Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Race (?)

-Dr. Daniel A. Shaye

It wasn't a race.

Or was it?

At most races, you know you're racing before the event begins. You sign up, pay your fee, pin on a number, warm up... you know the drill.

This day was different.

It was 1990-something, and I was on a run at Newport News Park. Up ahead, there was a cyclist. At the risk of being politically incorrect, he would have been listed in the movie credits as "Fat Kid on Bike." I glided towards him, the distance slowly narrowing. I paid him little attention, focused more on form and pace and my mind's meanderings.

Then he glanced back. No big deal, not a lingering look, nothing to portend that our encounter would be memorable. Life went on, the run went on.

Then he looked back again. And he sped up.

I remember thinking, "This isn't a race..." and then I (or something within me) added, slowly, with a joyous smile beginning to play on my heart: "... or IS it?"

And I sped up.

And he looked back again.

And he sped up again.

And soon, it was ON.

I remember ramping up the pace a little bit. I remember his legs going from leisurely, to not-so-leisurely, to pumping furiously. I have no idea what went through this kid's mind. Was he excited by the prospect of the race? Was he suddenly terrified by the madman, the crazy runner chasing and actually holding pace with him ON FOOT? Would he too remember this day?

The pace kept increasing, and I'd long-since abandoned "training pace" in favor of race pace. Lack of a number, lack of racing flats, lack of spectators, lack of a finish line or published results... these did not matter. It was race day, and we would each remember it.

A mile or three later, I had him. Some horses blocked the path, and he slowed. I tore past the cyclist and the horses, never looking back. Now, they're behind me... many years behind me. But I will always remember the not-race that became a race.

I hope that kid remembers that day, too. I imagine (hope?) it changed him for the better in ways I can imagine, or even not imagine. Perhaps any fear he might have felt was the fear of wondering, "Can I do this? What IS this primal thing within me, the chase, the race? And why is it hard, yet feels so right, so joyous?" I imagine that he became an athlete, a great cyclist, or perhaps a great runner or triathlete. I'll never know, unless he reads this. Maybe he'll contact me with a wondrous story; or perhaps he'll call me up and say, "Finally! Now I know who the jerk was who scared the heck out of me as a kid!"

But regardless... what a race!

I'll see you on the roads and trails, my friends.

-Dr. Daniel A. Shaye
Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
Fellow, International Academy of Medical Acupuncture

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