Color Me Happy

A year ago, if anyone told me I’d run a 5K race, they’d be met with a strange, piercing look that would likely be accompanied by aggressive eyebrow arching (I can kind of give Steven Colbert a run for his money there).

Actually, If I’d been given a play by play of this year thus far — there would’ve been lots of eyebrow raising. People may have suspected I had a face-lift.

But here it is; one day after completing my very first race… although I didn’t do so much racing, as subject myself to getting pummeled with colored powder to the point of having it literally oozing from my pores and looking like I got “smurfed.” Aside from the slight leg and foot soreness associated with doing a 3-plus mile course (which has since been slightly alleviated by a much-needed pedicure), overall I feel amazing.

The credit goes to one of my incredible girlfriends — one my two great “how did you meet” stories, and herself an avid runner — who put a feeler out to form a team for The Color Run. Thus, the “Supersonics” were born.

Dubbed “the happiest 5K on the planet”, TCR lives up to its promise by providing runners with good music, good vibes and packets of colored powder that offers up an experience akin to putting kindergartners in a room with Kool-Aid packets after giving them an endless supply of sugar. In 80-plus degree heat. Hence, they spray you with colored water from a moving cart while you’re in motion.

Yeah… this was a good idea.

Truthfully, it was a great idea! Not only was it insanely liberating not thinking or stressing about winning anything, minding your time or appearance, it was all in the name of charity. Frankly, that’s worth getting my butt up off the couch any day!

Added bonus: the comradery and encouragement that my four fierce female teammates provided throughout our training leading to the event itself really made the difference in my choice to fully participate in anything that forces me to exert high levels of energy. Knowing someone believes in you, cheers you on and stays with you from start to finish gives you an incredible feeling… like you can do anything. Even when we found ourselves going at different paces, we would wait until the others caught up so we could reach our goal as a team.

Crossing that finish line with those women could not have been a more profound and defining moment for me.

While there have been many people who’ve come and gone throughout my existence who spoke words of encouragement and — according to their own intentions — attempted to “lift me up” by making suggestions regarding my life direction, I see now that I respond more to actions than words. It’s much the same when someone professes love to me.

It’s almost as if a culture of “drive by emotions” have replaced the art of getting your hands dirty — both literally and figuratively. “Liking”, “commenting” or “pinning” things on social networking sites have become our new support groups rather than simple forms of self-expression. (Or, for me, a cost-effective way of letting my friends and relatives who live far away know what I’m up to with a side of capsulated recommendations on good stuff to check out.)

This year has seen me build stronger friendships from existing ones, and making more of an effort to pick up a phone and talk for an hour or two and re-shift or scrap plans entirely when a friend needs an ear or shoulder. I’m still not done. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a man who said, “you and I would never work because you have too many friends”, that I realized just how incredibly fortunate I am to have so many incredible people in my life who support my choices authentically, serve up tough love when they don’t, and won’t leave me in the proverbial (or colored) dust when they see me lag behind. (Yes, I’m glazing over the comment, because anyone who genuinely feels threatened by a network of friends doesn’t have true ones — and if they can’t grasp the concept of having true friends, then they’ll have equal difficulty being a true friend — missing out on all the benefits that comes with such a connection.)

As we crossed the finish line yesterday, we felt no pain. We celebrated our triumph as a team, took some commemorative pictures, and headed to breakfast with the significant others of two of our teammates (and one adorable new puppy). As we ate, drank, laughed and got to know each other better, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect moment (interrupted only by Baxter’s puppy cuteness, and my feverish obsession with my ESPN app, so I could follow and share the Wimbledon Men’s Final results with the few who cared).

The fullness I feel in my heart for those women (and men) and that moment completely overwhelms the tightness in my shoulders and my faintly fatigued legs and feet.

I think that’s a feeling worth running across the world for…

Take Me Out of the Ball Game

I’ve always been amused by men and sports.

The raw emotion they display when their teams are doing exceptionally well or abysmal. The animated expressions when points are scored or a bad play is made. The way they know the stats of the entire roster of a team as far back as each player’s pre-pro days. The way an injury affects them personally, and sends them scrambling to make sense of how the team will recover. The way they create “fantasy” teams. The way grown men actually cry when their team is eliminated from competition. The loyalty they show their favorite teams and players… even when they fail them…

It’s all fascinating to behold.

What’s even more intriguing is how they have all this wealth of information and feelings, but most of them reserve it for game time. When it comes to actual interactions and relationships with people, it turns into a different ball game.

The other day, one of my girlfriends took me to my first Yankee game. Admittedly, I’m not as diehard about baseball as I am about basketball, but I’ve always respected the Yankees, and an opportunity to visit the new stadium and view Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano’s butts up close and personal were an added bonus.

During the game, I witnessed so many men gesticulating and verbally expressing either displeasure with the pitcher’s performance or elation at a home run, I momentarily mistook it for a Jerry Springer episode. When one man proposed to his girlfriend in the middle of the sixth inning, my eyes darted to see where the cameras were rolling (they were actually right behind us).

The thrill of attending a sporting event suddenly took a turn into a world where men expressed themselves freely, honestly and occasionally in a bizarre fashion. They have their best girl by their sides in the stands, and they belt out tunes in unison and brotherhood — each of them understanding they are members of an exclusive club where the devoted are welcome, and rivals and fair-weather spectators get shunned and ostracized.

I marveled at the level of commitment and involvement it takes to be a sports fan. Not just because of the intensity and pageantry that is often associated with it (tailgaters and face and body painters — I’m looking at you), but because it indicates the amount of passion a man is capable of having for something that he truly loves. It’s probably the only time you’ll ever see genuine disappointment at the thought of a person being traded for someone new. But they adapt very quickly to change when the team performs better… something we can all appreciate. We can also appreciate when someone is cut for poor performance and unwilling to be coached.

It’s common knowledge that almost every team in every league has a marquee player. One particular athlete that stands out above the rest with exceptional skills, endorsement earning looks, and crowd pleasing bankability.  I’ve often considered that the best teams are the ones that have a culmination of good players who each have specific abilities that collectively make them unstoppable. They complement each other, and work together to achieve mutual victories as opposed to individual grandstanding.

It’s the difference between Kobe Bryant and the Dallas Mavericks. (There’s my basketball reference.)

…It also happens to be the foundation of a strong relationship. Ironic, since lots of athletes have commitment and fidelity difficulties — and women whose boyfriends or husbands are serious sports fans are often referred to as widows.

Clearly, there are different rules depending on the balls you play with.

Go figure.