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Posts Tagged ‘Ny Mets Run to Home Plate’

I’ve very little wiggle room in my training schedule over the next two weeks; if I want to get in two 20’s, they have to happen tomorrow, and next Sunday. So the predictions of torrential downpours all weekend long is irrelevant; whether it rains, snows, or is hot as blazes, I’m out there hitting the pavement. Nevertheless, when I walked out my door at 9 AM today to run 10 through a thick white fog but no rain, I felt like I’d received a small favor from a secret admirer (I ran my basic 10-mile route, over the 59th Street Bridge and up the East Side Rec Path to 102nd Street and back in 1:33:32)

But how much was I admired? Would the favor hold off until the Mets game was over this afternoon? Dad had given me two tickets months ago for today’s game versus the Marlins, the penultimate regular season game in Shea Stadium before they smash it down and open Citi Field. I told Husband, No matter what we’re going. We’ll give the event six hours total, including any rain delays. Exciting stuff, with Johan Santana pitching on just 3 days rest, and the Mets once again killing us softly with suspense by bringing it down to the wire for a wild card or a pennant. 

I’ve written about Shea Stadium before, when I posted about the three races I’ve run there over the years. And in honor of the game today, Husband thoughtfully pulled out five photographs I’d forgotten we had from the first one, in 2001. We look so young (and sweaty). Here are two of the photos, of a few shots from our point of view on the warning track.

Today’s game was something else, you can read elsewhere about Johan Santana’s brilliant performance. My secret admirer (clearly, also a Mets fan) used his suction at Weather.com to make sure the rain held off. Everyone was amped up–heck, we were all hooting and hollering even on the 7 train to Flushing. There were so many dads there with their young sons, there was a duo seated right next to me (“Dad, how come you don’t wave your arms to get on TV? Are you shy?”) on whom I eavesdropped the entire game. It made me want to call my dad, who’s taken me to more games than anyone else, but there’s no way I could have heard him over the stadium crowd, which didn’t stop cheering even after the final out was made (fly ball to left field).

All this anticipation for rain, and instead I get a run cushioned by fog, and one of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen in person. Here’s hoping we all (me, the Mets) don’t have to return the favor of our secret admirer tomorrow. (Oh, and I called my dad the second we got on the 7 train to come home.)

Taking their final applause after winning 2-0.

Fans leaving Shea Stadium, most for the last time ever.

 

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Today, Pigtails Flying pauses to remember TK’s first ever road race (or race of any kind) — the NY Mets Run to Home Plate 5k, on July 21, 2001.

I’d just started running only a few months earlier, as a cost-effective way to be fit. I started the way we all do — jogging, with fits of walking, wheezing, shin splints, and just for good measure, some doubling over with stitches in my side. The first time I could run one 1-mile loop of my section of Sunnyside (I lived on the South side of the boulevard then) I supposed I should have been proud, but I was just relieved to realize my body would appease my outrageous expectation: run without stopping for ten minutes, with hills. One day a friend (okay, a drinking buddy) from the office told me she’d heard about this race where you get to run on the field at Shea Stadium, and it was “just” 5 kilometers. What was this “just” crap? And how far was a kilometer? Being a Mets fan since the days of Ron Darling, I investigated further. Would Mike Piazza be there, giving out high fives at the finish line? No. But, 5K was “only” 3.1 miles, which meant I’d have to run for at least half an hour straight. The balance was tipped when I realized the race was being run for the National Parkinsons Foundation (one of my good friends had recently been diagnosed), and I had the option of also raising money.

I didn’t have a training plan, I just made it a point to run four days a week, trying to run three miles a few times before race day. Some of those workouts I ran on the treadmill, with a portable CD player and foam-wrapped headphones that sat on my ears. My workout gear consisted of cotton t-shirts and tank tops, one ill-fitting sports bra, $50 Nike running shoes, and cotton and spandex cycling-style shorts. I say “cycling-style” because they had no butt pads, and cost me about $8 each at K-Mart, I think. I balked at the $15 or $20 race registration fee, but my fiance convinced me to go for it.  I remember how out of place I felt when I went to the NYRR’s brownstone off Central Park to pick up my number, fearing it was completely obvious how new I was to all of this.

Race day arrived, and Fiance (now Husband) and I boarded the 7 train to head out to Shea. I’d raised about $150, and was proud to turn in that sum at the table the foundation had set up. Then I began to get nervous. What if I couldn’t run the whole way? What if I came in last? What if it hurt? What if I somehow did it wrong?

It was incredibly hot and humid, and I recall the race starting at a time that seemed late — like 10am or something — for a race in the middle of the summer. We all lined up on the macadam parking lot, behind the starting line, waiting for the gun.  I can’t remember if I started slow, or too fast. All I remember is getting hit with heat from all sides, as it blazed down on us through the uncovered course, and as it pulsed back up at us from the baking parking lot and streets of Flushing, Queens. I know now that we ran around the huge globe fountain in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but I don’t remember it. I know I got a side stitch, I know I passed a few people at the end but not many. Yes, I ran the entire way; yes it did hurt; but no I didn’t finish last. I can’t tell you my time, although I am pretty sure it was around 31 minutes. I probably wrote it down somewhere, in a diary or in a letter, but I’ll be damned if I can find it now. Oh and how badly do I wish I still had that bib, but it’s gone, in a strange gesture, gifted to my brother through the mail. I have the tee-shirt, though, which I treasure and will never, ever throw away.

When I crossed the finish line, I was exhilirated. Never before had I willingly participated in an athletic competition of any sort, and that includes whiffle ball in my back yard with the neighborhood kids.  Never before had I trained for and successfully completed in an athletic event–my heart still shrinks when I think of how my middle school gym teacher laughed at me for almost fainting during the mile run of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. So, as I strode towards Home Plate in Shea Stadium, I let a sob go. Just one, and a few tears, too, because I never believed I could be that kind of girl, that kind of running girl.

I realize that my experiences as a runner are common, that many people’s lives have been changed, or at least improved and enriched, by their practice of the sport. And in fact, all I did seven years ago today was blithely set myself off in the direction which would eventually bring me to the race which would change my life. Funny the effect one casual remark from a drinking buddy can have on the course of things.

 

*I’ve also run this race in 2002 and 2007 (chip time 29:54). I can only assume that due to the construction of the new stadium for the Mets, this year’s Run to Home Plate has been cancelled.

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