Some months back, I was browsing Groupon, as I tend to do when I'm feeling all "I should try something new!" about life. I found discounted registration for a thing called the Neon Run -- a 5k involving a bunch of blacklight and neon paint.
I was curious and it was cheap -- which so often happens to me when browsing Groupon -- so I signed up and didn't really tell anyone because I wasn't in the mood to deal with the inevitable "good for you" that I'd get from people. I can only roll my eyes so much, after all.
The Neon Run, which I did this Saturday night, was an evening race. There was music and people in glowing things. Lots of glowing things.
If you ever went to a rave in, like, 1996, that's kind of what this thing felt like.
But let me back up -- because I almost didn't go at all.
A 5k is 3.1 miles. That's become a totally manageable distance for me after a couple months of fitnessing and measuring progress through steps and distance. So I was confident that I could manage the length of the course -- I'd be walking, so I figured it would take me a little over an hour (I'm not very fast). And even though I hadn't told anyone I was signing up, I realized a bunch of people from my running group were going to be there so I wouldn't even have to go it alone.
The thing about my ridiculous anxiety is that when things get complicated, I sometimes don't have the emotional energy to deal with it and so I throw up my hands and just stay home. This is why I so rarely go clubbing these days, as much as I love going out dancing. Assembling an outfit, doing my makeup, figuring out where to park, trying to calculate what time to come home if I have work or a long drive -- it all adds up and I wind up just dancing in my living room.
And for the 5k, there were waivers and race packets to pick up and parking to figure out.
And clothes that were either neon or white -- I wear a lot of black so this actually kind of stressed me out just because I had no idea what I was going to do. I dragged Ed all over town looking for glow-in-the-dark nailpolish (sold out at all five places we went -- dammit, Halloween) and neon fitnessing gear in super fatty sizes.
If I'd been thinking ahead of time, I'd have ordered stuff. Because the odds of a fat person finding what they need in a store on short notice are pretty low.
I managed a white sweatshirt (made of a weird perforated fabric so it's not like a sweatshirt at all) but couldn't find any neon anything. And then I gave myself a firm lecture that just showing up was good enough on that score.
But it wasn't just the fashion element and unfamiliar registration procedure giving me pause on this one -- the new hotness in 5ks seems to be the Color Run concept, which predates the Neon Run. If you're not familiar with the Color Run specifically, it's a 5k where folks run through color stations and get pelted with powder in a rainbow of shades, capped by a festival celebrating how messy and colorful everyone has gotten. There's usually a promise of some sort of transformational experience, too.
Of course, if you're familiar with Holi, all of that probably sounds familiar in the first place. I don't think it can be denied that Color Run organizers have appropriated Holi without even acknowledging the festival that was their inspiration. As much as the Neon Run felt like it was meant to be a great big rave, once I started comparing the two races I was dubious -- so I started looking into it a lot more.
And found a bunch of negative reviews from the last time the race happened.
No one wonder the registration was on Groupon, right?
I had a good list of reasons not to participate -- but every time I seriously thought about it, some voice in my head declared I was really wussing out because of fat person fears: people would make fun of me, I wouldn't really be able to do it, I'd be super slow, I'd look ridiculous, and so on and so forth.
Fat person fears keep a lot of people from doing a lot of things, especially physical things -- and those fears really do get confirmed every time someone tells us we're fitnessing wrong or that we look gross in our fitnessing outfits. I like to go walking with Ed in part because people don't mess with me when he's around. Without him, I get honked at. Which, granted, is superior to getting things thrown at me so it's still a step up from other experiences. Even so.
I tend to get angry when those fears pop up in my own head (rooting out a lifetime of cultural construction is constant work) so I went and participated in the race for one reason alone: just to prove that I could do it.
Proving I can do something has been a great motivating factor in my life for all sorts of things. I don't like being told I CAN'T (this is probably why I have problems with unearned authority), and I especially don't like being told that the reason I can't is because my body is somehow fundamentally wrong. I think it's because I know my capabilities and limits -- but other people assume my capabilities are a lot less and my limits a lot lower.
I got Ed to make the necessary information-finding phone calls -- and to drop me off at the race so I wouldn't have to deal with all that stuff that was stressing me out about parking. I met up with other people. And I damn well did the 5k.
Here is what I learned: I hate hate hate being sprayed with stuff. Especially stuff that is in any way sticky and that gets on my glasses. (This did actually surprise me because I celebrated Songkran every year with local friends when I lived in Thailand and never had a problem.) Also, I hate walking with people who want to talk the entire way. Also, also, the Neon Run still hasn't figured out how much water they're going to need because they ran out.
The race was in the dark over a variety of surfaces -- wet grass, gravel paths, paved sidewalk -- and it aggravated my heel no end. So I spent the second half of the race kind of limping. I've also heard that GPS trackers registered the run as being short but I was tracking steps and got the right distance so I don't know.
If that all seems anticlimactic, it's because the experience really was as well. I was surrounded by literally thousands of people -- covered in glow paint and neon -- and the energy of a crowd like that is always fun. I didn't hate it. Maybe it should have been a more exciting experience. I'm not put off 5ks in general, and Claire and I have talked about doing one together. But, in hindsight, the whole reason I was there at this specific one was to see if I could do it -- and I already knew I could go the distance.