Last weekend was Seattle’s annual Seafair Torchlight Run and Parade (2006-07-29). Seafair celebrates Seattle’s rapidly vanishing nautical heritage. One Saturday evening each summer, the city closes the street and thousands of pasty, pale, or sunburned people of all races crawl out from their hiding places to watch people who aren’t being chased run either 5 KM or 8KM. Or fall down trying.
The run began as normal. The Flash and his partner were the first down the street.
There was the normal mix of serious runners who looked okay, serious runners who looked like they were in pain, and amateur runners who clearly had the “What the hell was I thinking?” look. And pirates. Every Seafair event has pirates. Not the music or software kind, but good old fashioned hook-for-a-hand pirates.
My knees hurt just watching the legs and feet of the runners as they slammed into the pavement again and again. It seemed obvious to me that the human body really wasn’t engineered to pound sneakers repeatedly against concrete.
Several protesters joined the run too because, well, it’s Seattle and that’s what people d0. New Yorkers grab a hot dog from the cart. Seattle-ites grab some PVC and cardboard and demand a free Tibet. Or the protection of the turtles. Or owls. Or Salmon. Or they call for the impeachment of the president. Or they protest whatever the war-of-the-week is.
This time the protests were tame. There weren’t many. The main cause of the week was same sex marriage because the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban.
Three pairs of women ran the race together in racing-modified wedding dresses. They ran with official race numbers and everything. What I found interesting was that they were completely independent of each other. These three couples were running in completely separate parts of the race and there was nothing to indicate they were aware of one another.
Unless it was really just one couple running around the block. But that makes about as much sense as, well, running in a race in the first place.
To emphasize their focus on healthy foods, Jamba Juice did not sponsor a float. Instead, they dressed people up like bananas and entered them in the race.
When you run a race down the street, you can close it to vehicular traffic, but it’s tougher to close it to pedestrian traffic. Sure, you can try to corral people with tear gas and riot gear, but the Seattle Police Department hasn’t had much luck with that historically. And for a parade you don’t want to do that.
So instead, you wait for a gap in the runners, and you let the pedestrians through. They have to run across the street before the police stop the rest of them to let more runners through.
It’s like something right out of a loony tunes cartoon.
Children love things like this. It’s a chance for them to beg, whine, and cajole their parents into buying them a rave-like glow stick, low pitched plastic horn, dull sword, or giant inflatable hammer. And then they make noise for the next several hours until they get bored and make different noises.
Most of them will one day have their career peak as the day manager of an Applebee’s. Some, however, will be the future leaders of tomorrow. Like this girl.
Not content to merely observe the race, she decided to participate. She stepped into the street so passing runners could slap her hand. A bunch of them did.
Pretty soon, it seemed a sibling joined her.
Then someone else joined here.
Before long, she had an entire gang joining her.
Soon kids up and down the block were reaching out their hands to greet the runners.
Of course, as a country we celebrate the winners. But we also love our underdogs and last place people. Be great or be awful. Just don’t be mediocre. We hate that.
The runner who got the most applause – even more than the wheel chair guy—was this one.
He was that last runner, and he struggled with each step. Breathing looked like a chore at this point in the race. He was several minutes behind the previous runner. The police car stayed behind him, presumably to pick up the body.