The 2012 Summer Olympics are here.
Track and Field is one of my favorite events; I hated running as a kid.
Actually, let me correct that; I hated jogging.
I prefer speed walking or riding my mountain bike for daily exercise.
As a kid, the type of running I enjoyed was playing baseball in the lot on 16th street. You started in the batters box and hit the ball, then you ran the bases. (No black hitting tee for us)
You sprinted down the first baseline like Mickey Rivers. Going from second to home on a single, you felt like Lou Brock. Or, if you possessed blinding speed like Seeley street resident John Cain, you hit the ball in the gap and stretched it into a triple.
While playing basketball in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name. Pushing the ball on the fastbreak like Brian Keating and scoring a layup or hitting a teammate with a pass. Transition basketball was fun. You sprinted up and down the court.
Running around in the streets playing coco-leavo was fun; as was playing tag, red light-green light, and stickball. Do kids still play those games? (Hopping the turnstile took a little bit of running too)
Circling Prospect Park or the diamonds inside the park sucked! The will to run just wasn’t there for me.
I marveled at guys like Mickey McNally, Jimmy Rauthier and the late Vinnie Brunton working hard, going all out around the park. I looked at them and wondered, “how do they do it?”
Discipline, that’s how. Those cats were determined and committed. They were machines!
To be honest though, have you ever seen the mugs on people who jog? They look miserable! I’m sure they feel wonderful deep down inside though.
The New York City Marathon looks like a lot of fun…that is when you are standing on the sidewalk down on 4th avenue watching the runners pass you.
Cross-Country practice for Holy Name was not my cup of tea. Running for Mr. Gruschow was a burden but it’s what you did in the Fall. You had no choice. It would have been so much more enjoyable being in the boys schoolyard playing basketball. My running teammates, Mickey Reilly and Edmund Gallahue, those guys could book!
In the Spring, you ran track. Who can forget those Saturday morning track meets down at Midwood Field? In the sixth grade I came in first place in the 100 yard dash.
When I was sixteen I went jogging around Prospect Park with one of my favorite people of all-time; Mary Kawas. The night before, while hanging out on the parkside we talked about meeting up at 7:30.
“7:30 in the morning or tomorrow night?” I asked.
Mary was one of the greatest athletes from the neighborhood; that includes both male and female. She could outrun most guys. Running was in her DNA. Her brothers Ricky and Charlie where speed demons.
Growing up I had the pleasure of spending a ton of time with “Mary K”…she was the best.
It was a humid, sunny, July morning when we met up at the Circle; Laura Cox joined us. I really didn’t feel like being there.
I get there and both girls are already stretching out.
I’m like, “damn it, am I late?”
As they finished getting loose, I did some bullshit toe-touch and swung my arms around a few times; I was ready!
I ran in basketball sneakers, Mary and Laura had running shoes. That was me, always unprepared.
Together as a threesome we made our way down Prospect Park Southwest. I was rolling; that is until we got to the Parade Grounds. Mary went out ahead of Laura and I.
Mary was like Secretariat at Belmont Park.
On the other side of the park by the zoo, we lost sight of Mary; she was like a Gazelle, clearly leaving us in the dust.
We passed the Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway; an ideal time to do some sight-seeing.
Laura was starting to inch ahead of him so I had to catch up.
As you hit Grand Army Plaza, it felt like the run was almost over, you were coming down the stretch. Thoughts of visiting the library came over me. No not really, I wasn’t much of a reader.
“DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!” (Belmont Racetrack announcer voice)
As we made the left turn and hit Prospect Park West, Mary was nowhere in sight. I had thoughts of crossing the street and asking for a nurse at the Madonna residence.
I was clearly running out of gas, my tank was on “E”. I might have actually stopped at Garfield Place to rest.
Up ahead at the bronze sculpture on ninth street I stopped and sat down. Sensing someone staring at me I peeked over my left shoulder, glancing up at Marquis de Lafayette, the French-born general. I could have sworn he said:
“GET UP AND FINISH YOU WUSS!”
I was hearing things, right? He didn’t just say that did he?
Statues don’t talk.
Regardless, I got back up on my back on my aching feet.
Running past the 11th street playground on my left I saw a few young children and their parents entering the park. I felt a hint of motivation come over me.
I passed the bench by 12th street and saw Slick sitting down; he looked at me and gave me the “thumbs up”.
Ahead of me I saw Mary and Laura; they had finished. Mary was sitting on the monument (totem pole).
“Good job Fin!” Mary cried out to me.
I looked at her and shook my head. She was being kind. Mary was always inspirational and encouraging.
I was awful.
She on the other hand was a machine.
Her discipline was Olympic-like; mine sucked. I had none.
It takes a ton of discipline to get your ass up and running.
Kudos to all the athletes in London that are shooting for a Gold medal. And of course, to all the people who run. They find the motivation to get up, tie their running shoes and hit the pavement. I envy you all.
By the way, do people still jog around Prospect Park?