Sunday September 9, 2018

The FAAP Fall Classic is a great event in North Park, just outside of Pittsburgh.  Distances of 5k, 10k, and 20k provide opportunities for every level of runner and walker. The proceeds benefit the Queen of Peace Orphanage in the Philippines. Post-race relax in the bask of accomplishment with ethnic dance performances and make sure to bring a few bucks to enjoy some authentic Filipino eats. 

It was raining. It had been raining for days. The remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon still had a punch to pack. By race start around 4 inches of rain had dropped. Everyone huddled under the Harmar pavilion, at North Park, until the race start time.

The Tribe

Today I had opted for wearing shoes.  Not wanting to risk a very muddy course in my Lunas and it being a course with far too much rock to consider barefooting I put on my waterproof Topo Hydroventures. I had arrived just 15 minutes before the race start. Just enough time to affix the tracker to my shoe and say hello to a few friends. 

The National Anthem was sung and we all walked out into the steady rain.  As always the race was started to the sound of a gong. Kelly and I started off together and, just like Burning River, would finish together. 

The trail was surprisingly dry, or at least devoid of any mud pits.  The course is fairly fast with a minimum of any big climbs.  It is a great PR course for sure, but some races aren’t for PRs. Sometimes, really most times for me, racing is about enjoying the process. Enjoying a hard effort in a beautiful place.  It is simply about delighting in the body’s capabilities and the joyous happenstance nature throws at us.

Now when I said the trail was mostly dry I meant it. But all that water from days of rain had to go somewhere, right? That which isn’t taken up by the earth moves overland and under the surface of the earth alike. The water table rises and the lifeblood of plants and animals finds it’s way to drainage channels following gravity’s will. Little veins carrying water to larger veins and to larger ones still until it finds it’s way back home to the sea. These little veins were bursting at their seams, over running their capacity. 

There were at least 12 stream crossings on the course and were primarily along the Rachel Carson out and back section of the 20k course. A stream that usually is ankle deep was waist-high in many spots! The current was strong in places.  Crossing each one was absolute joy for the body and heart alike.  Those who braved these elements all had the same thing to say. THAT WAS FUN! 

I could talk about the terrain for each mile, my thoughts as I calculated paces in my head, about wanting to stay ahead of someone or catch another like in other races, but that is not what this run was about for me. It was about connecting the cadence, the breath, the motion, and joy. It was about the sensations of struggle and joy, which sometimes appear at the exact same moment.  

In that spirit, I’ll put this untraditional recap to bed and leave you with a simple message:

When the conditions seem the toughest get out there to see what you are made of.  Often times these will gift you the greatest experiences, the greatest memories, and the greatest stories. Within the risk of greater challenges and greater suffering is also the potential for greater joy.