March 22, 2009

Colon Cancer Challenge 4M

I never met my grandfather, he died a year or two before I was born. But everyone says what a grand fellow he was, jolly, generous, and child-friendly. Possibly a little feckless. He lived a big part of his life in Atlantic City. He was a builder before the Depression, and he sat on the boards of banks. After all his wealth was wiped out he spent the war as a welder in a shipyard. Or maybe a riveter. He passed on to my father, and thence to me, a childlike sense of wonder, a corny sense of humor, and a giant set of toy trains. My dad is a fan of elephant jokes, and once told me salad grew on trees. Another time, in the front yard, I remember him showing me Orion in the stars, so huge. I guess Grandpa might live in those things. He might even be Orion.

Colon cancer took him at 66 years of age, unfairly as I've always thought. Today was the Colon Cancer Challenge 4-miler in Central Park, and my second race of the weekend. Last night I stayed up late making a t-shirt with Grandpa's picture (those iron-on things for your printer are super-cool). Another decoration for the fence between the quick and the dead. So Grandpa and I headed out at dawn this morning to the Central Park for some new adventure.

A good charity merits a bit of pageantry. The sun shone down on a circus of excited runners, information tents, and a guy dressed as a colon (I think he was a colon - he might have been Texas). A freakishly smooth-voiced announcer read off rules and routes as the runners milled around. Since there was a 15K starting later, the porta-potties had no lines yet and number pickup was quick. I stripped down to shorts and my t-shirt, when suddenly the wind picked up and I felt the 38-degree air. I rushed my warmup as the pre-race got going: a boy scout color guard recited the Pledge; and a blue-eyed soul outfit called The Chicklets sang our national anthem. A volunteer facing the starting line was wearing a traffic cone on his head. A few short speeches and a warning about potholes, and we were off.

I had felt pretty crappy all morning, probably from hard workouts the last few days. Once I got going I began to shake it off. I ran the first mile pretty much all-out, and just barely made my goal split. I tried to dig deeper. Mile 2 found me a little later than my goal, but I was on a mission for Grandpa. I find it hard to put together a finishing kick, I don't like pushing that far outside my comfort zone. But I glanced at my chest and my mission, whatever it was, dredged up a nice fast 800 meters or so and I finished totally spent.

I came in over my goal time by about 20 seconds. It still got me an award plaque in my age group, my second tchotchke this weekend, which I love as much as any lucite tile deserves to be loved. (I finished well behind this guy, but I'm at peace with that.)

After the race I did a full loop around Central Park to round out my long run for the day. Such a beautiful morning, and I got to gawk at the daffodils poking up all over the northern half of the park. Back in my street clothes, I went downtown to meet the missus and the baby in Soho to pick out fabric for the baby's new curtains. Pinks, blues, purples, so many patterns and textures. The fabric store was marvelous. I think we brought back six different swatches - that's how good we are at making decisions.

It was a good day to hang out with Grandpa, I think he had a good time. He managed to get through economic disaster with his humor and his wonder fully intact. I like to think he's given me a leg up in my attempt to do the same thing. In the end I believe he would like nothing more than to spend some time with the baby. Maybe she'll like the toy trains.


  1. What a nice way to pay tribute to your grandfather. I think people should race more "in honour" of someone. I find it self-satisfying and a celebratory way of rememberance. Nice work, Tantris.

  2. Nice race and congrats on the age group hardware!

  3. Thanks to both of you Boston marathoners. I'll be envying you on the 20th! Next year maybe I'll join you.