Today is the Cooper River Bridge Run. At 50,000+ participants, it is one of the top ten 10k road races in the USA. Literally thousands of people who do not consider themselves runners will "run" the race, and tomorrow morning they will all be talking about it. And many of them will innocently ask, "so, did you run the bridge?" Even more will ask me, assuming that since I have a drawer full of running clothes and spend two-thirds of the year coaching runners, surely I must have participated in this local event.
But I didn't. (I did jog two easy miles in my neighborhood, but the fact that it was on race day was coincidental). I used to run the Bridge Run pretty regularly. And I raced it. When I was decent, I used to find my name in the next day's newspaper supplement on the first page, in the first column--always in the first thousand finishers, once or twice around the first 500. (Editorial note--even then, I wasn't numbered amond the serious racers... I was a full 2 miles behind the Kenyans, and well out of age-group awards. Of those 50,000 runners, less than 200 are objectively any good.)
I suppose I could run the race like everybody else. Even if I didn't train a lick, I could do the weekend-warrior thing and gut out 6.2 miles on adrenaline and muscle memory. If I went slow enough, I might even be able to walk the next day (which is more than some can say). If I got in minimal shape, I could probably still break 50 minutes, which is about where the local non-runners start to act impressed. (The days of flirting with 40 are gone!) However, I just can't seem to muster up the desire to get up early, drive downtown, park, hang out in that huge crowd, and then fight the crowds home for a t-shirt.
I am not entirely sure when I lost the drive to race. I'm pretty sure it corresponded to me getting slower and being unwilling to pay the price in training that would have been necessary to forestall decline. I keep thinking that someday it would be nice to run occasional "fun runs" again, just for the atmosphere and the experience. Maybe next year!