We all know My Home Town's official start of Winter Carnival is the coronation. But it's not my official start. Uh-uh, Carnival doesn't begin for me until the Ice Palace Fun Run.
Well, I've got a bunch of reasons.
First, I designed the course. Second, I've been in every one of the runs for, lo, the last 30 years. And third, I define myself as a runner.
To me, running is a lot more than exercise. It's a challenge, a meditation, a sight-seeing tour, and often just plain fun. Or at least it was till last spring, when I got laid low by Arthur.
The Arthur I'm talking about is not Godfrey, Goldberg or Garfunkle. It's the last Arthur a runner wants to deal with - Arthur-itis of the hip.
When I first got diagnosed, I was fine with it. Sure, it was a pain in the prat, almost literally, but compared to all the other things that can go wrong in one's golden years, it's hardly the worst. Let's talk geriatric nitty-gritty here it might hurt, but it wasn't gonna kill me. And for that I was grateful. Plus, during the summer and early fall I could hike and bike, so I was getting exercise and not missing running too much.
But as time went on and it became clear I couldn't run anymore, I started throwing parties?- of the one-man pity type. I tried to be philosophic about it, but it didn't work. I had defined myself as a runner so much over the years that once I stopped running, I didn't know how to redefine myself. A non-runner, surely, but what does that mean? A wretch? A quitter? A washout? A has-been? A never-was?
I'll spare you my melodrama, but suffice it to say I was not the lighthearted lad of yore, and I was also not very good company. And no one pointed that out more than the Amazon Queen.
I'd complain about not being able to run and she'd say, "Well, why don't you get out there and try? You can always run and walk. Or even just walk, by itself."
"But I don't want to run and walk, I want to run," I'd whine. "And I will not just walk."
"OK," she'd say. "So run."
"Well, you can't run but you don't wanna walk," she'd say. "In other words, you want it all."
Then she'd add, "And guess what?"
"You can't have it."
And with that, the conversation was over - as it should've been. The only thing worse than her not listening to my tales of woe, was my hearing them myself.
But the closer I got to Winter Carnival, the more I thought about the Ice Palace Run, even entertaining thoughts of going in it. In order to do that, though, I had to get in shape, and in order to do that, I had to get into some sort of training regimen. Unfortunately, I couldn't. Or maybe more exactly, I wouldn't. Call it a crisis of confidence, or perhaps just plain laziness, but as the weeks went by and the more I kept telling myself I was going to do the run, the less actually I did about it. Or more precisely, I didn't do less, because you can't do less than nothing, right?
So the time flew by, as it always does, and there I was, a week before the race, having run a grand total of two miles in two separate, one-mile sessions.
Then a light appeared at the end of the tunnel: The AQ pointed out I didn't have to run the 4-mile course - I could run the 2-mile one instead.
Suddenly, for the first time in a long time I had hope. The four-miler, the one I designed, is a hard run, full of hills. But a two mile course? Hey, I could do that standing on my head.
As the week went by, my confidence waxed and waned. In the morning I'd feel strong, knowing I could do it; by the afternoon, I didn't know if I could trot down a flight of stairs.
Finally, the night before the run, I took stock and thought long and hard about my odds of succeeding. And I concluded that running consists of three components. One is your muscles. The other is your wind. The last is your mind. And the most important one is your mind, because it controls the other two. So if I could keep my head in charge and stay within a sensible pace, I figured I could finish two miles just fine.
Morning dawned, bright and inviting - not too cold, and with no wind. It was a perfect day for a winter run and I was in a perfect mood. Unfortunately, my mood didn't last very long: When I went to sign in for the two mile I found out there was none. Somehow, the AQ had, for the first time in distant memory, gotten something wrong.
So what to do?
I did the only thing I could -?I signed up for the four mile.
And why not? In my previous night's skull session, I'd decided it was all a matter of being smart, not strong, fast, or anything else. And while the four mile run was twice as long as I'd planned on, it'd have more stresses, but I wouldn't have fewer brains.
The course itself is pretty wicked. It's got hills throughout, and they're tough hills at that. I'd designed it specifically because it was so hard. And why not? I was in my early thirties then and aflame with the arrogance of youth. How was I to know I'd be an ancient relic someday?
We gathered at the start, some announcements were made, and then we were off!
and the finish
I jogged the first couple hundred yards with my pal Kirk Peterson, and after he got bored of baby sitting, he took off. That left me at the back of the pack.
Ahead of me were two women who looked like their pace might be close to mine. I kept on keepin' on and by the first hill, on Riverside Drive, the women were walking and I passed them. A half mile later, they passed me; then I went by them on the hill up Indian pass.
And so it went throughout the race, with them passing me and me passing them, until we were on the Lake Flower home stretch, with me in the lead by 20 yards. In all honesty, I wasn't paying much attention to them, since the finish was maybe a hundred yards away and I was diddy-bopping my way in, utterly overjoyed that I was going to finish the run.
Suddenly, my reverie was shattered by the sound of running shoes hitting asphalt. The women were speeding up. They were going to try to beat me to the finish.
See, here's the thing: Those gals were a lot younger than me. And according to my Rules of the Run, if you're in the back of the pack and some old wheezer is ahead of you near the finish, the least you can do is let him or her cross ahead of you.
But that pair didn't think like me. They had no respect for their elders. They wanted to beat me!
They'd closed my lead to maybe five yards and were gaining
I checked my breathing, checked how far I had to go and suddenly went into my legendary kick. My pace was hardly what anyone under 90 would call fast, but it was fast enough for me to leave them behind in the salt.
When I crossed the finish line, I'd pretty much used up my stores of energy and strength, for given my condition, the run involved a fair degree of strain and pain.
But given how it ended, it also involved a whole lot of fun.