Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is the Recession Making People Evil? Thank Goodness for the Ridgecrest 50K

People in LA are getting meaner.

Either that, or I'm getting more sensitive. But three years in a big city is supposed to toughen a person up, not make her a big ball of emotions, so Theory 1 overrules Theory 2: people in LA are getting meaner.

In an admittedly Pollyanna-ish view of the current recession, I believed people would be nicer to each other, more willing to help one another out, and more respectful of each other. It would be a grand ol' group effort of positivity that would keep everyone afloat, since "we're all in this together", as many a song has said.

LA is notorious for crushing dreams, and accordingly, it swallowed that one whole.

It seems that several people have taken an "every man for himself" outlook on things. It's like Los Angelenos are all actors just rejected from their billionth audition. Dejected, they wallow in their own little bubble, not aware of the people around them--people that could help them thrive.

What better way to leave this festering bag of depression (and evil, cyclist-hating drivers) than by driving three hours north to the high desert of Ridgecrest to run (or in my case, be a roaming cheer squad at) a 50K?

Ridgecrest 50K

For those of you who don't want to do math, that's 31 miles.

On the roster: Robyn (Silverwoman extraordinaire), Eric (RockHardRunners ultra fanatic), coachubby, a frenchman, and a 30K-er. And me--a lone runner determined to run as far as the hambutt would let me, while cheering for everyone else.

I started running the 50K backwards at 9AM, figuring I'd see coachubby an hour out, then turn around and come back.

Not so. In fact, I never saw any of my friends.


But all of the participants I passed while I was running the wrong way wore huge smiles when I cheered.

An incredibly fit Santa whistled people along at the Gracie's Mansion pit stop, 5 miles out from the 50K finish. He was excited to see me running, even if it was the wrong way, and let me huddle by his portable stove while waiting for coachubby.


When coachubby didn't come, and it started to rain, I ran for it. I stopped at the final aid station to cheer again. This one was wo-manned by three cherubic, enthusiastic ladies. They were so excited every time someone came by, it was impossible for racers not to smile at the women through their pain.


I ran the last mile, coming upon a 50K finisher.

"You're doing great!" I said.

"So are you!"

"I haven't run half as far as you have!"

"No matter, you're a runner, too!" says the older man with a rapid-fire turnover I could never hope to match.

And so I remembered why I race. Or why I go to events even if I'm not racing to cheer on friends.

Races like the Ridgecrest 50 and 30K create that perfect world where, if only for a day, everyone around you is positive, encouraging, motivated, and working toward a goal--one that is immediately rewarded upon completion.

Races can be a mini utopia.

The longer and tougher they get, it seems, the more cordial everyone is to one another.

And so the trick is to take this positivity phenomenon and somehow spread it to where I live...Sunday beach long runs, anyone?


(And yes, I finally saw coachubby and my friends. Coachubby walked the last 15 miles swinging his arms like an angry grandpa so he'd finish, in spite of an IT flare up.)

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