Fall is Here
by Mark Jimenez
Fall is here, hear the yell
Back to school, ring the bell
Brand new shoes, walking blues
Climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we are going to be friends
Yes, I can tell that we are going to be friends
I love this time of year. I love the brisk air as I go for a run. I love waking up and feeling how still the mornings are as the cold wraps Las Vegas. I love seeing the coyotes with their fluffy winter coats, I tell them they are beautiful. Sometimes I swear they run with me, at least for a little while.
I know many people don’t like the cold, but I don’t think it’s that cold here, not when you start running anyway. My rule in Las Vegas is this, “If the sun is up, I’m wearing shorts for my run.” You won’t find me in tights unless I’m running before the sun comes up.
I’m glad we got to this time of year. I needed the motivation. It’s been a hard road since the St. George Marathon. Life got really busy between coaching cross country, teaching, and all the other things I have going on. For a long time there I didn’t get my runs in until the afternoon or evening. For a person who is prone to depression and needs those endorphins, not running in the morning can lead to a bad day.
There were several bad days.
From early October to about the first week of November running started to seem more like a chore than anything else. It was something I had to do in order to keep this streak up. Add to that a nagging hamstring issue and running was really starting to lose it’s appeal. I wondered if the streak was worth it on top of everything else I had going on in life. It’s just a number, I told myself. It doesn’t define who you are.
Luckily, I have friends who remind me of how much fun running can be.
Brooks asked us at Red Rock Running Company to work the booth at the Las Vegas Rock n Roll expo. As part of the deal, we were able to get a few race entries. I hadn’t run more than 10 miles since the St. George Marathon, but I figured I’d do the half. Drew signed up with me and he promised to stay with me and just keep me happy and enjoy the run with me.
The half marathon is by far my favorite race. It’s just the right distance where I feel I can give it my all yet still not go into nearly as much pain and mental struggle as a full. Nevertheless, I knew that I wasn’t anywhere close to being in shape. My hamstring had issues and I was just going to try to run it out and have fun with it.
The race started well enough. I high-fived a bunch of people on the way out of the coral. But then about 1/2 mile into it the smile left my face. I’m not sure why, but an unpleasant image popped into my head and I couldn’t shake it. My pace dropped and I was not happy. All around me people were smiling and cheering, the race had only just begun. Drew found himself ahead of me and he’d slow down and wait for me. We had several conversations that went something like this.
“Drew, just leave, I’m slowing you down.”
“No, I don’t care about time, I’m here to run with you.”
“Come on man, I don’t mind, I hate being a burden.”
“I came to run with you.”
And so it went for about 4 miles. Kudos to Drew for not taking me up on my offer. I really appreciate it. Drew passed the time by telling me about the midwest tradition of “Ope” and what it means. He did make me laugh a few times when he went by somebody and said “ope,” or when somebody passed us and Drew would say, “Ope.” Still, they were half hearted smiles.
On top of all of this, I started to chafe a bit. I hadn’t put any anti-chafe on before the run, and I was really starting to be in pain. By around mile 3 I realized that either my shirt had to go or I would be running with the dreaded “Red 11.” I hate running without my shirt. But I hate bleeding nipples more. I took my shirt off. I almost tossed it aside, but then I realized it would be cold at the finish line and that I’d probably want it with me. So I carried the shirt the next 9 1/2 miles.
Drew’s relentless humor and good mood finally started getting to me around mile 4. I found myself smiling, and as a result the pace picked up. My hamstring had warmed up and while it still hurt, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been. The miles started to peel off as we started to have more and more fun. Drew, ever the ham, was “ope-ing” his way around the half marathon. One man would race by us, and then walk. Every time we passed him Drew would “ope.” Then he’d “ope” again when the man would pass us. I think they guy started to pick up on it, but the pattern continued for a while.
Around mile 11 a man who had clearly enjoyed a bit of alcohol pointed at us and said, “you guys are my inspiration.”
I just shook my head and laughed. Drew, however, took it a step further. “No way man, you’re my inspiration!”
The man was very pleased and hooted and hollered at us until we were out of ear shot. That’s Drew, making friends wherever he goes.
As we approached the finish line I noticed that we were close to a 1:45 finish. Not anywhere close to my best time, but still a time I’d like to beat. I heard what I swear was somebody cat-calling me (I almost stopped and put my shirt on right before the finish line in embarrassment), and Drew and I took off. Not only did we manage to stop our watches at the exact same time, but the official results have us finishing at the same time as well. It was a great run.
We hadn’t been at the finish line more than 30 seconds when the head coach of the cross country team I coach approached us. “I turned around and saw you at the start,” Andy said. “The whole race I ran scared hoping you wouldn’t pass me.” Then he paused and added, “well, I ran the first 11 miles scared. Then I saw the Trump building and ran the last 2 miles mad.”
We got a good laugh out of it.
About a minute later we were joined by Andrew, who had paced the 1:40 group. He nailed the pace but because of the way the corals started he finished just a little behind us. I marveled that out of the 35,000 or so people running the race that I managed to find 2 of my running buddies right at the finish line.
I was reminded how much more fun running is when you do it with friends.
The next week I focused on running in the morning. My days got so much better as I ran first thing in the morning. Those endorphins lasted the rest of the day! I ran the Happy Hippe Harvest 10k on Saturday and had even more fun. When I take away the “how fast can I run” aspect, running is so much more enjoyable. It’s my mental maintenance. When I do it right, there isn’t much better.
It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Morning runs and running buddies definitely make the list.
I hope everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.