I finally reached an adult right of passage last week: I bought a brand new car. The vehicle it replaced had seen better days. True, I will miss the way my passengers would paw helplessly for the nonexistent window button until I’d explain the concept of a Precambrian crank handle. I won’t be there the next time someone plows into it while it’s parked in a deserted lot. (This happened not once, but twice, to the tune of $4,000.) I’ll even worry just a bit about the indigent mice who occasionally take up residence in its cozy air filter. But there is something I truly regret leaving behind … my race bling.
On that (slightly dented) back bumper remain two white, oval stickers: 13.1 and 26.2. I earned them back in 2012, at the height of my distance running days. They were public displays of affection I held for the sport, silent testaments to my dedication and/or insanity. I couldn’t conceal my pride when someone asked about them, although I swear I once had this conversation with a (presumably) well-educated adult:
Adult: What are those stickers for? I see them everywhere!
Me: Those were races I completed. I’m a runner!
Adult: What does 13.1 mean?
Me: That’s 13.1 miles – the distance of a half marathon.
Adult: What’s the 26.2 for?
Every runner has a collection of race swag. There’s the rainbow of cotton tees and tech shirts featuring an abstract logo on the front and a bevy of benevolent donors listed on back. Race medals hanging from the dresser mirror tinkle like wind chimes as we fumble with our running clothes in the dim morning light. Some of the more artistic runners have compiled the bibs, maps, brochures and results into themed scrapbooks. Call it muscle memory – we want to preserve the moments when our bodies and minds operated in sync to go the distance.
The split of champagne I earned when I crossed the Wineglass Marathon finish line still sits, unopened, on my dressing table. I don’t drink alcohol, but even if I did, I will never twist that cap. Perhaps I’m afraid that, like Pandora’s box or the genie in the lamp, the magic of the moment will dissipate and I’ll forget the profound sense of accomplishment I felt that cool September day.
A friend suggested I buy replacement stickers for my new car, but that doesn’t feel right. I earned those when I was at a different place in my running career. There are no 1.5 or 2.3 or From My House To Kristin’s Apartment And Back stickers to reflect my current reality. Driving home last night, through the new Bluetooth and iPhone, John Mayer reminded me:
So scared of getting older.
I’m only good at being young.
So I play the numbers game to find a way
to say that life has just begun.
- Mayer 2006
As I write this, three of the people most dear to me are not well. My 91-year-old dad’s heart is refusing to sync up with his young, life-loving spirit. My father-in-law anxiously waits medical test results while my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s continues its terrorist takeover of her few remaining synapses. At the same time, my two young-adult children are discovering the intense satisfaction that comes with running races, riding horses, lifting weights, counting crunches.
We can’t stop this train, as Mayer says. But we can appreciate where we are on the journey. I am older, slower and less agile than my race-sticker days, but I can still go today’s distance. And that is something to celebrate.
Teresa Benoit Keyes lives, works and occasionally runs in Bloomfield, NY. Find her on Facebook.