Running Through My Past

As I completed the online registration form, the thought occurred to me: You, Bradley Traynor, are about to sign up for a 10-mile run to impress a man. Have you never heard of dinner and a movie? Another voice from some distant corner of my mind tried to comfort me: At least it’s not the marathon. True. Click. God help me.

Actually, I was excited. I certainly have done crazier things to impress a man. Granted, most of them occurred in my early 20s, and involved alcohol and interpretive dance. Plus, I was not entirely a stranger to running long distances, either. After quitting smoking five years ago, I found running helped burn off the nervous energy. I also knew I wasn’t quite ready to go whole-hog, and run a marathon, so the Twin Cities 10 Mile seemed a worthy challenge.

Word to the wise: Running 10 miles seems a lot more meaningful on a beautiful summer day than on a cloud-filled windy fall morning.

Buzzz! I hoped against hope the alarm was playing a cruel joke on me. Nope. It’s 5:30 AM, Sunday, October 5. Race day. I rolled over, trying to think of some clever, last-minute, get-out-of-run-free card. That’s when I noticed him. That guy I was trying to impress originally. There he was, in bed next to me. I was trapped. Anything for love.

As I fumbled through the dark in search of my outfit, I ran through my checklist. Did I train hard enough? Will my shoes hold up? Will the bandages on my nipples hold? Yes, you heard me. Trust me, bandaged nipples are happy nipples. After 10 minutes in front of the mirror trying to decide which shirt to wear, I was off to the bathroom for one last pit stop before heading out the door.

Soon enough, I found myself in Downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by thousands of fellow sleepy-eyed runners. As the sun and excitement rose, the adrenaline began to kick in. I started to experience that feeling of anticipation you get when you’re climbing a really big hill on a roller coaster. Slowly, as you approach the top, time seems to slow down. The tension mounts. Click. Click. Click.

Bang. We’re off. Run!

I slowly traversed the crowd of runners, as we funneled out of Downtown and along the Mississippi River. As we approached the bridge to cross over into St. Paul, I was beginning to find my own pace. Slowly, the cheers from the well-wishers faded, as I focused on my breathing, and tried to quiet my mind. Breathe. Run. Breathe. Run.

Once in St. Paul, the course meandered its way along the river and up to Summit Avenue. I lived in this neighborhood while a student at Macalester College, now more than 15 years ago. As I rounded the bend onto Summit, and found myself running through the old neighborhood, I was flooded with emotion. That, and I was beginning to lose feeling in my face from the cold.

A decade-and-a-half ago, I didn’t do much running, unless it was away from reality or toward a buffet…or a kegger—preferably both. Yet, here I was, what seemed like a lifetime later, completely sober on a Sunday morning, running on purpose with people who weren’t chasing me. Well, one guy might have been chasing me, but it wasn’t because I stole his stuff, or slept with his boyfriend. Progress.

Where was I? Oh, yes, running. Frozen. Almost there.

I was just about eight miles along when my stroll down memory lane ended. No more room in my head for fanciful flights through my colorful past. My mind allowed only one bright red, flashing refrain: Finish This Damned Race! I don’t remember much during that final sprint to the finish. I think I heard a friend yell my name, but I didn’t turn to look. I was too busy trying to keep my legs, if indeed they still were attached, running toward the finish line, and not off into the crowd.

Beep. 1:24:44. I’d finished my first 10-mile race.

It certainly wasn’t the greatest achievement of my life, and I’d like to hope one day, I’ll run a marathon. Still, on that particular brisk morning in October, I took pride in my accomplishment, however small.

And just in case that guy wasn’t impressed, I made a breakfast after the race to seal the deal. Let’s just say the way to a man’s heart (attack) involves sausage, eggs, hash browns, and sweet rolls with cream cheese icing.

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