I was tricked. I never would’ve agreed to participate in Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Half Marathon if I’d known how things would turn out.
“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” coaxed my friend Marquita, who’d done it several times. “It’s only ten kilometers. That’s 6.2 miles. You’ve walked that far hundreds of times with your walking club.”
“Sure, but I walk a modest 3 mph. I don’t run. There have been times near the end of a grueling hike that if I’d sensed the steamy fetid breath of a grizzly bear on the back of my neck, I’d turn around and say, ‘I hope you brought the meat tenderizer, Yogi, because I’m old and tough and too tired to run.'”
“You don’t have to run; you can walk,” wheedled Marquita. “You might even win a prize in your age category.”
“Is that supposed to tempt me?Awards? Let me tell you a little bit about what it takes to motivate me. If I spot a penny on the side of the road early in a hike, while I’m still fresh and well-rested, I’ll bend over and pick it up, chanting in a cheerful sing-song, ‘See a penny, pick it up, throughout the day you’ll have good luck.’ A few miles down the road, when I’m getting tired and my feet hurt, I wouldn’t bother to pick up anything less than a quarter. Near the end of a hike, when I’m exhausted, my lower back aches, and my blisters are bleeding, I wouldn’t bend over for a bag of money that just fell off a Brinks truck. Do you honestly think I’d run six miles for an award?”
“There’s free food at the finish line,” she said hopefully.
“I don’t care. Forget it!…wait…what kind of free food?”
“Bagels, bananas, and bottled spring water.”
“Why didn’t you say so earlier? Let me see that brochure.”
Marquita had found my weak spot; my Achilles heel. Food is a great motivator for us gourmands. For the unenlightened, let me illustrate the difference between a gourmet (which I am not) and a gourmand. A gourmet will politely nibble a tiny cube of Camembert cheese imported from Normandy and sip from a snifter of fine brandy and be satisfied. A gourmand doesn’t care if it is a block of Velveeta and a cold beer, as long as there’s plenty of it.
On race day, thousands of participants of all ages milled in the starting area. The experienced runners, taut and fit in their tiny Spandex outfits, stretched at the curb, nibbling energy bars as they checked their pulse, then sprinted through the crowd like eager race horses nervously prancing at a starting gate. We couch potatoes, lumpy and confortable in the same clothes we wear for painting the kitchen and weeding the garden, sat on the curb munching donuts, then meandered through the crowd like sway-backed nags put out to pasture.
A murmur of anticipation stirred the crowd and suddenly, we were off! This isn’t so bad, I thought , loping along in the middle of the walking group. By the half-way point, I was panting and sore and beginning to get a little cranky. By the last mile, women pushing strollers were passing me and the clean-up crews were tailing me like a lion stalks a wounded antelope. “C’mon, Old Lady, get a move on! We’d like to get home before dark,” is probably what they were thinking.
On the corners stood groups of spectators dressed in puffy pink pig costumes with angelic wings in honor of the race’s theme. They cheered and yelled encouragement at the runners and walkers. “You can do it!” they shouted. “You’re almost there!”
Staggering from one side of the street to the other, I pleaded with the strangers, “Please,” I gasped…”the bagels and bananas…where are the free bagels and bananas?” No one knew. It was all I could do to carry on.
I was running on empty. My mind had drifted into Never Never Land, where all the cars had wheels made of bagels and the lamp posts looked like giant bananas. Exhausted, I crossed the finish line. Staggering to a table manned by more volunteers dressed as flying pigs, I grasped the nearest pig by the wings and croaked through cracked lips, “Bagels and bananas.”
“Sorry, we’re out,” she chirped.
“You’re sorry?” I wheezed. “I just ran six miles for a bagel and bananas and you’re out?”
Anger-sparked adrenaline surged through my veins. By golly, somebody had better feed me or pig heads were going to roll! I had to chase those plump pink pigs three blocks before one fell and I pounced on it. It seems that those limp pink wings were useless, although they didn’t taste too bad. With enough barbeque sauce, you wouldn’t even notice the pink satin thread and lumps of polyurethane stuffing.