I'm not a racer. I am a runner. I ran around the neighborhood when I was growing up, when we hopped on and off bikes; around the track in high school; and around a reservoir in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts during college. I haven’t competed as a runner since high school Cross Country meets on dusty hills near Crystal Springs. I haven’t trained for a marathon. It wasn’t until a friend decided she wanted to set a goal, train, and sign up for the 2008 Big Sur 10.6 Miler that I decided to throw my name into the hat.
For some reason, when she presented this plan, it struck me as a great idea. This was back in December; New Year’s Resolutions were approaching and I envisioned a sunny day down the road in April, when—after extensive training—I’d set my mark and be on my fit, competitive way. Well, that’s not exactly what happened because I didn’t exactly “train.” I did keep up my semi-weekly runs down to Crissy Field and back, but I didn’t push myself too hard or steadily increase my mileage in weekly increments. I also got the idea that I wouldn’t drink alcohol for the month of April, to feel my fittest inside and out, but I didn’t exactly do that either.
The day before the race, I did decide that I would bring what I could: a positive attitude, an open mind for what I pictured being a multiple-hour trek along Highway One, and time to reflect as I looked out at the Pacific. It also helped that my friend said we could walk as much as we wanted. In fact, she said, “Jenn, it’s a fitness event.” And then I calmed down considerably. A fitness event? I could handle that.
We checked in at the Monterey Convention Center the evening before, looked our names up in a directory, and found our numbers were only one digit off—7242 and 7241—even though we had signed up months apart and our names fall nowhere in sync in the alphabet. It was a good sign; I liked it. After plenty of carbs and a showing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall the night before, we got some rest and rose at 5AM to catch our bus to the starting line, nearly 11 miles past Marathon Village, on the rugged coastline where rocks break the surface like tortoise backs.
We handed our sweat bags to friendly hands, outstretched from a school bus on the side of the road, and we were off. By “off,” I mean we settled into a leisurely 10:30-minute-mile gait. But it worked. We felt good. There were supporters cheering on the sidelines, volunteers handing us Gatorade, and bands playing near the mile markers along the way (where else can you see a piano set up on a carpet square among purple ice plants?) And then there was that ocean, pristine and clear—and conducive to clear thinking.
As the race went on, I somehow become a coach. I dare say “a positive inspiration.” I set the pace, coached my friend up the hills, let the runner’s high kick in for the first time in years, and managed this: to run the whole way. We finished our little fitness event 221st and 222nd, one digit apart, out of 1,177 participants. We let ourselves feel proud and accomplished—of ourselves, each other, and the many people who came out that day to be part of something larger than any one solitary runner.
And on the way home, we stopped at In N’ Out Burger.
Causes Jennifer Massoni Supports