Strange Fruit : Racing for Real

ravenswood run
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Yesterday morning, I ran a 5k. More specifically, it was the Ravenswood Run in Chicago’s newest yuppie neighborhood. With doggie yoga shops and puppet shows for canines abound, this several block stretch of cobblestone is a winning lukewarm combination of inauthentic Thai restaurants (read: Polygon Cafe) and upscale dive bars (@mosphere).

The race was sold out this year. 3,499 runners and I were feverishly doing our last-minute stretches at the starting line. Earbuds were in, scaredy-cats were out. As we began our slow progression through the shut down streets, it struck me how bizarre it was to be doing the exact same movements as so many other humans with the aim of finishing first, with no other true motivation than personal glory and accomplishment. ravenswood run starting line

Yes, the race benefits the local food pantry and Episcopal church, but people participate for their own reasons. Community, health, goal-setting, companionship, boredom. I like the competitive aspect of it all. This particular event spurred me to set a personal record despite the fact that I drank too many liquids beforehand. I pushed that thought out of my mind as I kept pace with a lady wearing a neon orange sports bra, her skin a wrinkly reminiscence of tanning salons and leisurely pregnancies.

As we fidgeted impatiently before the 8 AM foghorn, the announcer asked us to give a prayer before we ran. It was unclear whether it was to honor the Boston Marathon victims or because the run was affiliated with the Church. Either way, I looked around and wondered what it would be like to live in a truly secular society.

Crossing the finish line, I saw crates upon crates of ripened bananas, big boxes of bottled water, paper cups overflowing with Gatorade, and gooey complimentary cinnamon buns further down the street. Why not have water taps ? Don’t they know that you don’t need electrolytes after running a 5k ? What did they do with the extras ? You would think the food pantry got them, but it’s hard to tell.

After I got my gear and changed, I opted to make breakfast at a friend’s house instead of paying $10 for mass-produced pancakes soaked in syrup. They could have been tasty, but I’m skeptical. Have you noticed ? Although it felt good to finish the run and know I did something to help the community, I think next time I’ll try and do something a little less high-impact for the sake of my joints. That, and eat less salt.

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