Running with the penguins

If you read running magazines (and I do!) you could be forgiven for thinking that running is synonymous with racing. One trains for big fall or spring races, plots one’s strategy for during the races, and introduces one’s running qualifications with the number of races completed (e.g. “well, I ran Big Sur…”)

I have done a lot of races, but have not done many over the past few years. Partly, I’ve been burned out on crowds, Port-a-potties, forced attendance at race “expos” and so forth. I also realized that I don’t need to race. I run regardless. I have done quite long runs (10 miles) without a race to be training for. But I suppose it was inevitable I’d jump back in. I’m signed up for Broad Street (a 10-miler) in May, and a half-marathon in June. And this weekend, I did the Frostbite 5-miler in nearby Ambler.

Jane — who long time blog readers will recognize as a regular long-run partner — had suggested I give it a whirl. The race was sponsored by her running club. She agreed to dress as the race mascot: a penguin (see photo). And yes, she ran the entire 5 miles in her penguin costume, finishing at least 5 minutes ahead of me.

It was a good race for putting my toe back in. We could park right by the start. We could be inside until 10 minutes before the race began (probably until 2 minutes before but I didn’t want to risk it). Since we started at a high school, and there weren’t too many racers, we could just use the high school’s bathrooms. Real bathrooms! With sinks with warm water!

Jane had said the course was mostly flat. It was not. Oh well — I still finished in 49:34, so sub-10 minute miles, which is what I was aiming for. Afterwards, they served us chili, and then I got in my car and drove right out of the parking lot and home. It was an infinitely nicer experience than those runs with 30,000 people that require you to sit outside in the cold for an hour before you even start. So…yay.

In other weekend news: On Saturday we also went to the YMCA’s indoor pool as a family. My 6-year-old daughter successfully tested for her green band, which theoretically means she can go wherever in the water, including down the big water slides. However, she decided after the test that she didn’t really want to go down the water slides. I’m curious how long it will take her to work up her courage.

On Friday, we successfully applied to renew two children’s passports (we got the other two at a different point, so we wind up going through this process every 2 years or so). It is one of my special talents to deal with bureaucratic details without getting tripped up. I had everything ready to go: the forms filled out, with the proper photos (I made the CVS guy re-take my daughter’s because her teeth were showing – often a reason photos are rejected), their original birth certificates, black and white and color copies (just in case!) of said birth certificates, my husband’s and my passports, black and white and color copies — in duplicate — of our passports because you need one for each application (though it turned out the agent was willing to make copies — but you never know!), enough checks to pay for each application separately (because you can’t pay by credit card) and pay the fee to the postmaster, and (key), my husband. When we applied for our oldest son’s first passport many years ago, the passport agent told us she’d just rejected four families in a row, for various reasons, among them not having both parents there, or the proper documentation of why the other parent isn’t there. You can get a notarized statement in lieu of a second parent’s presence, but it has to be notarized within the last 30 days, and when we went on Friday they were booking appointments at least 2 weeks out and…you get the picture.

A woman came in behind us with her son. She said she didn’t have an appointment, but was going to try. Just as well that she was right after us because we breezed through, meaning there was time left before the next official appointment, and the acceptance agent was quite lovely and accommodating. But, right as we were getting into the car, that other family was out on the sidewalk, with the mom talking to someone on the phone, mentioning that she was missing something. In college, I remember a friend writing an essay called “Is Anyone Successful?” about her own passport application process.

Saturday night we had what may be the last snow storm of the season. After I put the 3-year-old to bed, my husband built a fire outside and a few of us hung out there. It was fun to be outside amid the twirling flakes, warming ourselves by the fire. I spent a surprising amount of time outside on Saturday, given that it is mid-February. All about the warm clothing: running clothing and otherwise.

12 thoughts on “Running with the penguins

  1. It’s interesting to me that people have such difficulty with this. The instructions are quite clear. I guess when the applicant is a minor there are additional documents to bring, which maybe trips people up. I suppose I may also just be very anal retentive about these sorts of things. Ha.

  2. I found out over the weekend that I received lottery entry into the Broad Street 10-Miler. Having been born and raised in NJ/PA and recently moving to CA, returning to run the race will be funny but I am excited to experience it. There is certainly a difference between running and racing.

  3. We had to apply for my son’s American passport at the Embassy and it was horrific. A jammed packed room with not enough chairs, super hot, and loads of crying babies. We had made a total muddle of the forms which asked about my time inside the US (which we had interpreted as time outside the US) and the clerk got very grumpy when I couldn’t answer her questions while juggling a crying baby. Awful, awful!

    1. @CBS – I’m so sorry that was the case. American embassies should know that a lot of the people coming in are going to be ex-pat new parents applying for an infant’s passport and figure out some way to make the experience less awful.

  4. I spent hours getting everything right on JB’s passport application, including getting zir pictures done at home ahead of time, and it was a huge pain to make sure every single line was read twice and understood but we made it through without any hiccups.

    I felt bad for parents who were there with their infants alone and looking stressed.

  5. This is very timely and helpful – we’re heading to the PO this Friday to get passports for our kids (one is 5, the other is 7 months). I am planning to have the pictures taken there as we have a 30 minute appointment, but might try to take them to CVS tomorrow just in case

  6. I had been considering doing the Frostbite 5 Miler, but since 5Ks are all I’ve run before, I thought that January was not a good time to try to add miles. I am doing a 4 mile race in early March at Washington Crossing park. There is the Broad Street Re-Run in Lansdale in May…but my schedule is already booked. I have yet to try running a race in a costume–I don’t think I’m ready for the hassle of a tutu. A woman ran the Peepsfest 5K with an enormous Peeps hat, and all I could think was that her neck must be so sore from holding that huge hat on her head!

  7. I have 3 kids with 2 sets of passports (american+Norwegian). I am at the passport office every single year. It sucks, but I have never gotten an application rejected. Planning carefully and taking good photos is key.

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