Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Encounter, Part 3

Running with John last weekend in Rosslyn, I saw the bright future of my old running club. I was president of the club in 2009 before I was forced out in a coup engineered by the head of the IT department along with his hi-tek posse (all grossly disruptive grotesquely disrespectful 20-something board members) in collusion with a diminutive rogue VP.

Last month I saw the past of the club when I ran into the person who succeeded me, lets-call-her-Carol, and had a nice chat with her. The club was in terrific shape when I left and also when Carol ended her term, but I was sad to hear about club races which had recently been cancelled such as its former flagship 20-miler.

Also last month I saw the present when the current president, let's call him Bryan, ran right by me in Arlington. Although he saw me, he rigorously averted his eyes the entire 40 feet it took for him to run past me as I stood on the same sidewalk looking at him (maybe the guy is shy, or afraid). When I was president I had heard comments about his creepiness because allegedly he could track consumers' visits to the website and allegedly he would occasionally ask a female visitor if he could assist her in finding anything.

But Saturday the current Vice President for Training, my old post before I became president, ran by me and stopped to chat. This former coach who I elevated to the board gave me confidence via a warm and animated conversation that the club was undergoing a great revival in its training programs after an unfortunate period of stagnancy under the last training director (the lilliputian rogue former VP who was a total slackard in my opinion). This committed, compassionate and competent current VP represents the club's bright future, and I couldn't be more glad for it. (The club's bright future is on the right, wearing a shirt I designed for the 10-Miler program. Photo credit John.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The New Normal

Today at noon on the Mall was our new normal, 5.8 miles in 51:35, an 8:54 pace. Our running has revved up since we added R (for Rabbit) to our little group.

We leave our work near Union Station, run down to the Mall by the Capitol, go down to the Lincoln Memorial and return by running up Capitol Hill (a significant incline a third of a mile long) in the fifth mile. L, who has never before ran sub-9s, is showing a fierce competitive streak and chases down every runner who passes us.

Today as we ran by the Capitol, a Capital Police squad car came up from underground parking and approached the sidewalk we were running on to cross it to drive onto the street. L pulled up for it while R and I continued by on the sidewalk, oblivious.

The cop actually yelled out his open driver's window at R and I that we had run through a red light (on the sidewalk). There's no profit in arguing with a policeman but give me a break, jerk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who's Idea Was This?

I have been running with L two or three times a week at noon on the Mall since I returned to running in January. I used to be faster than her but I got slower, she got faster, she's smart and interesting to talk to and presto, running buddy.

I was coming back from injury and she was coming back from surgery and oh, we were pathetic back then. Three miles would leave us running ragged and sometimes walking, and we ran eleven minute miles, but by August we were up to five miles and down to ten minute miles.

Then in September we threw in running up Capitol Hill at the end to make it 5.5 miles and we got our pace down to 9:20s and we became full of ourselves. What is it that goeth before the fall?

It was L who invited R to run with us at noon. She came along today and to encourage her to continue, we cut our run down to 4 1/2 miles to see how she'd do.

Something was wrong from the outset of the run. R had lied to us and she didn't run "nine minute miles at best," oh no, we were running sub-nines from the start and trailing her.

I used to be able to do that, and L apparently can do that now, but my breathing was ragged and so was L's conversation and we were definitely out of our comfort zone. The beauty of running on the Mall however is that incessant traffic forces you to stop at the cross streets so you can catch a blow.

R did slow down in the latter half of the run. We also ran up Capitol Hill at the end, although I was DFL in that third of a mile uphill stretch.

Our pace for the 4.57 miles was 8:42.5. R is good for L and I, right?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What a Cool Diss

I have fallen into social running, and like to talk to runners on trails as I fall in with them. But I'm also 59.

I was doing nine miles on the hilly Custis Trail with John who was getting ready to run the ATM when we ran up on a thirty-something woman running the trail with her headsets on. She was wearing a shirt I absolutely recognized, the gray long sleeved tech shirt from the 2006 NYCM, which is my favorite marathon ever! Yeah, I did that race.

