Memorial Day weekend was made for sports (and also for other things, like remembering our veterans, similar to the way we do on Veteran’s Day). The three days that are known as the unofficial start of summer serve as the perfect setting for all things sports-related. Well, except for Major League Baseball, which used to have most teams play doubleheaders on Memorial Day, but now has most teams play zero-headers, which makes perfect sense considering that most lay people have the day off to enjoy, oh, I don’t know, say…baseball. But I digress. And Memorial Day weekend isn’t just for professional athletes, like it was in the Middle Ages. It’s for everybody! Even me, which is why for the second consecutive Memorial Day weekend, I will be “exercising” my God-given right to enjoy sports by running in a race, and then drinking beer.
“The Spring Lake Five” is an annual local race that is gaining in popularity, best evidenced by my own involvement. The “five” stands for the number of times I will have to remove myself from the race the throw up on somebody’s shoes from exhaustion. It also happens to represent the mileage. The “Spring Lake” stands for where the race is held, which is, ironically, Spring Lake. I ran in this race for the first time last year, and, at the risk of spoiling the surprise, I did not win. In fact, I began the race somewhere in the back of 9,000 people, so by the time I actually reached the starting line, somebody had already won the race. So I packed up and went home.
Of course, I’m kidding. I continued to run the race regardless of the fact that I would only be receiving a banana and a calendar at the end instead of an Olympic medal. (Come to think of it, it’s a good thing I DIDN’T win, considering I never paid to get in the race, and was using the number of somebody who had dropped out, meaning that if I DID manage to somehow cross the finish line first, the confetti and champagne would have been rained down upon on a 6’ 3” young Irish man named Gladys Johnson.) Anyway, I’m glad I did run the race, because not only do calendars often come in handy, but I enjoyed myself as well.
I don’t consider myself a runner in the mold of, say, a famous runner. But I do enjoy the exercise, which is why it was strangely enjoyable to get up at 7:00am on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend last year to run five miles. For one thing, it was a beautiful morning, and since I had recently stopped watching cartoons, I had nothing better to do.
It’s hard to believe how many people actually take part in the “Spring Lake Five,” which is why I was so surprised to see the thousands and thousands of people along the streets of Spring Lake last year. Maybe that’s because my perception of society in general is that of fat, lazy slobs. Regardless, many people were there to run. Or walk. Or cheer. Or to work the banana stand, which was important, because the bananas were free. Anyway, once the race got going, it was just a great feeling to be a part of such a large group of people who were all trying to attain the same goal, which was, of course, not collapsing.
The five miles seem to go by pretty fast. It’s amazing how much better you can run when there are a bunch of other people pushing you to do better. And by “pushing” I mean passing. Also, there are a whole lot of people who line the streets, screaming words of encouragement like, “Go,” “You can do it Gladys,” “Your shoe is untied,” and “Watch out for that pole.” At each mile marker are huge speakers that play witty songs appropriate for the occasion, like “Born to Run,” “Running on Empty,” and “Shake that (bleep).” Then people hand you cups of water, just like in the movies, at which point you pour the water over your head (never drink it…cramps), and then crush the cup and toss it away as if you are disgusted with it. At least that’s how I do it.
There’s really no better feeling than just finishing a race (except for maybe winning a race, or the Masters). I remember thinking to myself last year, after crossing the finish line, “How the heck do people run marathons?” But before I could come up with an answer, to my surprise, I received a mini medal and the ugliest t-shirt of all time. It was a great, healthy, and sports-related start to a Memorial Day weekend otherwise filled with beer, pork roll and cheeses, and no baseball.
Which is why I’m going back for more this year. After all, Memorial Day weekend was made for sports, and running around aimlessly though the streets of Spring Lake is pretty much the best sport I can think of. This year, I even paid to get in, and I have my very own race number: “3204.” So if you happen to be on the “sidelines” at the Spring Lake Five this weekend, and you see that number plodding forward, please don’t scream obscenities at me, cause I’ll barf on your shoes.