It wasn't until my wife pointed to the line on the web site that said "Five K course" that I realized that my post-Thanksgiving ritual had changed. Further inspection lead me to understand that I would no longer be running through the heavily wooded acreage of Golden Gate Park. After more than a decade and a half of making the early morning trek across the bay to run my ten kilometers, I found myself on that same side of the bridge, but this time I was headed toward Crissy Field. The scenery was new, and so was the distance. What would I do with all that extra energy?
As it turns out, I needn't have worried. I spent the week before Thanksgiving rallying from my what has become almost as much a tradition as my big race: a hacking chest cold that kept me in bed for a day and a half. Breathing was the exercise I needed then, not running around the block or any further than the living room couch to see what strength I could muster to operate the remote control for the TV. On Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for antibiotics and the recovery that they brought. By Saturday, I could imagine running a mile, maybe two.
On Sunday morning, when the alarm went off before the sun started to work on the fog bank that lingered over the start of our day, I felt ready. My wife coaxed our son out of bed with a cup of cocoa, and we made our way across the bridge. She knew the way, which was good, since my instinctual sense of San Francisco geography only would have lead us back to the place where we had always celebrated the onrush of the Holiday Season: The Run To The Far Side. In the past few years, the sponsorship of the post-Turkey-Day event had shifted from the Academy of Sciences to the Firefighters Toy Drive. That meant that besides a shift in location, we were no longer availed of a Gary Larson designed T-shirt, and all the attendant silly costumes. Instead, our forty dollar entrance fee got us a "free" Santa hat. Made in China. I tried to prepare myself for what I could only imagine would be a let-down.
I probably shouldn't have been so harsh. It was a very scenic route, along the bay, up underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I lost track of my son in the muddle of the first mile, then caught sight of him chugging along as I was making my way back down the third. When I finished, I walked back up the course and found him and we ran the last hundred yards together. That last bit of misgiving dropped away as we walked back to the start line, where we picked up some bottles of water, and some chocolate milks. We stood in line for a few minutes to pick up our souvenir shirts, and some of the letdown returned. No funny cartoon. Just a logo on the front and a bunch of sponsors on the back. We went back and got more chocolate milks. And we waited for my wife and her mom to finish walking. It was a good day.