I overtook her and asked, "Did you run that race?"

She ignored me. I said, louder, "Your shirt. Did you run the 2006 New York City Marathon?"

Looking annoyed, she cast a glance in my direction and ripped out an ear bud. "Yes," she said.

I was abreast of her now. "I ran that race too," I said. "It was my favorite marathon."

She coolly said, without missing a beat, "I thought I recognized you."

I said, "Have a nice run," and pressed on. John caught up with me a minute later.

Her put-down was perfectly delivered and unanswerable. We had to stay ahead of her for the rest of our run.

She wasn't the greatest looker and I'll bet I beat her but she had a classic retort. I should have remembered that I never talk to runners I pass when they're wearing headphones.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Through History

I went to Dallas on business last week and asked the concierge at the downtown Sheraton for a 3-mile running route. She pulled out a map and traced a route with a marker.

"Go out the north door and turn left, follow the tracks down Pacific Avenue and go a mile, loop down around the Grassy Knoll here . . ."

I interrupted her. "Excuse me, the Grassy Knoll? You mean the site of the JFK assassination?"

"Yes," she said.

At 5 a.m. the next morning, in perfect weather for running, I altered her route slightly and ran through history. I went out the north door, ran west a block to Harwood, turned left and ran by the magnificent Majestic Theatre on Elm Street and continued on to Main Street. Turning right, I ran through the stillness of the early morning thinking about November 22, 1963 and President Kennedy's last few minutes of life.

Perhaps I was running down Main Street at the same speed as his open-air limousine was travelling along the same roadway as his presidential motorcade crawled towards its history-altering meeting with fate at Dealey Plaza, still half a mile ahead of me. I had no noontime sunlight or cheering crowds to spur me on, only my somber thoughts in the early morning darkness and the presence of little groups of silently moving homeless people on the sidewalks.

I passed over Griffin, Lamar, Austin and Market Streets. I ran by Founders Plaza on my right as Houston Street loomed ahead, on the corner where the motorcade made a torturous right turn and passed by the very building which housed the jail where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have been taken when he was executed in the basement of the courthouse a few blocks behind me.

I made the same right turn. Forty-eight years ago the unsuspecting President Kennedy had less than a minute to live.

I ran a short block and yawed left onto Elm Street, right under a tall fortress of a building, the Texas School Book Depository. I ran down the hill directly away from the Depository and entered the killing zone.

An X painted on the roadway in the middle lane marked the spot where the first bullet struck President Kennedy. This "magic bullet" fired from the corner sixth-storey window of the Depository by Oswald using a twelve-dollar mail-order rifle passed through both President Kennedy and Governor Connolly and inflicted seven wounds upon the two men.

I stopped and looked back. I instantly saw that a man with a rifle in that window could easily kill me, even if I was desperately darting about.

Ten yards further down there is another X painted in the roadway, the site of the fatal head shot. I looked back and the window still seemed so close.

That spot is directly in line with the magic-bullet shot, leaving the shooter to only have to train the rifle barrel slightly downward without any side-to-side movement. The assassination spot was obviously carefully chosen and previously sited in.

I glanced to the north thirty feet and surveyed the infamous grassy knoll. I could see no obvious place for a shooter to hide over there, and it would be a much harder shot since the target would be passing across the shooter's sights and not merely away from him.

I ran the rest of the way down the hill and under the triple underpass where the vehicle bearing the mortally stricken president went. Now I had gone too far on my run and I got lost within a maze of elevated restricted-access highways.

After fifteen minutes of adventuring which included a trip through a homeless camp, a climb up a steep hillside and a trek along an elevated railroad track, I found my way back to the hotel. Inside I went by the workout room and glanced in to see half a dozen guests toiling away in place on dreadmills, ellipticals and stair masters, a mere mile away from a run through momentous history.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Encounter, Part Two

I was at the post office on Friday when I saw a woman in line ahead of me looking at me. It was Carol, past president of the DC Road Runners Club, whom I hadn't seen since I stepped down as president two autumns ago and she assumed the presidency.

