“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other…but to be with each other.”
― Christopher McDougall,
Been Doon That Long Road
It’s been about ten years since I’ve been able to call myself “a runner.” Back when I was working for Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, I did the casual 5 or 10 K’s and planned a couple of triathlons into my year. I was never what you would call hard core. I did, however, really enjoy regular solitary foggy mornings in my West Side Santa Cruz neighborhood and loved to put in some miles atop the windswept bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I had always been a solitary runner- I ran for myself and I ran only with myself.
Then marriage, grad school, a new full-time job based in Napa plus two pregnancies and four years of subsequent sleepless nights intervened. Needless to say, being up at 2 AM because your toddler can’t sleep is not conducive to early morning, pre-work jogs.
Time for “Me Time”….
About two and a half months ago our youngest, Bryce, began sleeping through the night on a more regular basis and I decided it was time to reclaim some of that vaunted “me time” they talk about. I started setting out running clothes (and the all-important automatic coffee maker) the night before a few times a week, and if the little one didn’t keep us up, got up with an early alarm and got out the door. Exploring our new neighborhood was nice (Chris and I moved to a new place in west Napa in March) and it did feel good to get some cool “early in the morning” time to myself before the world got crazy with Cheerios and work emails. But I realized something was missing.
Digital Life to #InRealLife
Thinking that I was lacking a goal, I searched for a local road race. I posted the details for one on Facebook, knowing that some of my friends-you know, the ones that have their lives so together they already do that kind of thing-would see it. I had never before done a race with anyone else. This time, however, I thought, if I had someone to meet me on race day I would be more committed to getting out of bed in the morning.
I was really happy when my friend Neeraj Singh, a fellow UC Davis MBA grad who lives in Walnut Creek but works up in Napa and Sonoma Counties a few days a week, contacted me about being interested in the race. He had never done any road racing before but he and some buddies had the long-term goal of completing a half-marathon this spring. This 5 K on September 13 in Napa would be his first step. Knowing I had to commit for real if I had someone else to meet on race day, I realized I would have to do some more training than just schlepping around the block in the mornings. Because I was already hiking around at Stanly Ranch in Carneros (part of which is open to the public as a portion of the San Francisco Bay Trail) checking on my Pinot Noir grapes, why not combine work with some working out?
Fast forward four weeks or so and we’ve been having a blast. We’ve roped in one of my neighbors, Sara Guzman, also a mom of two little boys but someone who’s got a lot more experience running than either Neeraj or I, and the invitation is still open…. We three went for our first “group run” on Saturday and as Neeraj and I carpooled to the start site we were laughing so hard about stupid stuff (don’t ask), our warm up huff of 500 feet, straight up, didn’t seem so tough. For the first time I was willing to run with others.
After a scenic 50 minute elevation and interval-intensive course, we stood around stretching and talking politics, the wine business and working parenthood (Neeraj has yet to reach that Waterloo). Team name? Highland Huffers? The Green Team (a nod to being “new” and to Neeraj’s volunteer experience with Auction Napa Valley and his “Napa Green” T-Shirt)….How about “Team Awesome”? Over the top to be sure, but hey, we’ll take it. We all admitted that we were just still figuring it all out-life the universe and everything. And getting out early on a Saturday morning to kick up the dust together was pretty awesome.
We’re meeting again tomorrow, have swapped running books (from which I extracted the above quote) and the running bug is infecting the extended family; my husband and his brother are set to do a half marathon in early December. Sara, Neeraj and I will high-five our way through our little 5 K on Sunday and then we all agree we’re looking for our next race. We’re eyeing the Wine Country Half Marathon on Halloween in Healdsburg.
So I’ve gone from “couch to 5 K” in about three months and, with the help, encouragement and laughter of Sara and Neeraj (and the babysitting prowess of my husband) and can now once again call myself a runner. And the goal isn’t necessarily to set a Personal Record or even cross a finish line. It’s wanting again and again that mix of laughing so hard you’re crying and breathing so hard you’re gasping- and capturing the joy of beautiful places, in real life, and sharing it with others.
The rigors of a professional career, the stresses of Harvest and the insidious isolation of social media can all take their toll if we let them. I still log solitary morning miles but have learned to appreciate the brother and sister-hood of others. I’ll say it again because it bears repeating:
“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other.”
― Christopher McDougall,
Alison Crowe is an award winning Winemaker, author and blogger and laces up her running shoes in and around Napa.
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