I remember reading a novel once in which the main character ran a lot, and in one section of the book had observed that real runners don’t go out in head to toe designer gear, but instead wore faded tshirts and gym shorts that were 20 years old. I took mild offense to that, as being one of those runners that are often in Lulu or Fila or Roots, but didn’t bother taking greater offense mostly because when I took up running, I didn’t have any workout clothes and had to buy new stuff. Also, my labels never match. I ran the half on Sunday wearing Lokosport pants, a Fila tank and my Lulu jacket.
In the summer, when my mother and I were painting my bedroom, I didn’t bother changing out of a pair of Lulu shorts that I run in. My mother warned me that I was going to get paint all over my shorts and I brushed off her concerns, telling her that they were my running shorts, so it didn’t matter if they got a bit of paint on them. Perhaps I thought if they had paint splatters on them, they’d become more respectable to seasoned runners when I wore them on runs.
I have since worn my shorts, splattered with paint and I’ve also gone for runs with a kitchen timer clipped to my shorts, even though I have a fancy heart rate monitor watch with a chest strap that gives very accurate results. As much as I love the fancy watch, it takes some preparation to wear it (kind of like coordinating your running outfit), and during the training runs, I just wanted to run. Kitchen timer? Clip and go. Done.
On Monday afternoon, a coworker came into my office and asked me about the half. I happily shared the story with her and when I mentioned that I did end up duct taping my sneakers, she began to laugh. She’d seen my sneakers last week as I was getting ready to go out on a lunch hour run, and had berated me for letting my runners get so bad – especially since she works at a sporting goods store and can get me a good deal. “You’re such a bad ass,” she said, and asked if I’d seen any other sneakers that were held together with duct tape. I admitted that I had not.
Shorts covered in paint, a kitchen timer, sneakers patched with duct tape. These things negate the labels on my running clothes, and classify me, at least in my warped mind, as a serious runner.
But then when I continued telling my colleague about the race, and how Tay and I had chatted during it, she raised her eyebrow and asked if I had brought my ipod with me.
I shook my head and said that no, I had left Charlotte at home, mostly because it was discouraged by race officials but also because Charlotte hasn’t been doing so well as of late. Shortly after getting her, I somehow managed to crack her screen and, in the past 6 months or so, her battery has been keeping less and less of a charge. It got to the point where I’d leave her charging all night and then take her with me on a long run the next morning only to have her die mid-run. “I can outrun my ipod”, I’d chirp, trying to make it a GOOD thing, when in reality, I’d want to pitch her in the marsh we’d be running around when she’d die. The brutal, brutal 18km we did on that disgustingly humid day, I did mostly without Charlotte – resorting to listening to her only in the last 38 minutes, which, towards the end, was about how long she’d last.
So I ran the entire race without the aid of music, and that, according to my colleague, made me even more of a bad ass, but I also thought the cracked screen, the torn arm band that forced me to listen to Charlotte upside down, the weak battery – all helped give me credibility as a serious runner.
On the way home from the race, I revelled in the victory of completing the half and knew that I didn’t need taped sneakers and shoddy shorts and a battered Ipod to be considered a serious runner, because having completed a half-marathon was, to me anyway, qualification enough. I knew that now that the training was over, it’d be time to get new sneakers, I could retire the ktichen timer and start focusing again on my heart rate with my fancy watch.
But Charlotte? Would she so easily be replaced? My trustworthy sidekick that’s accompanied me mile after mile, on foot and on plane, on boats and especially those long, long hours last year when we travelled by train through Europe with our backpacks and she was the only thing that could put me to sleep in claustrophobic train bunks? Could I turn my back on her?
I was lost in my thoughts on that drive home when Tay said that I had worked really hard to train for the run and that he thought I deserved a reward. I started bouncing in my seat a bit because while I love surprises, a reward sounds so much more exciting. Bigger and better than a surprise, because it implies that you had done something to earn it.
Meet Miranda…Charlotte’s replacement.
She’s so shiny and new and shiny…and NEW. I won’t make reference to the fact that her screen’s not cracked, or that she plays video or that she weighs less (those things ultimately don’t matter to me) but she’ll last a lot longer than Charlotte. She’ll last longer than 38 minutes. And seeing how I’m a serious runner, I really need her to keep up.
(And do I need to mention that I have the best husband ever? Not for surprising me with Miranda (which is fantabulous), but for understanding how badly I needed her…but, also, for running the race with me in the first place? And sticking by my side, so we’d finish together. While I love Miranda (and still love Charlotte, even though she’s being demoted to home use-life support), I really do love my husband most of all.)