Race for the Cure

After Chris Thater I was looking for another race to keep myself motivated, and on impulse I registered for the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure in Scranton. A fellow runner had told me it was a lot of fun and the size of the field (8,000!) appealed to me. Way, way more people than Steamtown, on a 5K course–what could that be like?

So yesterday morning I got up at 5:30am–painful, since I hadn’t had enough sleep the week before–and left for Scranton around 6:15. I hadn’t tapered or anything since I’m still at a measly 10 miles a week (5 long run on Sundays, 2 2-milers on weekday mornings plus one intervals day), and since it was on impulse I didn’t have a lot of time to plan. I parked at the Steamtown Mall and saw oodles of participants all over. However, most were wearing cotton clothing (lots of RftC and team T-shirts), most of the women had makeup, and there were lots of little kids and people who looked out of shape, so it didn’t have the atmosphere of an intense race. Courthouse Square was full of people and tents, with no clear sign of where to start or what to do. I asked at a booth where I should sign in and they sent me around two sides of the block. Two long tents side-by-side, one for people registering that morning and one for pre-registers. No division by last name or anything, and no real lines, just a mob around the table. I gave my name, which wasn’t on the first set of sheets; the person asked if I had registered online and then went to another set of sheets. She gave me a T-shirt and offered me a pink magnetic ribbon. “What about a bib number?” I asked. She said that was the tent on the other side of the square. I crossed between the buildings but only saw food tents and a Ford booth handing out bandanas (which I realized hours later may have been what she meant: bib = bandana?) Finally I asked at another booth.

“Are you a runner? You just line up first… Good luck!” It felt so incomplete and wrong! I wouldn’t know where I was in my age group or anything. Grr… I went over to stand in line for some of the expo-type booths. That was also grumpifying. I was next to a group of women complaining about their husbands. The tables were all companies handing out plastic tchotchkes. People forced their way to the tables and grabbed handfuls of this crap that no-one really needs, including me, yet there I was taking part in this mass of human greed. I turned down quite a few things but took quite a few too, pens etc, a totebag–don’t I have enough totebags?–so I was annoyed with myself the whole time. Part of my monkey self curiosity to not break out of the line because I hadn’t seen what else there was. The most ironic: a USDA table promoting their new Healthy Eating Pyramid, decorated with a rubber model of a huge glob of human fat and–to draw people to the table–wait for it… an enormous bowl of Tootsie Rolls!

I went back to the car to deposit my useless booty and then it was time to line up for the race. Huge mobs of people on the sidewalks in front of the start line (an arch of balloons), but a suspiciously small knot of runners right at the line. After going back only about 50 feet everyone looked like a walker, and when I asked around, they were. I moved up quite a few rows & ended up to someone I recognized (Sister Mary Elizabeth, a librarian at Mercy Hospital), which was cool, but she was a walker too so I hadn’t gotten to the runners yet. A very attractive young couple said they weren’t running but “jogging–we’re not serious!” Then the start horn went off and the frustration started. Blocks and blocks of walkers, paying no attention to people behind them, pushing strollers, the whole bit. Clearly everyone on the sidewalks had poured into the street as soon as the horn went off and there was no kind of crowd control to keep people in logical order. After a couple of blocks I ended up running on the sidewalk with a bunch of other people as we tried to get past the walkers.

Finally, after at least a third of a mile, I had more room to run and settled into my stride. I passed lots of people who had already slowed to a walk. We ran along Wyoming Avenue, down a long long slope and then up again. At the peak it was cool to turn around and see a huge mass of people filling the street behind me (walkers all)–I’ll never see that again! I noticed a couple of people, especially a womanwith short red hair wearing a green T-shirt who passed me around mile 1 but was running only a tiny bit faster than me. I kept her in sight the whole race and had a back-of-the-mind idea that maybe I could pass her. The hill kept going up. An elderly guy with a ponytail and teal leggings was ahead of me running in old leather loafers. He had huge calf muscles. I think he may have been homeless or at least very eccentric because of the inappropriate footwear and clothing in general, and his weather-beaten, leathery skin. He slowed to a walk on the steepest part. Two women chatting (ie not out of breath) pulled ahead of me.

We turned a corner and took the parallel avenue back to Courthouse Square, picking up the marathon route along the way which was really cool. Since I didn’t know the course that was encouraging as well because I had a better sense of how much longer we had. Green T-shirt lady was a good half-block ahead but I started gaining on her on the hill pastCooper’s. Then I could see the finish and started sprinting, but I didn’t get anywhere near her in time. Finish clock–I wasn’t going to beat 33 minutes. Sure enough, 33:11. Tony the Tiger was waiting at the finish line to high-five the runners (there was a Kellog’s booth giving out Special K Fruit & Yogurt) but he turned away just as I crossed so I just gave him a pat on the shoulder.

Great finish-line food: Krispy Kreme donuts, yogurt, oranges, and best and most unusual of all, Mrs. T’s pierogies (with butter & broccoli & carrots). Yum! Not so good: grape-flavored Propel (so icky sweet and artificial tasting I had to pour the rest of mine out), and the Special K which I had for breakfast this morning (same faults as the Propel except fake strawberry instead of grape). Lots and lots of runners finishing after me, so it was fun to cheer them on. I watched part of the awards ceremony (not running awards that I saw, rather fundraising ones) which hardly anyone was paying attention to & then went home. I wouldn’t do it again but it was an interesting experience! In future I will definitely make sure races are proper ones where everyone is timed…