The Fitzgerald’s 1928 Lager Run advertises itself as open to “runners, joggers, strollers and walkers” — so I took them at their word. I’m not a runner, but I can walk. Having written about Regina Bogat’s art on the race T-shirt, I felt a connection to the event. And I wanted the T-shirt. Lena Corbo, who among other things works as Bogat’s assistant, gamely agreed to join me.
It’s no big thing of course; thousands of people race all the time. But it was my first race. It was filled with little customs that endomorphs, like myself, rarely encounter. When I got to Hurrell Field and picked up my packet, there was, for example, a number inside and I realized with something like horror that I would have to pin this on myself. There was also a something called a D-tag, which you fasten to a shoelace to time your run. At first I thought the D-tag was adhesive for sticking your number to your chest, but then I saw people reaching into their packets for safety pins. So I found my safety pins and followed suit. It felt ridiculous — like putting a costume on for a play. I was impersonating a runner.
Lena and I sat down in the bleachers and watched the real runners stretch and take warmup sprints arounds the track. Then, as we moved towards the starting line, we saw the free massages being offered by ProActive Sports Therapy and decided to take advantage of that. And finally, we were off. Or rather, they were off — and we found ourselves way behind, in lockstep with a small but friendly group of walkers from an Adult School of Montclair 5K training class.
This is not the New York City marathon. This is Glen Ridge in the summer. There were no throngs. But there were spectators on lawns and streets along the way. And they cheered for us! They gave us water! We threw our paper cups on the ground just like the real runners. As we made it down the homestretch, some of the runners already leaving the race said things like “Good job!” and “Way to go!” Lena and I giggled.
I finished 1045 in a field of 1049, in 51 minutes and 55 seconds. It was a 16-minute pace. I raised my arms in victory just like they do in the movies. Then afterwards I met my husband, collected my beer, sat on the grass and joined the exotic tribe of athletic adults as they celebrated their collective accomplishment. They were playing music and it felt a little like college.
“Well,” my husband said. “At least for a brief moment, you were part of the Glen Ridge jockocracy.”
And I was. Fifth from last, perhaps, but in the parlance of racing, I finished.