There's a rhythm to the morning jog.
Yes, there are the daily alterations, the small signs of the earth doing its thing. Slowly, the trees turn red, surrender their leaves. The sun slips lower. People start carting bigger mugs of coffee, scraping their cars.
But by and large, it's the same. I have my route. Out the door, down to the CVS, South on Brook, right, past the school, another right, right again. After the last right comes the tired dad waiting for the school bus with his autistic son. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I see the same large, middle-aged African American man huffing past me in the opposite direction near the CVS. We raise our hands, nod.
Same old, same old. Until this morning, when my route was taken over by 17,000 idiots in spandex.
I say "idiot" because, really, what else would you have to be to want to run 26 miles without stopping? I actually don't even know if 26 miles is the correct distance, because my brain shuts down after about 12. And really, if it were wise, said brain would refuse to contemplate any distance greater than six, which is the mileage at which I begin wheezing and praying for death.
If you need to wear something called a "camelback" to accomplish your goal, is it really a goal worth meeting?
Halfway along my route, I slowed to a walk. There's nothing like a surging tide of people running a distance you classify as "too long" for a car trip to make you understand that lurching through 2.5 miles is....lame. I slouched low and tried to pretend I had already run my own marathon, earlier, in private, and was now moseying back home.
And it was worth a mosey: The neighborhood was out in force, kids to grandparents to overexcited dogs. A red truck backed up to the "road closed" sign and unloaded five camp chairs, a beige couch, and a coffee table. Extension cords were snaked from windows into the street, where Lady Gaga battled with oldies. Folks at a station at the end of the block were holding out beer in plastic cups for the runners to grab as they passed. (Who drinks beer during a marathon? Young men and old people. Go figure.)
It was colder than it had been. The trees were caught midway through bursting, half their leaves scattered on the ground. The last stragglers from the half marathon were stumbling past mile marker nine, their faces red, their bodies heaving. The sirens came suddenly, then the police escort, then the pace car. Finally, impossibly fleet, the man at the head of the pack. I've never seen anyone run so fast. I never will again.