Dude, Where’s My Car?

Posted by mwallach on May 11, 2012 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere |

Dear That’s Life,
Months in the making, I was finally able to complete a half marathon last Sunday, along with thousands of other runners participating in the Long Island Marathon. After logging plenty of hours and miles, running 13.1 miles went a lot faster and more easily than I expected. My joints did not hurt and I felt great, even somewhat emotional, as I crossed the finish line and reached my goal.

A number of local bands performed live as we ran by, one group played Bruce Springstein’s “Glory Days” which made many of us smile to ourselves. Some runners had messages printed on their clothes. One runner had “I’m sexy and I know it” written boldly between his shoulder blades, while a woman near me had “I RUN TO REIGN” emblazoned on her back. Those who ran in support of a particular charity wore shirts in recognition of that, while the otherwise dizzying sea of brightly colored shirts changed as if part of the landscape we continued to pass.

With more than enough thoughts and ideas whizzing through head at any given time, listening to music as I run is unnecessary. Regardless, I ran for about a mile near a man who sang every song on his playlist out loud. While we did not share the same taste in music, I was pretty impressed at his ability to run and sing at the same time. Then there was the woman who sang Fun’s “We Are Young” like her life depended on it as we ran under an overpass, her voice resonating and bouncing off the cavernous walls. To add to the moment, she gesticulated wildly with her hands, like there were hand motions to the song that only she knew. More power to you, I thought. Whatever gets you through the night – or in this case, through the run.

Onlookers and supports cheered and held up posters along the route. One woman held a sign that read, “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body” while another read, “And You Thought this Would be FUN?” That made me smile, as did the two which read, “Water Now – Beer Later” and “One Mile to Tequila.” Toddlers sitting atop shoulders and young children standing along the side cheered their parents on. The most excited of the spectators was a dog who howled as his owner ran by. “Hi, baby!” cried a woman near me, waving excitedly at the dog as she ran by. I laughed, thinking that this was almost as good as the guy who was running in a double breasted suit and hat. Not kidding.

Immediately after finishing, I called my husband and we spoke briefly, after confidently telling him I really felt fine and that the race had gone well. I then texted a couple of friends and spoke to one on the phone. We discussed running a half marathon together. “People reassured me throughout my training that if I ran 10 miles, I could run 13,” I told him, and I said it was true. “You know what isn’t true?” I said. “It’s not true that if you run 13.1 miles after being able to run 10, that you will be able to find your car when it is all over.”

The Long Island Marathon does not start and finish in the same location. I parked near the start, not realizing that was an incredibly foolish move. I also did not realize that there would be no signage directing runners to various parking areas once they completed the course. In addition, I had not predicted that every Nassau County Parks and Recreation staff member that I’d ask for directions would either not be able to help me or would send me in the wrong direction. Had I known any of this before the event, I would certainly have handled things differently.

Not only does the race start and finish in different areas, but on opposite sides of the highway as well. The race begins near Nassau Coliseum and ends in Eisenhower Park. Here’s something else I did not know before this run: there are 930 acres of lush grounds in that park, all of which I seemed to cover as I searched for my car. And just to clarify: the problem was not that I did not know where I had parked my car. I knew it was at Nassau Community College (NCC). The problem, however, was finding NCC from where I was.

Like a living, breathing Seinfeld episode, I walked and walked and walked, enjoying the irony that after completing this run, the greatest challenge was just getting back to my vehicle. I even posted it on Facebook as I continued on, always inviting others to enjoy the craziness that is my life. I even called my husband and asked him to find me on a map and tell me where to go. He offered to come and pick me up. I told him that was ridiculous – but so was walking for an eternity after running 13.1 miles.

I was not the only one in this boat. A number of runners asked me for directions (more irony), though I could not help them and certainly did not know the way. They went one way, I went another. I finally found someone driving through the park in an official Nassau County vehicle. “How do I get to Nassau Community College?” I asked him. “You’re going in the right direction,” he said, and pointed straight ahead. “See that?” he asked, motioning to the traffic light in the distance. “That’s Hempstead Turnpike.” I must have looked confused, so he tried another approach. “You know where the ‘Hooters’ is on Hempstead Turnpike?” he asked me. That was a good one, I thought. “Do I know where the HOOTERS is on Hempstead Turnpike?” I replied incredulously. “Um, no.” I wondered if he had another landmark to give me, but instead just told me to get there and make a left, and I finally did.

After proceeding down Hempstead Turnpike for about ten minutes, with no one else from the race heading in the same direction, I knew something was wrong. The next person I asked for directions looked aghast when I said I needed to walk to NCC. “That is really far,” she said, then added, “and in the other direction. “ Promising she was not crazy, she offered me a ride to the college which I politely declined. I decided that all of the walking must count as a good post-run stretch, so off I went.

Forty minutes later I arrived at my car, having walked a total of 90 minutes from beginning to end. Who could have predicted that running 13.1 miles would have been the least challenging part of my morning. Actually, I should have known that would happen because this is just par for my course. For me, it was just another walk in the park.
As Seen in the South Shore Standard May ’12

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