It's 42 and rainy with winds up to 30 mph and I'm walking through a crime riddled ghost town of a neighborhood to run a 5K that I have no idea if I'll be able to run. I'm meeting Frenchie there. It's his third race ever and he's been doing so well. This one has a medal and I am determined for him to get a medal. It's why I made him sign up and why I didn't tell him that 40's and rainy is the worst weather to run in. It's why I didn't stay bundled up at home. It's why I didn't just call it when my back was no better this morning than it's been for weeks.
I pass by an IHOP and briefly consider getting pancakes instead of running but I keep going. The amusement park on the other side of the street isn't helping my mood. The bright paint and dead light bulbs make this strip feel even more desolate and foreboding. The paintings of clowns and old timey freak shows put me more on edge. I'm downright bitchy by the time I get to the boardwalk and see my friend. I realize that I am quietly and unfairly angry at him for wanting to do this. I want to blame someone for my presence here and it's easier, for that one second it takes to process, to blame him than it is to blame myself. By the time I hug him hello, I've absorbed this and I'm all smiles and warmth. He is going to have a good race if it fucking kills me.
As I pin my bib on, I realize the bare truth. I'd be here even if he wasn't. Even if he canceled. I'm here because it's who and how I am. I am here because I have no choice. It's cold and wet. My back is screaming at me. I've been in pain day in, day out for weeks and it's making me have a short fuse but here I am. Who would do this if they had a choice?
Frenchie knows that I am hurting and joins me walking up and down the boardwalk, trying to loosen up my back as we wait for the start. I tell him that I am going to walk it and that he should run without me but he won't hear it. I tell him that this is his one chance to beat me. He laughs and tells me he's just getting started.
I wonder if I am still getting started or if I am winding down. Four marathons dropped or dropped down in the last 12 months. Every time I start getting some mileage under me, my back goes and I lose it all. Every time I start feeling strong again, like the me that I want to be again, it's all lost and I'm back to zero. I don't know why I keep doing this and yet it really is the only option. Even now, as Atlanta is slipping away, I just can't fathom hanging up my Asics.
Before long, I'm back in pain as everything locks up again. I think I know why I do this to myself and I think I know that I'm not going to stop.