Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Life as a Brainwashee

As an on-again, off-again recreational runner, I’m more likely to keep the habit going if I have something to “train for.” A few weeks ago I registered for a 5K in Central Park, scheduled for yesterday morning, and sponsored by a group that supposedly puts entry-fee proceeds toward ballroom dancing lessons for inner-city schoolchildren.

Shorty got her jaded ass up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday for this. I ran a couple of road races in 2007, neither of which involved rising with the sun, and both of which delivered some exciting paraphernalia, such as official scoring chips to tie into my shoelaces, unlimited bagels and fruit at the finish line, and T-shirts (one of them long-sleeved).

The ballroom dancers look down on such frivolous fanfare. According to their website, in the interest of carbon-footprint reduction, no welcome bags or T-shirts would be on hand at this 5K because “people have been brainwashed by our society to take home a tangible item [from] every event they attend. This is asinine . . .”

I’ve never thought of myself as even gullible, so the cult leaders must have quite a hold on me - I get off from collecting at least one tangible souvenir from every function that has been at least partially funded by my hard-earned money. I still wear my T-shirts from the 2007 road races - not in public; but they’re comfortable to lounge in while awaiting my next set of mind-control directives.

Yesterday’s run was slated to begin at 8 a.m. When I arrived at the starting point at 7:41, no one else was there. There was no tent or sign-in table; no banners or balloons. By 7:55 about 10 other registrants were milling about in full-on “What the Fuck?” mode. It was troubling that, if this thing ever took off, there would be so few participants. With most NYC road races, you’re one of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other runners, so it’s easy (and part of the fun) to get lost in the crowd. Whereas an 11-person road race would be more like a road chase. The two fitness guru-looking dudes (“wanna go to the gym after this?” one of them asked the other after they had jogged up to the meeting place together) would lead the pack in an effortless sprint, while the rest of us would frantically hustle to avoid being the last person to cross the finish line. But, in the end, there was no need to worry about pulling up this caravan’s rear, as the show did not go on.

At 8:05, after saying my goodbyes to the person I’d been standing around bitching with since 7:46, I rolled into Dunkin’ Donuts, drank a large coffee, and went back to bed.

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