Getting Back in the Race

Whether it’s running or writing, the key to even the most moderate success is regularity. That’s because no matter how challenging a workout or an article might seem, it’s a lot harder to attack either when you’re starting from square one, rather than continuing the process from a groove, no matter how jagged or uneven.

Writing might be even closer to racing, since we’re measured or judged in both endeavors. And that fear of coming up short of expectations, of our own or of others, can prove paralytic in sitting down at a


Hanging out post-race on a warm December morning with Gary Corbitt.

keyboard or pinning on a bib number. Another couple workouts, or a few more polished thoughts, then we’ll be ready to race, or write – but not just now. And that delay can stretch from days, into months, to years. How many marathons or books are stillborn from the fear of not being works of athletic or literary art?

And so, as the year draws to a close, I have made the decision to get off the dime and revive this blog on a more-or-less (hopefully more) weekly basis. For the past half year, I’ve found myself stymied, frequently by lack of time (due for the most part to poor scheduling), at times by a seeming dearth of topics worth commenting on, at others by such a plethora it feels impossible to choose just one or two, like a kid at Baskin Robbins.

But with the Olympics and its attendant run-up beginning, coupled with the demise of such serious running publications as Running Times and Marathon & Beyond, there is hopefully an audience, an appetite, and, if it’s not too presumptuous, a need for some reasoned and reasonable reflections on the state of the sport in this country and in the world. And if there’s not, so be it; at least I’ll enjoy the process, just like a slow jog down a beautiful scenic road.

In much the same way I decided to jump start my running, which at least I’d continued more regularly than this blog, by entering a race, which, given my current fitness level, would be like a marathon to most people.

The event was the Ted Corbitt 15K in Central Park in early December. This race holds a special meaning for me, being named after the man who, in addition to founding the New York Road Runners and breaking barriers as one of the pre-eminent African-American long distance runners in this country, was essentially the creator of the system of race course measurement and certification, a part of the sport I enjoy perhaps more than any other.

It’s also the only race where I’ve wound up in an ambulance, when I started in spite of the onset of the flu and fell victim to the beginnings of hypothermia by two miles, spending the rest of the morning wrapped in a blanket, chatting up a couple of cute interns who were volunteering at the race that day.

There was thankfully no danger of that this year; race morning dawned with a continuation of the unseasonably warm weather that’s blessed the Northeast this fall, with temperatures at the start approaching 60 under a brilliant sun more like April than December. Feeling more like a run in the spring than approaching winter, the miles flew by faster and more easily than I could have hoped, and at the finish I felt exhilarated rather than exhausted, a feeling that was intensified when I bumped into Ted’s son, Gary, who has undertaken his own personal ultramarathon of organizing and cataloging the documents his father amassed over his lengthy career.

That run made me energized to race more frequently, though I know the days of PRs, even with the benefit of age grading, are probably fast receding in the rear view mirror. And I hope this restarted blog will likewise motivate me to more closely keep an ear to the ground of the running world, and put in my two or three cents on the issues in this space on a more or less regular basis.

A friend, also a course measurer, once told me, “perfection is the enemy of good enough.” And while it’s admirable to seek the former, I’ll strive to avoid “perfection paralysis” and, like my running and racing, hope the resultant effort is just a bit more than good enough.


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