The Drama of Running
Races, especially ones that draw a large number of participants, are incredible spectacles, street theatre on-the-run, with a structure fairly analogous to a ‘well made’ stage play, not to mention the obvious runner/performer spectator/audience aspect. They also create a sense of intimately shared space and human connectedness that relates a lot to what we theatre people cherish about live theatre performance.
Today I ran my second half marathon, the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa. I did pretty well, especially considering I signed up at the last minute on Friday afternoon and I ran my last one two years ago exactly; I finished it in 1:36:11 (7:20 pace), which put me 16 out of approx. 1,900 women and 174 out of 3,900 total. I guess I can stop being shy now about calling myself a runner. And maybe I’ll actually train for my next one.
Today’s race, like every other one I’ve participated in, also proved dramatic visually, aurally, and physically, from runners wearing anything from a Superman or a pirate costume to sparkly skirts, to blaring disc jockeys, to a temp in the 40’s (pretty chilly for FL), to the mere toll of the distance on the body. I especially appreciated the flute player at the 1 mile mark, the accordion player at the 3 mile mark, and the fire thrower somewhere thereafter. The stories I overheard people telling afterwards about their running experiences were nothing short of dramatic either–from vomiting and cramping, to spraining and breaking, to wetting and defecating in their pants. (Some diehard runners actually revere pant pooping while running like it’s a grand rites of passage into some elite clan.)
On long runs like today, I always use the time to reflect on lost loved ones and to take stock of my life. In the hour and a half this morning, I remembered with sadness and inspiration my sweet sweet sister, Ginger, and my dear friend Suzanne, two natural athletes (Ginny ran track and Suzanne played field hockey), both of whom fought and lost long hard battles with cancer not long ago. I also thought about how thankful I was just to be alive and well enough to run, to have a full and productive life, to have both parents still alive at 70, and so on.
Have any running stories you care to share?