RUNNING LIKE HELL
Now that nearly a week has gone by, I finally feel close enough to a place of peace that I can discuss the horrors of the Run Hit Wonder race. First of all, to those of you wise enough to steer clear of physical activity, let me school you in a harsh truth I gained from experience:
Running is hard.
Running a race is not like running on a treadmill or on an elliptical runner or in a video game. Running takes lots of effort, and when you’re in a race, you can’t stop until you get to the “end” (unless you want to look like a total tool, of course — no thanks). I ran the race with Drew, our friend Chuck and Chuck’s almost-two-year-old son, Cameron, who zoomed alongside us in a snazzy running stroller. (Believe me, if I had known that was an option, I would’ve had Drew wheeling me in an oversized contraption of his own, and Cameron and I would’ve had a nice little chat about pretty birds and juice and poopy along the way.)
As I jogged through the streets of USC-adjacent (which, since I myself went to graduate school there, I can accurately and lovingly describe as “shithole-ish”), I discovered that the finest creatures ever to walk the face of the Earth are the people who don’t run the races themselves but who stand along the sides of the race route just to applaud and cheer the participants on. Yes, it really happens. To that squad of cheerleaderish African-American girls chanting, “Go run-nahs! Go run-nahs!” over and over again while doing their clap-shuffle side-step in 80-degree heat, please know that you made my day. I’m a bit mixed on those frat boys with the super soakers, who seemed to enjoy drenching people just a bit too much. And to that shirtless, curly-haired guy who was clapping his hands at us on that narrow corner where everyone was logjammed while he shouted, “Let’s go, people! Coming through! Out of the way!”, you should know that you do not belong next to the rest of us on the evolutionary chart. You have my permission to die.
As for the bands — has it really taken me this long to get to the bands??? — yes, the bands were there. Mostly. It turns out the only “artist” I missed by opting for the 5K route instead of the 10K was Tommy Tutone, which couldn’t have been better planning on the part of the organizers. My sincere gratitude goes out to whoever decided which bands would play where. But before I trash Tutone Tumuch, let me reserve my real hostility for Mr. Tone Loc, who, around the time I was passing by his stage, decided he needed to take a short break from performing. What’s the matter, Loc? 15 years isn’t long enough for you? (I should point out for added disparagement that this couldn’t have been more than 25 minutes or so into his set.) So instead of the shitty, nostalgia-shattering rendition of “Wild Thing” and/or “Funky Cold Medina” we were promised, we heard a recording of “Man in the Mirror”. It wasn’t even a good running song, unless by putting the image of Michael Jackson in our heads, they were trying to give us something to run from.
Thankfully, General Public sounded great. When I ran by, they were playing “I Confess”, which if I remember correctly, was not their one hit but still a great song. It was actually kind of a relief to hear something other than their ubiquitous hit in the minute and a half I could hear what they were playing. (No, I’m not hatin’ on “Tenderness” — in fact, when I did my 80′s Top 20 a few years ago, it came in, if I remember correctly, at #8.) Dave Wakeling still looked good, although Ranking Roger had been replaced by a doughy old guy. Then again, maybe that was Ranking Roger. Mike says they played “Mirror in the Bathroom” later on. (Mike did the 10K, which is the only reason he was behind me in reaching the GenPub stage.) Well, that would’ve been worth running back for, if only I’d known.
The mystery band turned out to be Dramarama, who have the distinction of being only the second-best band of the 80′s whose name ends in “-arama”. There are about a million bands I would’ve been thrilled to see on the mystery artist stage. Dramarama was #1,000,001. Talk about giving me, giving me nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams. (Yes, I know that’s Johnny Hates Jazz. I’m already dreaming about who next year’s mystery band will be.) Memo to race organizers: we now know better than to believe your hype.
My initial plan to amble along at a nice, leisurely stroll was thwarted by those sneaky race sponsors, who provided each of us with some Big Brother-type sneaker chip that recorded our time from starting line to finish line. Damn technological advances. That meant that sputtering along at roughly the pace of Roseanne’s comeback and then lying to my friends later on about how fast I went was not going to be an option. Somehow, I managed to keep up with Drew, Chuck and the toddler and finish in a maybe-respectable 36-oh-something. (Is that respectable? If not, please don’t tell me.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stick around for the after-race performance by Devo, because I was off for a couple days in Monte Carlo (well, okay, the Monte Carlo hotel in Vegas), where I learned a very valuable lesson about why I don’t get carded anymore: it’s the thinning hair, stupid. Slap a baseball cap on me, and apparently, I look like a little leaguer again. Running had made me feel extremely old, but I’d found a way to make blackjack dealers say, “He looks like he’s twelve!”
And so it was that I spent two days ordering drinks by the pool and playing Let it Ride, hat always on head, I.D. always readily available for display. It was the perfect vacation, and after 5Ks of Hell, I’d earned it.