Running ’round and ’round the river

Today was a day for running in circles.

I joined three friends from work — Chris, Jon and Julie — for the Back on My Feet 42K Relay. We ran around and around the White River on a 2.2-mile loop.

We ran 12 loops in all, which added up to about a full marathon, or about 6.6 miles per runner. (Well, kind of. More on that below.)

It was my first relay race in more than three years, and I forgot how much fun it is to run with friends — even when you’re the oldest and slowest one on the team, which I definitely was.

We cheered each other on, shared snacks and kept our eye on the scoreboard to see how well we were doing against dozens of other teams.

The course wound over two bridges, behind the zoo, along the riverfront, past the IUPUI campus and the NCAA Hall of Champions and a few other downtown landmarks. It was a windy, chilly day, so no one was interested in dawdling.

The race worked this way: the first runner ran the loop, which came right back to the starting area, and handed off to the second runner, who handed off to the third runner, who handed off to the fourth runner.

Then the rotation started all over again, in the same order.

That meant each runner would get about 45 minutes of rest between each lap.

Here’s the order our team ran:

First: Jon, our fastest runner, who ran the Portland Marathon last weekend in 3:12.

Second: Julie, another fast runner who recently graduated from Kent State, where she played field hockey on an athletic scholarship.

Third: me, an injured and recovering marathoner, and all-around middle-aged guy.

Fourth: Chris, a competitive swimmer and triathlete.

While we waited for the race to start, we set up our chairs and blankets on the grassy area on the pedestrian bridge near the starting line.

The race was a fundraiser for a nonprofit group that encourages the homeless to run and gain self-confidence. A few homeless people were among those wearing race numbers.

A few minutes before the race started, we all stood in a big circle and recited the Serenity Prayer. Then we turned around a faced a flag by the NCAA building for the national anthem.

Then the countdown started. And the first member of each team started running.

Oh, did I mention that team costumes were encouraged?

Yes, indeed, and some people went all out, some as Smurfs…

…or Super Heroes…

…or Jedi warriors…

…or rag dolls.

Our team decided to pass on costumes and cute team names, and just run the circles, dammit.

So off we went. For the first loop, Jon, Julie and Chris finished in between 13 minutes and 15 minutes. I came in at 18-plus minutes.

It was pretty much the same for the next loop. Except that I finished even slower, at about 19 minutes.

The course was set up that you could see the runners at several points, and cheer on your teammates from across the water. When you saw a teammate heading in, you knew it was time to stand up and get ready.

For the third loop, my 13-year-old son Jake asked to take my place. I had originally invited him to run alongside me as a pacer for the second or third loops, but he wasn’t interested in that greasy kid’s stuff. He wanted to wear my number and the timing chip. And he wanted to run fast.

Since our team was just running for fun, and not trying to win the damn thing — and since I was starting to get tired –I said fine. I handed him my number.

He walked over to the relay point.

A few minutes later, Julie came flying through on her last loop. She handed me the timing chip ankle wraparound.

I handed it to Jake. He put it on his leg, then he flew down the bridge and around the corner.

I went back to our little campsite on the grass and told the others what I had done. No one seemed to mind.

About 15 minutes later, I saw Jake barreling down toward the finish line, running at a terrific clip.


He blasted through the relay point, having run a 15:19 loop.

He sure killed my times. I told him that next year, he can wear a number for the whole race.

Then Chris, our anchor runner took the timing chip and set out for the final loop. We all settled back for a rest. It was all up to Chris now.

The sun was coming out and the wind was dying down. It was turning out to be a nice morning.

After a while, we saw Chris come flying down the home stretch and put in a final kick of speed. He crossed the finish line in 3:03:56.

We clapped him on the back. We all felt good. We walked over to the scoreboard and saw that we had finished in 14th place.

Of course, that was not a legal finish, since Jake took my place for the final lap. But like I said, this was just for fun. No one on our team was going home with a trophy or cash. Just endorphins and smiles.

Then we lined up for the obligatory team shot, Jake included:

Here we are (from left to right): Jake, me, Jon, Chris and Julie.

Same time next year, Team Star?

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One Response to “Running ’round and ’round the river”

  1. Nicely written.

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