An Amateur's Guide to Road Racing

I ran in the Race for the Cure this morning. The fact that I wasn’t nervous about running 3.2 miles shows you how old and complacent I’ve become. No, not confident and well prepared. Old and complacent, I said.

I hadn’t run in two weeks, unless you count the day I was trying to cross the high school parking lot and almost got hit by a Hummer and had to jolt forward and sprint to the curb. I don’t know if I was out of breath because I’m so out of shape or because I saw that Hummer driver’s life pass before my eyes. Why are high school kids driving Hummers?

Today’s race was huge. It’s in West Palm Beach, right along the water, and there were 22,000 people there. I’m guessing that’s the reason I did not see Olivia Newton-John, who is one of our famous residents and breast cancer survivors and who was signed up for the race. This area is loaded with famous residents, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if she wasn’t the only one who ran with an entourage. (I bet she didn’t have to stand in line for the porta-johns, either.)

With thousands of people all running in the same race, you can imagine the variety that crossed the starting line. There were the serious runners: you know, those guys who are like 56-years-old and who are 90 pounds of gaunt, stringy muscles. (You become a Greek grandmother upon seeing them, and you want to offer them pork roasts and whole milk.) There are the bandwagon-jumpers: women who dye their poodles pink and race with them, wearing a pink feather boa and carrying a sign that says “Save the Ta-Tas.” Somewhere in the middle is me, no gimmicks but not serious enough to have as much as given up coffee before the race. If there had been bagels, I probably would have had one with cream cheese minutes before running.

There are lots and lots of people like me who run in the Race for the Cure. It’s short enough that they can’t ask you to qualify, plus we middle-of-the-roaders raise a bunch of money for the cause, so they kinda have to let us in.

If you’ve ever considered running for a cause, I would suggest the Race for the Cure. It’s fun and you’ll enjoy getting all verklempt seeing bald women in their specially color-coded Survivor t-shirts, Bruce Springsteen being blasted through a loudspeaker for you - Yes! You! - and the signs on people’s backs with names and photos of people they’re running for. I once saw one that said, “Mommy” and I had to stop running to cry a little bit.

Some advice if you do decide to run this race:

1. Wear a good sports bra. There are a LOT of women who run in the Race for the Cure and not one of them will feel sorry for you if you’re experiencing excessive bounceage.

2. Keep in mind that you’re allowed to throw the little plastic cups after you drink the water that’s handed to you by the race volunteers as you run by. My anti-littering gene prevents me from doing this, so I skip the water altogether. But you’re allowed. Someone will pick it up later.

3. Don’t take your phone with you. You might be tempted to check your voice mail or email during the race, like one woman I saw this morning. My urge to trip her passed, but I’m sure she didn’t make it to Mile 2 before someone succumbed.

4. Don’t take the race too seriously. If someone passes you, don’t worry. Even if it’s the 80-year-old guy who ran in today’s race. (He was first in his “80 and Above” age group. Also last.) Even if it’s a mom pushing a double stroller. Even if it’s someone who is bald, who you know is going through chemo and feels way crappier than you do.

5. Enjoy the scenery, get into your zone, but watch your step. (Remember the pink poodle? He did not skip breakfast this morning.)

You can send running advice to Diane Laney Fitzpatrick at

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