This spring I took a stab at something rather new to me: trail running. My first was Pretzel City Sports’ Ugly Mudder back in February, followed by the Mt. Penn Mudfest in April, and I was pretty much hooked from the beginning. In trail running the ham hock legs I got from years of rowing, squats, and running up and down the bleachers at Memorial Stadium are a boon instead of a liability, which is a welcome change from most other racing formats. It’s also nice to race outside the city, as much as I like being able to roll out of bed and jog down the hill to the start line, which by virtue of living in Fairmount I’m able to do for both the Distance Run and the Philadelphia Marathon, as well as for the apparently infinite number of 5-and-10k run/walks that dominate the summer calendar. What I like most about running trails, though, is how absolutely in the moment you have to be. Thinking one step ahead–har har–you chart a path through rocks, mud patches, and fallen trees. Bounding from boulder to boulder down a steep hill feels like flying, though the next day you’re likely to feel it in your metatarsals as soon as you swing your feet out of bed and onto the floor. In short, the physical balance and mental focus that trail running gives it a quality that seems, to my untutored mind, rather zen-like.
The Wissahickon 10k Trail Classic this past Saturday was for me, however, far from a zen experience. Getting ready to leave for the course, I looked at the race brochure to double-check the start location, and discovered to my dismay that it was approximately six miles (and one sizable hill) further north than I had anticipated. With an hour to go, I grabbed my Raleigh beater and bolted out the door. Forty minutes later, after climbing Ridge Ave and running down a section of trail with my bike banging against my shoulder, I made it, picked up my race number, and set my mind to taking care of some, er, pre-run business. That’s when I saw the line for the Port-a-John. My heart would have sunk into my bowels had there been any extra room down there. With the start time fast approaching, I ditched the potty line, hoping that I could make it six miles without soiling myself. In any case, several days of rain had muddied the course enough that likely no one would notice if I did.
Needless to say, my rush to the race course and stomach issues made for something of a difficult race. I finished respectably–31 out of 447–but I felt like under better conditions I could have been faster. The especially frustrating part is that said conditions were entirely of my own making. But at least I didn’t crap my pants.
And now for something completely different!
I tried to find an Italian Idiom of the Day related to running, races, or even the stomach, but nothing appealed to me. So here’s one inspired by the twentieth century America book list I’ve been writing:
mettere all’indice–to blacklist (indice = forefinger)
Durante il maccartismo molta gente del cinema venne messa all’indice. During the McCarthy era, a lot of people in the movie industry were blacklisted.
BONUS: There we also got the Italian word for McCarthyism (maccartismo), as well as the conjugation of venire (to come) in the passato remoto, or literary past tense. Aren’t languages neat?