I was training for this race for, I don’t know, for forever, a marathon, and the big day was fast approaching. I saw on Facebook a few days before, it was Andre, we had since reconnected, you know, on Facebook anyway. He put up this status update, “Getting pumped for the big race!” and there were something like a hundred and twenty likes. No way, I thought, I didn’t know Andre was a runner.
So I sent him a private message, I was like, hey man, are you running the big race? The same race I’m running? I didn’t know you were training. And he responded back, but not on a private message, he wrote on my wall, “Yeah man, it’s my first race! I’m getting really pumped up!” It was basically identical to his own Facebook post, the one that he written earlier. And still, his comment on my wall got something like sixty likes, like people that only I knew, like my mom and cousins and stuff.
Which, whatever, I wasn’t going to let it piss me off. This was about me, about my training, about me hitting my personal best, my goals, my time. Still, I couldn’t stop myself from hitting refresh on his page, all of these, “Good luck tomorrow!” wall posts, after somebody would write something, somebody else would write something else, and Andre would go down the list, liking every single comment.
“Really feelin’ the love!” he threw somewhere in there. It didn’t matter. I had to focus on envisioning my goals, stuff like that. The big day came, I got up early, I tried to keep a low profile at the starting line. I wore this hooded sweatshirt and huddled in a corner somewhere to wait for the announcement for the runners to line up.
But I couldn’t help but notice to my right, there was this group of runners all wearing bright yellow team jerseys. And wouldn’t you know it, Andre was in the middle of the pack. I had to see what was going on. They were all like singing these songs, something about a team, I don’t know, there was a lot of chanting.
“Hey Andre, what’s up? What is this, you’re part of a team?”
“Oh, hey man! Yeah, you know, no big deal, we all donated a bunch of money to kids with cancer. We figured, might as well run for a cause, right? Try to make a little bit of a difference, you know what I mean?”
I knew exactly what he meant, “Jesus man, those charity teams, what are those like a couple grand?” I had considered trying to get a spot in the race through a charity, but two thousand dollars, even if I did hit up all of my friends and family, would I be able to make it happen? And if I didn’t, I’d be liable for that amount. I couldn’t do it.
So I went on craigslist and bought some guy’s ticket for four hundred bucks, still a lot more expensive than it would have been had I just qualified or won the race lottery. It’s so tough, these big races, they make it impossible for regular runners to run. And I’m better than regular. I think so anyway. I’m just not good enough to qualify on my own. I’m just short, just a little.
And this guy, he contacted me, I said, where’s a good spot for us to meet up so I can grab the ticket? And he tells me to come by his office in Midtown. Well, I asked, can we meet somewhere a little in between? It’s kind of tough for me to get all the way over there. What about, where do you live, could I swing by your neighborhood? And he repeated the same email, to meet him by his office.
So I showed up and there were like a thousand people outside of his office building. I called his cell phone, he told me to wait outside. I waited like fifteen minutes, I couldn’t tell who he’d be, what he’d look like. I called him again but he didn’t answer. Finally he showed up, he just kind of stuck his hand out, like give me the cash. I gave him the cash, he handed over a manila envelope with the race number.
“Hey man,” I asked, “What about the race t-shirt?” Every race gives you a race t-shirt. It’s awesome. It’s great to wear it around town afterwards, it’s like the next best thing to wearing the medal around your neck. He started walking back toward his office, without even turning around, he was like, “No race t-shirt.”
Whatever, I ran the race, it was great, a personal best. I was still a little shy for next year’s qualifying time, but I’d get there, I was improving. Still, I went onto Facebook that night, Andre had posted tons of pictures, like during the race. Like he must have stopped several times along the course to have conversations with friends. He posted his time, something like just under six hours.
“Congrats Andre!” “Way to run buddy!” Like. Like. Hundreds of likes. Hundreds of comments, dozens of “Thanks guys! Just trying to make a difference!” My mom, I don’t know, Andre must have friended her on Facebook, she wrote something like, “So proud of you!”
And I saw him running in the park later that week, he was wearing the race t-shirt. He gave me a wave. Two other runners ran by, they were wearing race t-shirts too. They passed Andre and they all gave thumbs up, “Way to go!” “Great race!” and then they ran by me, and one of them spit to the side, toward me, I don’t think he saw me, it didn’t get on me, but it was close enough.