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Thursday, July 29, 2004 03:56 pm

Grace about town 7-29-04

A Twinkie at the finish line

Last weekend, I ran in my first (and perhaps my last) seven-mile race. It was the Bix 7 in Davenport, Iowa. This was the 30th year for the race, which is held at the same time as the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival. My New Boyfriend (MNB) signed up for the race and asked me to come along for the ride. The Bix 7 Web site described bands and crowds of race fans lining the course. I decided that running would be more entertaining than watching from the sidelines. Plus, runners got free admission to the jazz fest, which made it even more appealing.

Here are the seven stages of the Bix 7:

• 7:59 a.m. Sleepy.

We milled around with hordes of runners (about 19,000 people this year). MNB said he was excited and keyed up. Me, I was just tired. We had gotten up at 5 a.m. (Am I turning into a morning person? I must monitor this highly alarming shift in the very essence of my being). I've never been in a race before, but the previous weekend we ran eight miles, so I knew I could finish. The Bix 7 starts with a big hill, but it didn't look daunting. Too sleepy to worry.

• 8:03 a.m. Adrenaline rush!

So many people! We had to start slowly because of the crowd, and I suddenly felt that my job was to squirm past each and every person dawdling in front of me. The hill wasn't bad, and I sprinted alongside highly fit-looking runners. We made it to the top, and I continued wiggling past the slowpokes clogging the course. I loved competing! This was the first time I'd ever felt this way about anything athletic.

• 8:10 a.m. Abandoned.

I was suddenly winded. I couldn't keep up the pace. I graciously told MNB that he could run on ahead if he wanted to. Before the race, I had assumed that MNB would stick with me for most of the course, then sprint ahead for the last mile. Nope. Zoom -- after 10 brief minutes of running togetherness, MNB was gone. I kept searching but couldn't spot him in the crush of humanity. To whom would I talk to keep my spirits up? The miles stretched painfully out in front of me.

• 8:27 a.m. Tired.

At least the bands along the route were entertaining, except there wasn't much time to listen as I kept chugging forward. People on the sidelines cheered and shouted, "You're doing great! Keep going!" That, too, was encouraging. I started looking around for a new new boyfriend. There were plenty of fit shirtless young men running all around me -- surely one would make a good replacement.

• 8:39 a.m. Tired and sore.

My quads were killing me. I eyed the side streets, sure that nobody would notice if I slunk away. There was no MNB around to care if I died of pain. I finally caught a glimpse of him, and he grinned and waved. I gave him a phony smile, hiding my anguish at his callow abandonment.

• 8:53 a.m. Tired, sore, and exceedingly crabby.

Why did the stupid people on the sidelines keep yelling stuff at me? Couldn't they see my agony? Why didn't they get out here and try this torturous torture? They'd think twice about shouting out their false and hollow cheers. Boy, it was good that MNB was probably already at the finish line, because I really, really hated him.

• 9:11 a.m. Relieved, slightly less crabby.

Finally, finally, the finish line. And there was MNB on the sidelines, grinning wildly, ready to snap my photo. I snarled at him.

Postrun party. Possibly won't break up with MNB after all. They gave us Twinkies, which improved my mood considerably. MNB kept taking my picture, which I only tolerated because he kept feeding me Twinkies. We got to take hot showers at the YMCA down the block. This was definitely the best part of the race.

Next year? Perhaps if I try the Bix again -- and I'm not saying I will -- I won't start it with a sprint. On the drive home, MNB pointed out what a great learning experience it had been for me. I told him he was treading on extremely thin ice and that we needed to take a break -- from any discussion of running races, anyway.

Grace Smith performs Grace Talk No. 2 at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, at Stella Blue, 222 S. Fifth St. Tickets are $8.

To see Grace's latest video click here.

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