In April of 2019, I was walking out of the Rock n Roll San Francisco expo and I saw my friend Lisa at the 2020 registration booth. I asked her ‘what’s the point of all this?’
Granted, the changes to Rock n Roll after the last management in 2018 change didn’t help. I left the generic race t-shirts left at the side of the start corrals, customer service rarely got back to people and other than a few friends staying on staff, the series felt less like fun and more like grind. Things got better after they hired Katie for the Tour Pass program. T-shirt and medal designs got better and things started picking up again.
That was my fourth half marathon of the year but the 3rd one without Susan. She had been fighting plantar fasciitis for years and decided to cut back on distance and after Zion, Glacier and Disney Paris 2019, she retired from racing. She’s been pain-free for nearly two years, but it was that San Francisco expo where I realized not having her at every race left a big hole in the experience. We’ve each finsished over 150 half marathons and 15 marathons, all but a half dozen of them together.
Then the pandemic hit. Twenty months went by without a race. RNR San Jose was a good first step, but add a couple airports, a short plane ride and a much bigger crowd for San Diego, it was the next step back to normal. I was looking forward to one of our favorite races, but the half empty feeling was still there. So I tried to take a page out of the mindfulness movement and find some gratitude. Recognize the upsides. Why are we here?
Because right when we landed we had some pretty amazing tacos with Ann and Peter at Tin Fish and catch up in person for the first time in years. Earlier in the week Ann asked me which corral I was in for the half. More on that later.
Because even though being indoors still gives me the heebie jeebies, I felt great about helping out at the 5K bib pick up because they were short staffed at the opening.
Because despite reservations, friends like Russell came out for the race. He was one Rock n Roll behind me in getting back into swing of the travel races. He, Al and I talked about about the goings on in the Black Sheep Run group. No pictures from dinner. I’ve been slacky that way.
Because the new 5K course was a breath of fresh air. I had a 20 minute warm up to the start line in Balboa Park. Susan came out to cheer at the 4K mark. I cut a minute and a half off my San Jose 5K time without much effort. The bar was pretty low.
Because Susan realized she didn’t need to rest up for the half on Sunday so we took an afternoon side trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and went to dinner in Little Italy. Note to self: take Uber around downtown and walk a bit instead of circling the blocks for parking.
Because Inn at the Park is only two blocks from the Half/Full start line. As corral 13 was about to start the music changed and I knew why Ann asked. Yeah, I’m still a walker ;).
Because having a familiar course and a reschedule to October made for cooler temps and shaving a half hour off my San Jose race time. Still nowhere near I want to be, but it’s a start.
Because we had a late flight out so we could visit relatives that we used to see twice a year when we were growing up. Pizza dinner and four hours later, we felt like we caught on 40 years of missed visits.
Because having the late flight meant also we could sit and have a snack watching the sunset near the marina and wonder if this might be another place to eventually settle down.
So back to that question I asked Lisa in San Francisco a few years back: “What’s the point of all this”? Back in San Jose, I raced with Drew. It was a great start, a comfortable pace and reminder that there were a lot of reasons why we started racing in 2005. There was the bond with the people we trained with and the excitement of traveling from home to see a new city from the streets. Ultimately a part of it was the immense satisfaction of going from a couch potato to doing something that a small percentage of people have done (and doing it hundreds of time).
And I embrace the idea that this journey isn’t over.
Rock n Roll San Diego is the longest running race in the renamed Rock n Roll Running Series. Other than the 2020 pandemic cancellation, it has been held every year since 1998. This year there were 11,145 participants in the half and full in 2021, down a peak of 25,401 in 2011 from 15,711 in 2019 and 17,882 in 2018). While the numbers have been declining, that’s been the case for most races. I’m hopeful that being the second month back for Rock n Roll, this was better than I expected. With new races just confirmed for the 2022 season in Atlantic City (May 15) Clearwater (October 2), there are new a dozen US locations and seven international destinations. With 3 races in 2020, 7 in 2021, you’d need to complete over half of the locations in 2022 for the Hall of Fame medal, now set at 20 locations.
I’ll be skipping Nashville and DC before finishing my year in San Antonio. I should have some time to make some updates on the all time Rock n Roll leader list including a few new Century Club members (now 18 members!). There’s a lot to catch up on, and I need to catch up!