The 2012 Memorial Day 3K Fun Run is in the books at 19:03. I was faster than last year's 19:47 but then again I wasn't a mere five days removed from stomach surgery like last year. But this year I used an alternate route I sometimes use for this free race when I don't feel like walking the twenty minutes to the start line and jamming in among three thousand other participants on a narrow two-lane roadway without shoulders for the first half mile before the course opens up after the first turn. You have to work your way through the initial crush of runners, walkers, stroller-wielders. dog-handlers and little darting children very carefully if you don't want to trip and plant yourself face-first on the blacktop.
There's no registration for this race, nor official time assigned to anyone (not even the first finisher). You show up and run, and a clock at the finish line tells you the "official" time, which is always about a minute behind the true gun time, making for a super fast race on this flat course, especially since it's about 500 feet short anyway. You can get a sweet time in this race if you can get ahead of the constricting pack of slow-movers at the start somehow,
What I do instead sometimes to avoid the hazardous start is I begin right at 9 o'clock in front of my house and I burn off essentially a version of my neighborhood mile, which gratuitously adds two hills including the W&OD Trail's bicycle bridge over Route 7, before my alternative route debouches onto the actual race course .86 of a mile from the finish. I hit the stream of runners at the time and pace I should be at after a mile of running and finish the last long straightaway with them. This is an unordered fun run anyway, which strives for inclusion to the exclusion of everything else.
This year my passage was most unusual.
Barely two minutes into my run I ran by the ex-mayor's house, a neighbor of mine, and saw her in her driveway. I hadn't seen her in several months and she is undergoing a continuing and devastating personal and family crisis so I stopped to talk with her for a couple of minutes. She seemed to be doing okay.
Continuing my run, by the time I hit the highway bridge I was pouring sweat on this hot, humid morning. I wasn't killing myself with my pace and I was already rejecting internal complaints that I should walk instead of jog. Up ahead I could see a long steady stream of runners cutting across my front on West Street where it crosses the W&OD Trail. Several policemen were blocking the intersection with their squad cars, as usual. Remember, I have done this version of my fun run four or five other times without a problem.
As I jogged off the trail and turned to blend into the stream of runners (no bibs) on West Street a Sheriff''s Department deputy barked out to me, "Excuse me, sir, you have to detour that way!" He was pointing up West Street opposite of the way the runners were going.
What? I'm a runner and can easily blend into or work my way through (if I wanted to continue down the W&OD Trail, on foot, at that particular moment) a stream of runners. I join up with groups of runners at various times on runs all the time!
I said to this transport officer who otherwise belongs in the courthouse providing bailiff services, "What?"
"You have to go that way, sir." he said, pointing the wrong way up West Street. "Or else wait right there until the event is over. You can't cross this street."
"You're kidding, right?" I asked, sweat dripping off my face and my drenched coolmax shirt clinging to my skin. The event wouldn't be over for another twenty or thirty minutes when the last two-year old stragglers straggled by holding their daddies' hands.
Now he was engaged with me in the street and his buddy, another Sheriff''s Department deputy, was coming over to add weight to the brewing argument. A lot of weight. The two or three real cops at the intersection were ignoring this brouhaha,
"No sir, we're not kidding, you have to go that way." The second officer was adding a lot to the discussion. "But I'm not going that way," I announced brightly.
"Then you have to find another way around." The weight of the law.
While they studied my every move, I skirted their blinking patrol units the opposite way that they were pointing, outside of the orb of their protection zone, and started walking down the south sidewalk of Park Street, which was jammed with dozens of onlookers. A lot of townspeople come out to run or spectate this race, and I couldn't believe two cops were focusing all of their attention on me, a pedestrian. Shouldn't they be looking to stop...cars?
But I hadn't crossed their precious line of runners, which had the normal amount of breaks and gaps in it you'd expect mid-race at any event. A block down Park Street I resumed running, filtered into the street, and ran past the finish line a half dozen block later. The clock said 19:03 when I finished, which wasn't bad given the couple of unexpected stoppages that occurred during my 3K run.