The 2 bridges - Carquinez and Benicia, which I crossed in turn, on my solo "Bridge to Bridge" Marathon.
There are the runners who have beards, and there are the ones who don't. They each have a category.
Ok, so let's step away from the subject a few yards and address this on an even more basic level - there are those who run and cycle and any enjoy any number of other endurance sports, and there are those who simply do not. Both, catagorized.
Like it or not, open minded as we may claim to be, we are similar in surprisingly few ways but love to lump each other into vast genres of humanity based on those limited similarities. Often the most poignant discriminations come about based on the criteria of "those who are 'like' us" and "those who are not." Alas, along with that comes the inevitable determination that those unlike us are more (fill in the blank with something negative) than we are.
Only a few days ago I inadvertently found myself in a sub category probably disdained even by non-athletes. But first let's get the record straight on what categories I belong to. First, I'm in the bearded runner category. This category is renowned for embracing the best long distance trail runners in the world, and in juvenile fashion, I feel that the best way to achieve similar results is to do my best to look like them. Also, follicly challenged as I am, I'm a believer that I may be able to make up for the absence of head hair by allowing it free range in other areas.
Thus, I am also in the "non leg shaving cyclist" category. Yeah, I get it - It's a stretch to think that hairy legs are any sort of substitute for thick wavy locks - but vanity is desperate, and often misguided. So unfortunately, while the beard puts me in company with some of the greatest runners in the world, the whole leg shaving thing puts me squarely in the cycling nerd category. I'm outnumbered 20:1 on my weekend group rides. When my friend Matt shows up we basically double our numbers. There are a few others, but really the best riders shave their legs - and faces too for that matter. One notable exception is the guy I met on this past ride who's electric shaver must have bogged down somewhere around his knees. From the knee to the hem of his shorts was a dark forest. I've never seen this before, and I suspect I will have to chisel out a little category just for him.
But my point is not that strategic hair placement is the basis for all categorization. While hair certainly has always played a role in positioning a person in the sociological strata, we unfortunately create many other criteria which disqualify us from acceptance into any number of categories.
Blue jeans are one of those disqualifying attributes. You cannot run as an athlete in blue jeans. Period. As I understand it, even hiking in blue jeans is grounds for excommunication from the Sierra Club. So this past Wednesday I gave the 3 Sierra Club candidates I met on the trail ample opportunity for ridicule. Each of them gave me a sidelong glance being careful to avoid engagement, and wide berth to prevent contamination. I powered past them in the foothills of Mt. Diablo on a short 2 mile loop. By all criteria this run should have disqualified me from everything.
And it was my wife's fault. No matter that we often share laundry duties - I blamed her for my being out of my customary work T-shirts, and begrudgingly pulled on the first white one I came across in the drawer - a sleeveless one. So yeah, let's back up...
I just purchased a pair of hiking boots for my approaching Emigrant Wilderness Hike - an overnight 30+ mile jaunt in the Sierras. Word of snow finalized my decision to purchase my first pair of hiking boots in at least 20 years. I've been content with trail running shoes for backpacking - but the thought of slogging through snow and slush in running shoes was, shall we say, chilling. So I've been wearing the boots to work in an attempt to find a truce between them and my toes before the long hike. Wednesday, my travels brought me in close proximity to one of my favorite trail heads on the north side of Mt. Diablo. I briefly considered going off the grid for a few minutes and giving my boots a real workout - but my collared shirt, heavy belt, and worst of all - blue jeans - held the idea at bay. After checking in with my carpenters on the job, I was again confronted with that random thought. Hike in blue jeans?
Then it dawned on me - I was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. Somehow that singular thought brought resolution. I would not hike. I would run. So without the requisite running cap, running shoes, or even shorts I set off up the trail at a jog - in blue jeans - and hiking boots - and my sleeveless cotton T-shirt. As I passed the Sierra Club group (see, they've got their own category) I was just beginning to realize why blue jeans are a bad idea. However, I was now on a mission powered by a purpose not too far distant from the purpose that likely motivated the hippies, not long enough ago. I was doing something radical, I wasn't hurting anyone else in the process, and I was getting some attention. So there I was clomping my way around the Diablo foothills.
Now, there are reasons why we don't customarily run in jeans and hiking boots - which should be self evident. But it occurred to me as I ran, that no one observing me could have any idea what category I belonged in. I basically looked like an idiot. Just 2 weeks ago I finished a 3:32 solo marathon (Bridge to Bridge) with nearly 2000' of elevation gain. But with my belt cinched up snug around my waist to keep the ever increasing weight of my jeans from dragging it all down around my ankles, my boots turning a practiced stride into a lumbering trot, and my pace somewhere south of spectacular, any causal observer would scoff or at best look sympathetically at the well intentioned poser. "He's not fooling anyone," might be the comment.
And indeed - I was not trying to fool anyone. I own several great pairs of running shoes. I own running shorts in a rainbow of colors. I can run up and down those hills all day without tromping. But on that day I was having a great time breaking in my hiking boots. I was in a category formerly undefined. And what did it matter?
It mattered not at all. I was proving again that fitting in is highly overrated. I was content to be running, plodding, tromping, or whatever it was I was doing. When nearing the end of my run, I spotted a kid in baggy shorts a sweatshirt and basketball shoes running toward me - I did drop him into his category. But somehow it was huge. His category included all of us - out enjoying God's spectacular creation that beautiful Wednesday afternoon.
Some photos from most recent Sunday Morning Run.
Fall has come to the Bay Area
New artwork at the John Muir tunnel.
After crossing under Highway 4 through the tunnel and then up the day's hardest hill, this is the reward...
And this is the view on the descent - with the Benicia Bridge in the background.