Albuquerque · New Mexico · Running

That Rodeo Feeling

The New Mexico State Fair is in town! That means twirly rides, mind-blowing fried food, magnificent livestock, vendors of everything under the sun, and yes, 10-year-old 4-H girls who make better pies than I do. Sigh. But not to be outdone by any of this is one of the most exciting events I’ve ever watched: the RODEO!

It’s been years since I went to a rodeo, and sitting in the grandstand at Tingley Coliseum on Tuesday night, I asked myself, Why don’t I go to these things more often? I loved every bit of it, from the slightly-alarming-yet-adorable mutton busting to the way the barrel racers just came charging out of that gate. It was awesome.

The most exciting parts of the rodeo, though, were the bronco and bull riders. Talk about being on the edge of my seat, for each and every one of them. The defiance of the horses and bulls; the determination of the riders — how do you fit so much sheer grit into a period of eight seconds or less?

On my run the next day, I got to thinking about adrenaline. Not just your average heightened-senses adrenaline; I mean rodeo adrenaline, the kind that bull riders must feel: a primal, enormous surge of energy that’s met with an equally primal, ruthlessly-pinpointed focus. Where do the rest of us, the ones who aren’t regularly faced with the threat of trampling or kicking or goring, find that feeling?

Well, there were no hooves or horns involved, but the closest I’ve gotten to that feeling recently is through racing.

I ran a 10k last weekend. Correction: I raced a 10k last weekend. I wasn’t looking for a 6.2-mile training run; I didn’t want to see how my legs felt after the first mile and go from there. It had been over two years since I had pushed myself over a 10-kilometer distance, and I wanted to race. I wanted that feeling back.

It came back. The day before the race, I felt some little jitters. I eyed the other runners picking up their packets, sizing them up. I ate a conscientious dinner, and laid out my running gear before going to bed. I put myself to bed at a reasonable hour. Geez, I muttered at myself, it’s not THAT serious. But I went with it.

The morning of the race went fairly smoothly. I arrived with plenty of time to jog around a little, stretch, and make sufficient use of the Porta-Potties. It seemed like no time before I was at the start, doing my usual pre-race quasi-swaying while the race director gave his spiel.

The horn sounded, and we were off! I told myself, For the love of God, don’t go out too fast, and surprisingly, my legs actually listened. I felt good. I settled into what felt like a steady pace. I was racing!

My mile splits confirmed that yes, it had indeed been a while since I had raced a 10k, but no matter. I was pushing myself. I was passing (and being passed by) other runners. I took corners like I meant it. I even finished with some semblance of a kick!

Maybe it wasn’t rodeo-level adrenaline, but it lasted a lot longer than eight seconds.

Where do you find that rodeo feeling?

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