The Race is On

Yesterday, Erica participated in a 10K run in Charlottenburg. She arrived at around 10:30 sign up. The race began at 12. I got to the place I wanted to watch her from, which was about the 8K mark, at about 12:20. I walked along the curb and stood in the shady median. A few minutes later, here they came, the leaders, five Kenyan men, trotting down Kantstraße with enormous strides and an unbelievable pace. Not far behind them came the white people, Germans in spandex running shorts and glow-in-the-dark sneakers, Germans with low foreheads and sledghammer jaws and names like Til Schwertfeger, and Woldemar Radnitz, and Brünhild Guttmacher.


Across the street from me, standing under the bus stop shelter and shouting and waving his arms and laughing in short bursts for no apparent reason was an old drunk who’d stuck one of his empty beer bottles upside-down in the sewer drain in front of him. After a while, he was better to watch than the runners. More entertainment. He turned his back to the road, yanked his drawers down to about mid-thigh. I thought he was going to take a piss right there in the shelter, but then he plunged both hands into his drawers, tugged them up a little and turned around facing the runners. As they came up the street, their reward for having gone 8K so far was to see him leaning out from the curb, his hands rummaging down below, jerking, groping, fondling, his little feet dancing.

A while later, he got bored, went elsewhere and I stayed there watching the runners. Some of them, judging by facial expressions, looked like they were in agony. They probably were. That’s why I don’t run. Running long-distances had always been my idea of torture, but I have to hand it to some of the people in this race, and not just the winners. One man over 80 finished in 54 minutes. The over 70 winner finished in 41 minutes, the over 60 winner, 36 minutes. Erica, to give you an idea, is 28, had been training for the race for a few months, and finished in the top 1/3 of her age group, but was still 2 minutes slower than the 80-year-old.

I waved to her and clapped when she passed me on the road, and then I walked alongside the runners under the yellow leafy trees to the finish line at Schloss Charlottenburg.

The first thing I did when I got there was get a beer at the beer trailer.

Then I looked for Erica, but the crowd was huge and festering and I couldn’t find her, nor did I have a phone. We knew this going in. My phone broke a while ago and I haven’t bothered yet to replace it. Our plan was to meet in front of The Museum Berggruen at 2 p.m. if we didn’t find each other before. She would be there with a colleague from work and the colleague’s boyfriend, Germans with names like Heike Weinwurm and Wolfhard Krapper. Heike had heard much about me through Erica and was anxious to meet this paradox that rented out construction equipment, worked with crackhead mechanics most of his life, and yet also wrote poetry, read the Ancient Greeks and drew cartoons.

It was a failure.

I stood outside The Museum Berggruen from 1:35 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. (not including a short trip for a second beer), and there was no Erica to be found, no Heike Weinwurm or Wolfhard Krapper.

There had to be some good reason. Something must’ve been miscommunicated. But we said The Museum Berggruen at 2 a.m., I knew that for sure. At 2:20 I did a lap through the thinning crowd at the palace but still had no luck. I thought about the drunk wanking under his trousers at the bus stop. There was nothing that could’ve symbolized my quest for Erica and the waiting around better than that.


Only later, after I got home, did I find out where she was. She was at ANOTHER museum, one that was next to the palace. She claimed I said the Museum Berggruen was next to the palace. I don’t remember that. All I remember was saying we’d meet at the Museum Berggruen, and that’s exactly where I was. Still, I didn’t have a phone. So something had to be my fault. A smart woman will always make the thing your fault. You might as well just accept it and begin there.



15 thoughts on “The Race is On

  1. urgh. the guy with his hands in his pants would have made me so uncomfortable… and ruined what, for me, is actually a lot of fun. I love races (though I’d rather race than watch). Funnily enough, we weren’t that far away yesterday. I didn’t join the race (too little money, too little time), but ran in the Schlosspark for 3/4 of an hour. It was nice. And free. And the weirdest thing I saw were people sitting on benches reading actual bound books.
    And yeah. Not having a phone gets me in trouble too. In the end, everyone’s okay and no harm done, but it is annoying to not know where someone is and have to go looking for them.

    • The guy with his hands down his pants was disturbing, but being from South Florida and living in Berlin, it was expected. It would’ve been more surprising if he WASN’T there. I was thinking after I posted it that you might’ve been there, since I know you love running. I don’t know how much you would’ve liked this one though. They didn’t even have the water ready to go for the runners at the little pit-stop. Erica had to wait and ended up getting a half-cupful. I don’t think they understood hot hot it was. Not usual for October. Water was also hard to come by at the finish line. Not good!

      • You’re probably right on both accounts. Sigh. Also, I liked the first few races I did past historic landmarks, but they are just so jammed with people and one spends over an hour loitering around before hand, I just am not doing the major Berlin races anymore…smaller ones like the EASD@5k I did in (!) the Olympic Stadium are awesome!

  2. Unfortunately I can’t find the meme that goes with your post. It showed ancient Greek runners (from pottery) and behind them a slouching man drinking from a bottle. It said: Alcoholism saved me from sports.

    I have a friend who runs the Marathon. He said that after some time it’s painful. I don’t know how that helps with anything.

    Yes, yes, accept it!

  3. Some people really, really like marathon runners. As in “hands in the pants” like marathon runners. The closest I’ve ever come to a marathon was when I used to eat the old Marathon candy bar (braided caramel cookie covered in chocolate, as I recall) but I did have a marathon session at the bar for the Rams/Chargers game a few weeks back. You know, the kind of marathon when you show up at 9 am to watch the game, but the game doesn’t start ’til 1 pm, so you end up being there til 5 pm? All in a day’s work.

    I may or may not have put my hands down my pants at some point during that marathon.

    Let’s just say I didn’t. 😉

    Happy Day, MP!

    • That’s exactly what I was noticing, Tom. I never knew people liked marathon runners THAT much. He definitely took it to another level. I’m sure he meant well, tho. Ha. I know you are a Rams fan. I like the Bears. They’re finally looking good this year, but last week’s loss to the Dolphins was a heartbreaker. Brought me back to the Monday night in ’85 when when they lost to the Fins in their otherwise undefeated season. Anyway, good luck with the Rams this year. I gotta get over to your blog. I’ve been slacking in the Reader dept, but will do that when I get a moment. Cheers!

      • Oh, I remember that! Everybody talked about the first “undefeated season” since the ’72 Dolphins, and the DOLPHINS ruined it. Classic. Take your time, I’m way behind, too! 🤣

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