After the 5th Avenue mile was over and done with on Saturday afternoon, I headed down to Brooklyn with fellow runner and cat-lover, Maria , in search of The Old Stone House and a highly praised show called Run Woman Show. We chatted about our expectations of the show on the subway ride down, but neither of us really knew what to expect even though we'd both read the website and seen the trailer. All we knew was that our friend Julie (aka Races Like a Girl) had been talking about this show for months and she'd so kindly gotten us some free tickets.
When we got to the Old Stone House and saw the "check-in" tent for the show, I recognized Hilary, who I didn't know at the time, but I had mistaken her for a friend at the race earlier in the day and taken her picture. It was probably a bit creepy when I said "oh hi, I'm Amy and I took pictures of you today at the race." After pinning on our race bibs (also your program) and listening to quick instructions on not breaking the iPods lent to us, we were putting our headphones in and following the lead of one of the producers who would escort us to Prospect Park for the performance. It was very fun and mysterious, just walking along with really great music in my ears and other runners walking on either side of me. What were we getting into? We followed Suchan along the most beautiful, green, alive blocks of Park Slope until we entered the park and found our narrator, Melanie Jones.
I would do the performance a complete disservice if I were to try to explain what happens during the hour or so that you walk, run, climb and explore Prospect Park with Melanie's words in your ears and her emotions crashing into you and tossing you like ocean waves. I will say that what I experienced in the park during Run Woman Show is like no other performance I've ever been to (though it is in the same family as Sleep No More). You're not just watching, following and listening but you're a part of it, and not in a honeymoon resort talent show sort of way. From the first few minutes of Melanie's story, and there's a story, you're invested in it.
I was rooting for her from the very first step of her marathon journey; as a runner, as a woman, as a fellow ponytailed athlete. You don't need to be a marathoner or even a runner to enjoy this show, but as a marathoner I was able to laugh at myself as I related to nearly everything she said in regards to training and obsessing over training. Melanie takes you from the starting line to the finish line in detail that made me ache for the exhaustion and elation that comes from running 26.2 miles. She reflects on the things that lead up to this day, this race, this point in her life where running this race is more important than anything else because this is not simply a race, it is a metaphor for her life. She means it when she asks "What if the race of your life is your life?" You'll probably raise an eyebrow at this if you aren't a marathoner, but at some point early on during the show I thought to myself "running a marathon changes your life, people think we're crazy but it really does make you a better person." Melanie's words and performance will definitely make you think about your own running, and the running of those friends and strangers around you, in a completely new light, but the show really is not about running at all. The show is about life's ups and downs, challenges and scary, difficult parts. The show will make you reflect on the reasons that you lace up your shoes on a frosty winter morning and make you think, "shit, what am I running from?"
As you make your way towards the finish line, kilometer by kilometer, Mel's words will probably remind you of some of your own running experiences, one that really made me laugh was when she talked about the joys of mile 8. I have distinct memories of mile 8 from the NYC Marathon in 2010 and they are pretty close to what she describes and I thought "oh thank god I'm not the only one who thinks this ridiculous shit when I'm racing."
"I pass mile 8 smug in the knowledge that I am on track and I will make my top secret goal time. I am 30 seconds fast. Shouldn't think about that, but it is impossible because the endorphins are here and I still have glycogen left in my muscles and I am on pace, so as far as I'm concerned- I'm the athlete of the year... When I begin my pro career I will do workshops with young people and homeless, unemployed, amputee Cancer patients and I will teach them my secrets of success and how happiness is easy- you just go for a run. "
The show is designed for everyone, not just speedy marathon runners or elite milers, there was a slower walker in our group who enjoyed the show equally and at her own pace. There are plenty of opportunities for the group to run after Mel as she darts into the trees or across the green meadow, but I enjoyed the performance with my cranky ankle without any problems. I recommend that you buy tickets for your best friend, the girl you pass while running in your neighborhood, your sister, your kid's 1st grade teacher, your mom, your personal trainer, your entire running group and yourself because while I can't guarantee you'll want to run a marathon by the end, I can guarantee you'll enjoy yourself. Heck, you might even learn something about yourself as a runner, as a person and as a self-critic. The show starts at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn, NY on 3rd St and 4th Avenue and ends in Prospect Park. You can get tickets for the upcoming Sat/Sun 10am and 3pm shows in October on Mel's website RunWomanShow.com for $25.