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A beautiful day by Leah Jean
A couple of Sundays ago I was standing in the midst of 5000 people in lime green shirts waiting for the race to start. Yes, you heard me right. A race. It was actual a marathon being held in the heart of downtown Baltimore. Why was I there? Certainly not to win. In face, I was part of about 5% of the people who would be walking most if not the whole 5 kilometers (about 4 miles) instead of running. Our motley crew consisted of one serious runner (Kelly), 2 semi-serious runners (Hannah and Kelly's husband), one ex-smoker, over-weight wannabe (Andy), and me ... a creaky knee-ed rather oldish, slightly over-weight. out to have fun and see if I could make it without too much pain, crazy woman.

It was a really beautiful day and in the mid to upper 60's. The race didn't start until about 12:00 so the day did warm up to a sunny yet slightly nippy temp. The funny thing though was that we all got these atrociously lime green long sleeved (covered with logos) running shirts days before the race. The green was in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Have you ever seen 5000 people in lime green shirts? Kind of reminded me of the "psychedelic" shades back in the 70s.

But the race was fun from start to finish, baring the aches in my legs and feet as I progressed thru the route. The start of the race itself was kind of weird. Let me just say that it was like being in a traffic jam of cars way in the back at a stop light. You can't see anything happening at first. [Unless maybe you are 6' 4".] But we were all nervously waiting for the crowd to surge forward in front of us. And finally we saw people start to move in front of us, so we started to move. Took a few steps and then nope! It was a kind of false start and we had to stop again. It was just overly eager people wanting to start but not quite enough room yet. Kind of like cars that surge forward at a crowded stop light and then have to stop because they got carried away. It was really weird but funny that people on foot did the same thing. Apparently it is a common thing at crowded races though according to my friends.

So we surged forward finally and I made me way to the side to let the serious runners ... or just the runners ... around so I could walk in peace. I even found about 4 other walkers and lined up behind them along the curbs. It was pretty different walking along the edge of the mass. There were quite a few people lining the streets at the beginning along with policemen blocking traffic. There were even a few rows of little kids who held out their hands so you could "high five" ("low five"?) them as you went by. But one kid cried out to us, "why aren't you running?" Fortunately I moved by too fast to make a snappy come-back. But then the kid was only about 6 years old so he wouldn't understand about age and what it does to your body. ;) It took about 10 minutes for all the other runners to pass us by so we could move more out into the middle of the road. Then I could relax and not worry about getting in the way of a serious runner. A couple of other walking women who came up from behind me were having fun too. One laughingly said, "Are we there yet?" I laughed along with them. We even got to see the famous jogging juggler who runs marathon races while juggling balls. [He was pointed out to me before the race started.] That in itself was kind of entertaining. No, he didn't keep the balls going continuously but we certainly weren't going to complain about it.

Did I mention that the beginning of the race was going down a very long street between tall buildings? Well, about 10 minutes into the race I popped over one hill on that street and beheld a grand view: a sea of vivid lime green bodies bobbing in front of me for about a mile down the hill! It was a truely amazing sight. One of those times I wish I were a photographer and had a special camera with me. That was one of the best parts of that race.

But there were other times that were fun also. Maybe not quite so poignant but still fun. The route of the race eventually moved away from the skyscrapers to what is Baltimore's "Federal Hills" district where the well-to-do people lived in townhouses. So the buildings were kind of nice to look at. We even passed an art museum of sorts. Rather plain looking brick buildings that looked like they may have been some sort of factories or business buildings once. I did catch sight of a few large modern bits of art work out on the grounds around the buildings. But the thing that really caught my eye was one window about 3 stories up. The balcony was built to look like 1/2 of a huge bird's nest! It looked like a bunch of big sticks put together very creatively to look like an actual nest. And people just happened to be out on that balcony at the time so they looked like they were in the nest. It is just amazing what artists can come up with! Later on in the race we walked by a rather steep grassy ridge upon which people were walking. I figured that Ft. McHenry was up above that ridge and that's why the grass and area looked quit nice. But I really didn't feel like climbing that hill at the time to check it out. ;) My legs were getting pretty tired by then. Finally I was treated to a vew over the bay of the downtown area. I'd never really noticed what a nice skyline it was. There was the touristy inner harbor, the famous National Aquarium, various ships, and other ornate and/or nice looking buildings along with the skyscrapers all on a bright clear sunny day. The walk itself was quite entertaining.

It was really goofy towards the end of the race though. The end was where a St. Patrick's Day Parade was going to be held later so people were already lining up along the streets. Some people cheered us as we went by. Brother, did I feel like an idiot. At least I wasn't the last person. In fact I finished 4093 out of 5000. [Cough, cough.] So I wasn't last ... or a lot of people registered but didn't show up for the actual race. I know the number because we all had little tags laced to our shoes to we could be electronically counted and timed. I also came in under an hour. Woo-hoo. [I'm just happy that I finished.] :)

Then there was a party with "free" beer (we did pay a not so cheap entry fee for the race) after the race for the runners. You did have to stand in line forever though if you wanted the beer. So instead we pigged on the chips, bananas, and other assorted snacks that were offered. Then we walked back to watch the parade. It kind of reminded me of the Nutcracker ballet because there were a lot of families, schools, and organizations involved in it. Another family affair where people could get their 15 minutes of fame. Or more like 30 minutes in this case. I could seriously appreciate how much effort it took on the part of the band members though to travel a descent distance on foot but also carry an instrument and possibly blow into it at the same time. One guy was even carrying a base fiddle! There were several groups with bagpipes doing popular Irish ditties which we enjoyed. Several groups though were pretty boring and just carrying signs advertising their organization or school. Others though had some wild costumes on or provided varying entertainment. One group even carried a sign about getting England out of Ireland. Geez. Got to get those politics in.

Finally made it home slightly sun-burnt, exhausted, and not so fresh smelling. Took a shower immediately. After getting out of the shower noticed that the phone light was blinking. And I sighed deeply before even picking up the phone. Yes, it was news from my brother of Sandra's passing.

And I thought ... if I had to get sad news about a dear one, this was a good day for it. Because the weather was still gorgeous and the day had been so interesting and amazing. It would have been the kind of day that Sandra would have relished with her crazy sense of adventure and humor. And her ability to enjoy people with all their strengths and weaknesses.

And I was so thankful that I had known her.



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