I am guilty of identity theft. Two counts, in fact. I wrote about the first one last December, in which I assumed the identity of a woman named Jill who dropped out of a half marathon thereby giving me the opportunity to run in her place. It was my first experience with identity theft, and, while the race entry was free, I paid a price through physical suffering on the frozen course.
Last Sunday, I once again stole Jill’s identity and ran a half marathon in her stead. I don’t know her well, but based on the available evidence, she may have some commitment issues. If nothing else, she’s throwing money away by paying to enter races but not actually running in them. I suppose it’s a variation on paying for a gym membership but never going to the gym. Come to think of it, I should ask her if she has an unused gym membership. I’d like to have access to weight machines, and while I’m not willing to start paying the local YMCA for the privilege, I am willing to explain to the YMCA employee checking members in that, yes, my name is Jill, and while I recognize it’s an unusual name for a man, I assure you it’s my given name, and, no, I don’t have my driver’s license handy because I left it in the car, and I do not appreciate being hassled like this. As an aspiring identity thief, I think it’s important to have an explanatory story, delivered with an indignant attitude, at the ready. The guilty thrill of committing a crime was heightened by the fine print I found on the race website. In the FAQ about transferring registration to another runner, the website exclaimed, “Anyone running under someone else’s name will be disqualified and not eligible for an award/trophy.” That’s exciting stuff. I imagined being handcuffed and escorted to a police car at the finish line. That would be a cool story for the grandkids, so I was in.
The race was held in Hood River, Oregon, which is a two and a half hour drive from my house. The other members of my running club were heading down on Saturday to spend the night before the race. That wasn’t an option for me, though, as I’m far too cheap to spend money to rent a room just so I could run a race for free. In theory, I could have stayed in the hotel room that Jill was planning to use, but I figured my wife wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of me spending the night with the woman with whom Jill was going to share the room. In addition, that woman didn’t invite me to spend the night with her. Rather than ask my wife or Sally about it, I decided to wake up early Sunday morning to get to Hood River in time for the race. The drive was uneventful, but it did occur to me that I would half to make the same drive home later that day with sore legs. Ugh. I should have thought this through.
I arrived with plenty of time to spare and met up with my running teammates at the starting line about an hour before we were scheduled to begin our 13.1 mile run along the Columbia River gorge. I was dressed appropriately for running in the cold air but not to stand still in it. Shivering, chatting, taking pre-race selfies, and queuing up to use the port-o-potty helped pass the time until the race official announced it was time to gather in the starting corral and get ready to run. It was at that point that I was confronted with another ethical dilemma. The start was staggered based on expected race pace, with the runners who planned to run faster than eight minutes per mile started promptly at 9:30 a.m. Those who planned to run between eight and nine minutes per mile were scheduled to go at 9:45, followed by the ten and above crowd at 10:55. In reality, I am firmly in the ten-plus- also known as “slow” – category, but I was not eager to stand around in the cold morning air for any longer than necessary. I knew my participation in the race was against the rules to begin with, so I decided to up the felonious ante and run with the eight-to-nine minute group. This is about as rebellious as I get, and it was exhilarating. The excitement was short-lived, however.
I had heard the course featured “gentle, rolling hills,” and while it may have been merely a rumor, it was certainly a lie. The course was, in fact, one gentle, rolling hill. It rolled up for six and a half miles, then, being an out-and-back course, rolled down for the last six and a half miles. My active adrenal gland and encouraging running partner, Sally, helped me to charge up the hill at a steady pace, but the trip back down was tough. I took several walk-breaks during the descent, frustrated at being unable to run despite the gravitational advantage. Once I reminded myself that I was running under an assumed identity and, therefore, any performance failures would officially be attributed to Jill, I felt much better about my slow stagger to the finish.
I shouldn’t complain. The event was much more fun than my previous experience stealing Jill’s identity. The weather was ideal: 50°, some lovely fall sunshine, and not a trace of the grauple that had plagued me the last time (look it up). The views along the course were spectacular, as we ran high up along the gorge, looking down on the mighty Columbia. The finisher medal was a beautiful large maple leaf design, and I got a nice polyester knit cap with the race logo emblazoned on it. Sadly, there was no commemorative shirt in my goodie bag. Jill had opted to not pay the extra fee for a finisher shirt. I’ll have to speak to her about that. If she’s going to expect me to run any more of these races for her, I think it’s only fair that I get a free shirt out of the deal. I hate paying for running gear, and I’ve come to depend on race swag as my primary source of sporting good outfitting. The best part was the post-race meal: a full taco bar and free beer from a local brewer. The beer almost made up for the lack of a shirt. I say “almost” because the beer was a curse-blessing. Free beer is great in concept, but when you’ve got to drive for almost three hours after drinking it, it is unwise to imbibe to an impairing degree. As a result, I drank just half a can of Local Logger lager. I figure the money I saved on the entry fee would be offset by paying for a legal defense for a DUI, complicated, of course, by the identity theft charge. No run-of-the-mill public defender would be able to handle my case.
Three hours later, I was safely home and tired. I chilled on the couch and reflected on my day. While I had not been planning on running a half marathon, I was oddly excited to have, once again, run in Jill’s place. I felt it was too perfect to be a coincidence that she had decided to skip another race when I was available. In addition to tickling my felonious fancy as an identity thief, it appealed to my latent superhero tendencies (“What’s that? Jill’s not available to run? I’ll be right there!”). It now feels like it’s my responsibility to step in for Jill whenever she is unable to run a half marathon. Jill, I am at your service. Just be sure to pay for the shirt next time. Large. Oh, and free beer, too. And a ride home. Thanks.