That’s all fine and good. But where is Bike Out?
Although we spent summers at the Jersey shore, we never went to Atlantic City as kids. Actually, we rarely left the Seven Mile Island. We lived the original Survivor reality TV show, with my siblings and I forming different alliances, and my mother hanging on for dear life until Labor Day. Good times.
I visited Atlantic City for the first time in my early 20’s with a group of friends. After losing a handful of quarters at the slots, we walked the boards, ate pizza, and got our palms read. I only remember one thing from my reading. The woman roughly grabbed my hand and after a cursory examination declared, “You’re not as mean as people think.” WHAT? I don’t remember the rest, because she was obviously an absolute imbecile and I should have spent my $5 on another slice of pizza.
Fast forward 20 years, and I’m on the A.C. Boardwalk. I am a volunteer on the run course of Challenge AC, fighting with jitney pushers, chasing drunks, and blowing a whistle like a manic traffic cop. I think the palm reader was wrong. I am that mean.
Keeping the run course clear between Caesars and Trump Plaza was a CHALLENGE, to say the least. But, several hundred Challenge AC athletes had battled brutal current on the swim and an unrelenting headwind on the bike. And the run was HOT. Blazing mid-day sun cooked the athletes as they ran the boards. My job was to keep the course (1.5 blocks of it) as clear as possible. And if I had to be mean, then fine. Challenge accepted.
I think I did this move Sunday. Only not on purpose.
At first, I was amazed at how clueless the boardwalkers could be. But then I put myself in their shoes. Most people are on the boards to either 1.) cross over to get to the beach, 2.) go for a stroll on a lovely summer day, 3.) get day drunk and yell at people. I can’t say I blame them for not paying attention. I did a lot of sprinting back and forth between the two casinos. I blew my whistle relentlessly. I helped carry beach chairs and boogie boards, guided wheelchairs and walkers, and hollered at drunks.
The vast majority of the unplanned spectators were accommodating, apologetic, and very interested in the race. A small minority wanted to stab me. I was okay with those numbers. The vast majority of the racers were EXTREMELY gracious and grateful and patient and wonderful and warriors and utterly awesome. The small minority of the racers were less so. I’m also okay with those numbers. Finally, I know that 100% of the rolling chair pushers hated me for not letting them roll their chairs over racers because it’s just SO HARD to look both ways before pushing your wicker chariot across the race course. Those guys? Fuck ’em.
Yeah, I’m talking to you.
When all was said and done, I think my friends and I did a decent job at clearing a path for the runners. Personally, I may have pissed off two, maybe three people. Okay, maybe it was two or three dozen. But they were hammered so they won’t remember anyway. Besides, I’ve been that runner before. I’ve been overheated and dehydrated and miserable at hour 10 of a 14-hour day. These racers were my people! They needed me! Solidarity, brothers and sisters!
I hope that the racers appreciate the Herculean task of conducting an inaugural event of this size in a city whose idea of exercise is walking outside to light up. Racers, you may have inspired some Boardwalk strollers to live a more healthful lifestyle. All of the casual observers I talked to were absolutely astounded with your efforts and courage. The Challenge AC race directors will work tirelessly to make improvements for next year. My fellow volunteers and I have lots of ideas for them. I know they will listen to us.
Number one suggestion, right off the bat: Screw the whistle. I need a bullhorn.