05 August 2014

Irish Conversations: One

After the half-marathon ended in Phoenix Park, I needed to work my way back to Dollymount, out by the sea where I was staying. {And as I said "Dollymount" over the few days I was in Dublin, it started to sound more and more like a place out of Ulysses that I should know, but after awhile, I think everything in Dublin sounds like it belongs in Ulysses.}

The race ran a shuttle to the city centre—packed with sweaty, smelly runners, all clutching armloads of food from the finishers' festival and all wearing our medals proudly. I sat next to a girl from Manchester, who was impressed that I knew where Manchester is, and who was also in Dublin alone. We discussed the difficulties of selfies—how you want to get something interesting in them besides your face but how you feel a little silly lining it all up and trying to figure out where to look and my gosh, has my chin always been so prominent?

In the city centre, I walked to the 130 bus stop across from the Abbey Theatre. Away from a pack of other runners, I realized how out of place it looks to be wearing a medal, as if you've awarded yourself just for getting up and being fabulous. At the bus stop, an old man was looking nervously down the road.

"Do you think the bus is running today? It being a holiday and all?" He had on a blazer with elbow patches, and white hair stuck out haphazardly from under his fedora.

"I saw other buses out, so we should be okay. I'm sure it's coming soon," I reassured him.

"I've been waiting and waiting, and it still hasn't come. Do you think it will, then?" If this conversation went on much longer about waiting and hoping something comes, it would become a scene from Waiting for Godot.

"I do think so. I'm sure the bus is running on a Sunday schedule since it's a holiday, but it'll come." How was I speaking with such authority on the Dublin bus system? I'd only just figured it out the day before.

But he seemed satisfied with my answer and turned his eyes from the road to me. "So you've got a medal on, then."

"I do! I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon this morning." I resisted the urge to add: "Thanks for noticing."

He leaned back on his heels and gave a long "Ohhhhh!" as if he recognized what I was talking about, but I suspected he didn't. "A half-marathon, then. So you won and they gave you a medal. How nice."

How to explain participants' medals to a man from a generation that would never hand out awards just for showing up...And I think, too, that participants' medals smack of an American invention: We don't want anyone to feel like a loser, so we all get trophies, medals, and bragging rights. We all get to feel special, which you'd think would take away from our specialness, but it doesn't.

"Well, in a half-marathon, you get a medal just for finishing because it's a big accomplishment, running 13.1 miles."

"Yes, you are quite accomplished if you've won, then. Good job, girl. You're fit as a fiddle." He reached out for my hand, and I felt that we were having a private medals ceremony. Should I hum the National Anthem?

Or should I try to explain one more time that I didn't win? Heck, I didn't even have my best time ever in a half-marathon, but that's no matter: I spent the morning running through Dublin—past Christ Church, the Guinness Brewery, and a herd of perplexed deer in Phoenix Park—and if this man wanted to believe I'd won, I'd let him. I'm American, after all, despite my Irish roots, and we do love winning.

I took his hand, smiled, and said, "Thank you, and look, the bus has come!"


  1. Kamiah - check out an app on the appstore called "frontback". It lets you take a pic with both your front and back cameras. Selfie + whatever fantastic environment you find yourself in...pretty great.

  2. oh, my phone has a camera mode like that! definitely going to use it...thanks for the rec!



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