Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The path less traveled

"TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth"

One of life’s crossroads came in junior high school for me. My main extracurricular activity was band. I played in the band or at least was the source of the band conductor’s indigestion with my very mediocre performance. Only the best made Jazz band. My goal of saxophone in the Jazz band was just a pipe dream or should I say a reed dream. There was something about the blue note that struck a chord with me. My problem was the John Phillip Souza sour notes that blocked the way to that goal. I turned down the less traveled path of running that early spring over 40 years ago. My foot steps still grace that path.

Last week I went to the Cohasset by the sea Road Race. I cannot believe it has been 30 years of one race for me. It feels like I am living a remake of the movie Same Time Next Year. I guess life does imitate art. But, a good race has a way of drawing one back. The time of year kicks off my racing season (especially as I age and race less often). The course is beautiful. It goes by quaint inlets, spectacular ocean vistas, mansions of the rich and famous, and historical points of interest. The course is challenging. Challenge inspires my gumption more than a flat fast “PR” course. The race is well run year after year. Every turn is marked and every split is barked out loud, clear, and accurate. The post race festivities (food, times, awards, etc.) are prompt and efficient. Then there is the legacy effect. Each year insidiously adds to its momentum. It seems to add to the tall tail legend effect, as well. I noticed that I was being credited with “5 or 6 wins” when in fact it is more like 3. At this rate, I can expect to be credited with 42 overall wins when they run the 40th annual in 7 years.

About 1,500 runners lined up on this sunny but very breezy 57 degree day. While waiting for the race to start, someone tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. It turned out to be my paperboy from the early/mid 1980’s. I had given him a shirt I got from famed miler Steve Scott as part of his newspaper Christmas tip. I remember this young boy reacting like I had given him a leprechaun’s pot of gold. He went on to become quite a middle distance runner. I wonder if my gift had any influence on his path. He then says that he will be shortly entering the masters division. Now I just feel real old rather than philosophical.

I ran a time of 37:23, a respectable time for someone about to turn 55. I particularly enjoyed this years Cohasset by the sea 10K. I felt good. I also had the surreal experience of many past positive and memorable moments merging into one nostalgic point of time. I won the race three different times today. I was also top 5 a gazillion times more. I ran mid 31 minutes like I did in my heyday. My picture crossing the finish line graced the cover of the Cohasset phone book afterwards. It was 90 degrees. It was 33. It was raining cats and dogs. There were small dogs flying off the ground (one year a small dog not on a leash dashed out from the narrow funnel of people right at the finish line. The race director hooked it with his foot a half stride in front of me barreling down the chute, sending it back into the crowd. All I saw was the poor pooch come from the bottom of my field of vision and take off like superdog out the upper right of my field of vision. Dog was startled but apparently unhurt. The same was true for yours truly).

So, I look forward to next year at my annual rite of spring, the Cohasset by the Sea Road Race and hopefully many more.

I topped the day off by going to a monthly jazz concert in Weymouth. Don Altobello and his group put on a fine show at Hajjar’s restaurant. It is stellar music of the style I always wanted to play. For a couple hours, the musical idioms help me slip into a musical bliss. Time again becomes non linear. I revisit that fateful divergence on my life’s path all over again, one that has made all the difference.

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