Part of my decision to resign as president back then had been made based upon the fact that she was a capable, grownup person who could take over the club and keep it prospering. A significant part of the board then was very young and in league with a reckless board member who had set out to destroy my presidency for his own advancement and who controlled the club's IT department, the club's Pay Pal account and much of the club's equipment such as its timing system.

This rebellious contingent actively disrupted the board meetings I conducted, changed and removed my president's posts from its traditional place on the club's website, engaged in suspicious transactions and undertook important club business without my knowledge or approval. One of this youthful band of plotters, a dishonest sycophant (he was a vice president so he gave this posse quite a bit of clout) even called me one night and unloaded a profanity-laced tirade upon me, drunkenly telling me that I had "stepped into it" by opposing their actions and assuring me, correctly it turned out, that I would be a one-term president. Shortly thereafter the posted club bylaws on the website changed without notice in a way that greatly weakened my position during this power struggle.

None of the rest of the board was interested in dealing with the ambitious Iago leading this usurping gang and the two adult vice presidents declined to support me when I requested their assistance in looking into and dealing with the activities of this independent brigade. Although it was a great disappointment to me personally, especially after all the tremendous things I had done for the club both as president and over the years as its training director, I shortly thereafter resigned rather than be powerless as president to control these miscreants. It was a volunteer gig, after all.

It is the ultimate irony that the henchman of these ferocious young turks is now club president and the little drunken liar in their pocket was cast aside and is no longer even a board member. All of this unpleasantness dropped away on Friday as I called out a greeting to Carol and she came over to speak with me. We had a delightful chat, catching up on each other and she filled me in on what's new with the club. President to president, you know?

I was gratified to hear that responsible, good people, persons I had largely cultivated on the training side of the club, had been put into important board positions such as treasurer and VP of training. Although I no longer belong to the club, I wish it well.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Encounter, Part One

I was president of my local running club in 2009, being forced by circumstances to resign when my presidency was deliberately wrecked by a young contingent on the board (all 20-somethings except for one 30-something) that was made up of the IT department of the club plus a sad-sack lackey VP who was in their pocket. These young men, led by the head IT guy whom I'll call Bryan, loathed me personally and disrupted my administration of the club by doing things like unilaterally removing my president's post from its traditional spot on the club's website and conducting important club business without my knowledge or approval.

This posse of four miscreants took to actively disrupting the board meetings I conducted by sitting in a group and noisily acting like muttering, smirking school children in an out-of-control classroom. When they voted and seconded among themselves to "end" my last board meeting before business was concluded, personally affronting a friend of mine whom I was trying to present to the board as the next newsletter editor, the other board members fled the restaurant to escape the contentious scene and I found myself standing confronting Bryan, the henchman of this gang, while his three juvenile friends pressed in behind him in support. My friend interposed and led me away from this tense impasse before it degenerated into fisticuffs, and I tendered my resignation to the non-supportive board the next day and quit the club.

This was a great disappointment in my life because I had worked hard in a volunteer capacity for years to develop the club's training programs and I did some wonderful things in my six month tenure like overseeing its lucrative association with the country's premiere ten-mile race by becoming the race's official training partner. I wasn't able to properly develop my vision for the club of making it more inclusive of runners of all types by developing more programs and activities, but who ever said life was fair? The VP who took over the presidency, whom I'll call Carol, is a grownup and she stepped down this year whereupon Bryan, now barely thirty, fulfilled his consuming ambition by becoming president.

One Saturday morning last month I was standing on a sidewalk in downtown Arlington after a six mile run when the current president of my former club ran by. He was running alongside a woman as he approached and he caught my eye from thirty feet away. Bryan instantly looked away and, only having a woman for support this time around rather than three strapping young men (well, two strapping men, the rogue VP is a pathetic pint-sized little guy), he found something of absorbing interest to look at in the curb on the other side from me until he was past me even as I looked directly at him the entire time. One president passing right by another, you know?

I have heard that Bryan has said slanderous things about me since I stepped down, for instance to the management of the premiere running store in the area. That conversation with Bryan will have to wait for a time when he doesn't run away from me.