. They will laugh and have fun while others hide inside and grumble. They will go on to do great things. They will take on challenges and hopefully encourage others to do the same. They will be runners, whether they are in wheel chairs or on crutches, they will still be runners at heart, for it is not so much what the feet can do, but the longing of the heart to pull in all the goodness and the greatness of the world and offer it back to others freely.
Get outdoors and go for a walk. Form a group and start running or biking. Encourage others to get moving and you too will help restore and preserve the beauty of your environment both inside and out.
For complete listing of results for the race go to: http://www.thecoastalsource.com/media/lib/125/c/b/7/cb7fdaa4-2b43-4011-8b82-f7cd5ced6d99/Race_results_3.pdf for the 5k and http://www.thecoastalsource.com/media/lib/125/c/3/7/c372e676-5f61-4220-8616-68431ad191b9/Race_results_2.pdf for the 10k, though some questioned the results, with Barry Luskey, a male runner actually showing as having placed second in the female division age group awards!