I just got back from dropping my Bethany off at the airport.
Despite getting a little emotional on the ride home I’m currently in great spirits. We haven’t had this much time together since 2005, and with a week as hellish as my last five days has been I couldn’t have asked for a better counterbalance than having her next to me, holding my hand and letting me know that everything is going to be just fine.
And it was.
Saturday morning found my running my first group 5k; my first one out doors and certainly my first one on only a few hours sleep. Erin had invited me to run it with her, and despite the STAY CALM event being later on in the day, I agreed and managed to get myself up only a few hours after getting to sleep and get my head in the game for the run. With Bethany as a cheerleader and THE BRONX on my iPod, I started my first public run.
Due to exhaustion and stress I warned my ‘team’ that I was probably going to be a little slow and that they didn’t have to keep pace with me, but Erin kept a few strides ahead to encourage me and with that (and my damned fine soundtrack) I finally found my groove and before I knew it I was actually having a good time. The disadvantage of training on the treadmill is that it’s a flat static run. The Healthytrails course had inclines that ranged from moderate to ‘oh fuck’ and I had to vary my speed and momentum accordingly. At this point I was aware that Erin was still only a few strides ahead of me. I know she’s a faster runner than me so I was incredibly flattered that she slowed down to run on par with me. She’s such a strong motivator for me when it comes to running- something that I’d always associated with evading a predator, so the idea of doing it recreationally is a relatively new concept.
I managed to have a few bursts of speed and didn’t really slow down till the last little bit/incline. I had to slow it down to almost a walk. I was disgusted in myself. Erin didn’t notice and kept her pace and I saw the distance between us grow. It was a make or break moment and I decided to just nut up, run through the burning lungs and the burning thighs and just push myself that last little bit. The space between us shortened, the final corner approached and soon enough I saw the finish line. One last burst, Bethany in sight and I crossed the finish line.
Slightly over 25 minutes.
My best time at the gym; air conditioned, watching SVU with my water bottle or protein drink and on a perfectly flat plane was 26:36. My first run and on no sleep and I’d bested my own record. To her credit Erin let me eclipse her at the end so I’d ‘beat’ her, but ultimately I was so happy that she and Bethany- my two very best friends, were there with/for me. I was glad that I did it. In talking about the run a few days later I said this:
YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOUR FEARS. You are stronger than your faults and limitations and the only thing that can stop you is you.
As I laid in the grass in a little patch of sun after the 3.11 mile run letting it warm me as I rested I realized how important it was to start the STAY CALM event day like this. What a more fitting tribute to the idea of living a life worth remembering than challenging yourself when everything tells you to just sleep in and relax. The four of us drove home making infantile poop jokes, laughing and telling stories and before I knew it we were back in South Philly, Bethany and I preparing for the walk downtown.
Thanks to the PMA I was coasting on, I shrugged off the Philadelphia USPS losing a package containing raffle items. I’ve learned that their incompetence isn’t something you can win against. Instead of getting upset I shrugged it off; no use letting them ruin my day when there was nothing I could do about it. Instead we headed to the bar, met up with Carmela, and finally headed to Franklin Square park.
It was beautiful. I hadn’t really seen it post upgrades and the city did an amazing job revitalizing the park. A carousel. Mini Golf. A swank little walkup hamburger stand by Steven Starr. And best of all- Weirdos. The BME crew had already started assembling by the time I arrived and I walked up to see so many smiling faces. People I love that I don’t see often enough. People I’d yet to meet who quickly introduced themselves with a hug or kiss. People that I don’t like. They were all there, having a great time chatting, taking pictures and enjoying everyone’s company.
Jannell came running up to me and attacked me as soon as I got there, and from there on out it was all smiles for me. The vibe was amazing; so similar to the old BME meetups. Weirdos, BMEFests… I was ten years younger- in another time and place. All of the stress of planning the event melted away. The exhaustion and fatigue was gone. I was surrounded by so much fucking love that there was nowhere else in the world I would have rather been. I had seen my friend Rachel (Shannon’s former wife) on Friday, but this was the first time I had seen their daughter Ari in years. She was a baby the last time and now she was this sweet little girl, walking around with a smile and passing around Kinder Eggs. When I looked at her, I saw Shannon in her face. It was so… perfect. My friend is gone. But his life- his legacy- lives on in BME and in Ari.
There were so many old friends there- so many new friends, but the most surprising guest was Todd Bertrang. I’ve ‘known’ Todd since 1995 but this was our first time meeting. He’s a character; loved, hated, respected and despised by many in the body modification community. It took my breath away when he introduced himself. Rachel and I looked at each other with eyes as big as saucers. Totally didn’t see that coming but after all of these years it was really fun to meet him and before long word had reached every weirdo in the park that Todd was there. It’s hard to get a bunch of jaded folks like us a’twitter, but Todd managed to do it.
Before long I noticed that it was almost time to head to the bar. There was some miscommunication on the part of the organizers (re: us) about the start time of the bar portion of the event, so by the time I got back to the Bike Stop there were already a few folks waiting outside, ready to start the second part of their night.
(part II of this update will come after I return from the gym)