Saturday, April 9, 2011

Get Your Head Up!

"I do not seek. I find." - Pablo Picasso

"Get your head up!" - I can still hear Ken yelling at me. It was Huntsville, 2005, and I was desperately trying to run a 3:45 to qualify for Boston. As per usual, I was running my standard of marathon miles progression - good for the first 16-17 miles, feel a tug at my innards from miles 17-22, and begin a tailspin for the last 4 miles. This was nothing new - it is my usual modus operandi for most of my races. So, here I am, at the end of the 26th mile...two tenths to go...unable to catch a breath in what I still recall as the hardest mile I have ever run in my whole life...knowing I will either just make it or (crap!!) just miss it. "Get you head up" I hear Ken booming from the finish line. I raise it just as I go under the clock...3:45:48...thank God for the 59 second rule - drop the seconds. I MADE IT!!

For as long as I can remember (and that is a long time), I have always run with my head down. I have tried countless times to correct this form deficit. I know it will help my speed (that's funny), put less stress on my joints, help my posture, prevent me from looking like a Gargoyle as I tire, and mostly, keep me from bumping into runners coming at me on dark mornings. But, running with my head down not only keeps me from taking a header on the trail, it has also helped me find many interesting objects along the way.

Money - It's fascinating how much money you can find. Once, I really tried to pile it on and see how much I could find on my daily runs. Now, recognizing that I have about 3 regular routes that I run on the road, it was amazing that one year I found $149. The bonanza was Saturday morning runs that I would traverse through the fast-food drive thru. I guess folks are so plastered at 1 AM that they don't care if they drop the change out the car window. Even found a ten dollar bill once! I usually donate the money I find to the Leukemia Society.

Once I found a handgun lying by the side of the road. Now, I've seen NCIS enough to know that I didn't want my prints on the gun, so I wrapped it (and the gun clip I also found close by) in newspaper and ran to the Police Station. I was a little disappointed that they didn't seem to have that same excitement that I had that this might solve the crime of the century. They also didn't compliment me on not disturbing the crime evidence with the newspaper. Oh well!

Found a Fire Truck Walkie-talkie in a ditch once. Ran it to the local Fire Station and found it humorous when the dispatcher took it, said "thanks...Hey Frank, missing something?"

Numerous golf balls, tennis balls, and baseballs just lying by the side of the road. I usually pick them up and try to bounce them while I'm running. If I can do it twice in a row, it's a good day. Mostly, I wonder (like the money I find) "how the heck did this get here?" when it's in the middle of nowhere.

When I'm out of town, it's always fun to come across mile markers painted on the road from previous road races. Some cosmic connection there.

Around my town, they take pride in putting the US flag on the light poles every chance they get. One year, I was running early in the morning and found, on the ground, one of the flags had blown off the pole during a storm the night before. The flagpole was too short to stick in the ground, so I just figured I'll run it the 3 miles or so to the Police Station (seems I'm there a lot). So, like a scene out of Gone With The Wind, I'm running down the road with this wet, heavy, full-sized US flag over my head, thinking, "this was a mistake". Next thing I know, folks are honking their horns, people are yelling "USA, USA, USA", thumbs up, hands waving. Made that flag seem a lot lighter and me, pretty proud.

Tools - I could supply a pretty good tool shed with all the hammers, screwdrivers, and what-nots I've found along the way. One time in Atlanta, I came across this huge wrench that I swear must've been used for anchoring interstate lightpoles. The damn thing must've weighed close to 10 pounds. Well, I carried it about a half mile until my arms cramped, dropped it in some bushes, went back later to pick it up and it sat in the trunk of my car, untouched, for the next two years. Why in the world did I think I needed that? Crazy!

At least 3-4 times a year, I find credit cards, wallets, licenses, etc. and always try to return it to the owner before sending it the appropriate agency. I like the response when the owner doesn't even know they lost something. Better than that, I like the joy some folks get, like a teenager's license I found at Gulf Shores. He lived about 200 miles from me, but I tracked him down, called him, and he acted like...well...a teenager whose driver's license had been found. He was VERY thankful. Great!

Early one Christmas morning, I was running and passed a Nativity Scene. During the night, a storm had blown through and knocked down all the life-sized figures. There was Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the 3 wise men and all the animals scattered here, there and everywhere. Like a kid with big toys, I put them all in their places. As I was leaving, I could swear I heard Jesus say "OK, Al just earned a point in The Big Book". Honestly, it was pretty cool.

Finally, I was running across the MIT Harvard Bridge in Boston a couple of years ago, and noticed the bridge was marked off "One Smoot, two Smoots..." and so on to the end of the bridge. Ok, had to check this out. Turns out that Oliver Smoot was an MIT freshman in 1962 and his fraternity declarded that the 5'7" Oliver was a unit of measurement. He had to lie down on the bridge and have his height marked along the whole span! The markers have endured the past 50 years!! The MIT Harvard bridge measures 364.4 Smoots! Gotta love it.

Above is the blue sky, the sun, rainbows, and countless stars. But sometimes looking down has it's visual benefits also. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Karla said...

What a great case for running with your head down!! A handgun? Smoots? Amazing. I never find anything on my runs, but I'm usually looking out at the scenery--flowers, cute dogs, or desperately squinting for the nearest water fountain. Great post!

AL said...

Thanks so much Karla! What flowers do you see in NY?

Karla said...

Right now, we've got the standard spring mix--daffodils, irises, and tulips galore. Also azaleas, rhododendrons, hyacinth and lilac. And then the spring blooms on trees--dogwood, magnolia and cherry. Spring is my favorite season in Central Park. It's really gorgeous and just starting to bloom right now :)

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