I consider Mobile, AL to be my hometown. My family moved there when I was 6 years old and that’s where I spent the next 24 years of my life. You spend 24 years in a place and it grows on you. My husband was born and raised there. We met, got married and had our two oldest children in the Azalea City. We celebrated Mardi Gras, fished at Dauphin Island, raised funds to bring the USS Alabama home, got sunburned at Gulf Shores, attended the Senior Bowl and marveled at the beauty of the city during azalea bloom season. I have history with Mobile.
In 1929, Mr. Sam Lackland and the Mobile Junior Chamber of Commerce, started the Mobile Azalea Trail as a way of encouraging residents to plant azaleas. A pink line painted down the middle of the road indicated the route which would wind through many areas of the city, including neighborhoods, and show off the breathtaking blooms. My family would look forward to the time each year when we would travel down the road along side the pink line take in the brilliant shades of pink, red and orange. Sometimes I felt some of the displays, especially the large ones, were so awesome I couldn’t look without blinking.
The Azalea Trail meant something to me. It still does.
Out of an desire to stay healthy, I have always paid attention to the amount of exercise I get. A balance between strength training and cardio is important. Walking has been my preferred method of cardio. After my mother died from cardiovascular disease when I was 52, I was motivated to step up my cardio to a much more demanding level. Something, not sure what, told me I need to start running. At 52 years of age. Nothing was chasing me, either. Being cardiovascularly fit, which I was, didn’t mean that I could just strike off and start running. I had to train. A lot. With the help of a walk-to-run training program from Runner’s World, I got serious about conditioning for running. This post isn’t about the trials and tribulations of going from a walker to a runner. I need several posts to describe them. Let’s just suffice it to say I had things happening to my body that were unpredictable (each side of my body had a mind of it’s own and they would argue with each other), funny (a gentleman telling me to be careful when I’m walking in the road as I was running in the road) and embarrassing (it’s too embarrassing to tell).
I continued on with my training and eventually participated in two 5k races. My motivation to run is for health, not to be competitive. With a little bit of time, and with my 55th birthday in the rearview mirror, I decided that I wanted to participate in a 10k (6.2 miles). But not just any 10K. I wanted to go back to my hometown of Mobile and run in the Azalea Trail Run. That same Azalea Trail that had meant so much to me as a child was now taking on a new meaning. I was going to attempt to do something I had never done before. Something a few years back I would have never considered. I was going to run on the same roads and pass the same beautiful azaleas that had dazzled me as a child. Running my first 10k in this particular race would make this event just so special. I couldn’t even think about it without crying. Training was hard. I’m not a natural runner and I waited so dadgum late in my life to start. There were many, many times I hated it. It was hard and it hurt and I couldn’t breathe. And my toenail polish kept getting chipped off. But I wasn’t going to miss the street view of those azaleas. So…… I signed up for the race.
Let’s fast forward to the week of the race. We had been breaking pollen counts records for the past few weeks. Every time you walked outside and breathed, you inhaled pollen particles into your respiratory system. Not breathing while outside just wasn’t working out for me. The pollen was just about to kill me dead. I was feeling it in a big sort of way. Amy and the babies got sick and I wouldn’t even go to their house for fear of catching a virus and not being able to run my race. I wanted to cook for them, because Amy was so sick, so I met them in a park and passed off food to them. There’s more than one way to lace a tennis shoe! We traveled to Mobile on Thursday before the race on Saturday. I was coughing and sputtering and sputtering and coughing the whole way. My chest hurt. My head hurt. My ears were clogged. But I was not getting sick. Ain’t no way. Ain’t no how. Some time in the middle of the night Thursday, I was awakened because my eyes were painful. Not scratchy or itchy. I had eye pain. I’ve never had eye pain before. Fearful of what I might see in the mirror, I elected not to get out of bed. I felt for my eyes. They were still there. I turned over and went back to sleep. In the morning, I awakened and tried to open my eyes. They were sealed shut. And they hurt. A lot. A very lot. So, let’s review. We are now one day pre-race and I’m coughing and sputtering. The following items hurt: chest, ears, eyes, head. The following items don’t work: eyes (sealed shut) and ears(totally stopped up from congestion). I also had a hang nail. I want to run my first 10K at the tender age of 55 and somebody just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. I didn’t need any additional challenges! Just being me is a big enough challenge all unto itself. It could be worse, I suppose. At least I did have few things that appeared to be in working order. I could still walk and use my arms and hands. At any rate, I’m not missing those azaleas.
By some good graces, I was able to get treatment on Friday for the laundry list of ailments. Confident that I was going to be well enough on Saturday to participate in the race, my thoughts, once again focused on the significance of this race. A lot of hard work had gone into training for this. This race had special meaning to me.
Saturday morning has arrived. Race day. I lay in bed with my eyes shut. Please let them work today, dear Lord. The pain was noticeably less. I s-l-o-w-l-y attempted to open my left eye. IT OPENED!! Let’s not get carried away. The left eye is one of a set. Then, s-l-o-w-l-y I attempted the remaining eye….the right one. SUCCESS! Maybe I should take a look at them. They were still red and a little puffy, but not sealed shut and not too painful. I could deal with this. I got ibuprophen and a decongestant in me in enough time for it to take effect before race time. I’m going to make it after all! The azaleas were mine for the taking.
My oldest daughter made the trip with us to participate in the race, also. I got calls from my two remaining children that morning to find out if I was feeling well enough to run and to wish me well. Sam drove us to the Mobile Civic Center where the race was being staged. He wanted to be there to support me. Bless his heart! I was so glad he made that decision!
It’s time to line up! Five minutes to race time. Let’s work out some kinks.
The national anthem was sang. I’m not ashamed to tell you I get misty eyed every time I hear it. Especially this time. Time now to collect my composure and convince myself that I feel good.
And……..we’re off!!!! I took my swollen eyes, stuffy ears, congested chest, hurting head and hang nail with me. We are ALL running the Azalea Trail Run 2011 10K! Sho’ as the world.
The air quality was poor that day with high humidity AND high pollen counts. Like I needed something else to slow me down. We found out afterwards that the race times were the slowest they had been in decades. So it seems I wasn’t the only person the pollen was about to kill dead. Nonetheless, I was on my way to see the beautiful azaleas I had loved so as a child. Except I wasn’t sitting in a car. I was running!
The race took us down Government Blvd. and through parts of the Mobile Historic District where we eventually got to some residential areas. People were lined up all along the way and cheered us along. In the residential areas, they were out in their bedroom slippers, sipping their morning coffee, eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and relaxing in their lawn chairs. Some held up homemade signs. The azaleas were beautiful. I was now at about the 4 mile mark. Over half way done. Then…..it hit me. A wave of nausea like I had never experienced while running. I’m talking about “making me turn green” nausea. Just up the road, I saw a sweet lady standing on the curb of her front yard holding up a homemade sign who had on fuzzy animal print slippers. I promised myself that I would do everything in my power not to throw up on the sweet lady’s nice slippers. I had to stop running completely for about 1/2 mile while I prayed for a diversion or divine intervention or something just to let me finish this race with all my stomach contents. Some residents were playing the theme from Rocky. Unable to jump up and down, I felt obligated to hold up both arms and pump both fists. After thanking them for the nice gesture, I was feeling a little better and picked up my pace.
As I got closer to the finish line, I could hear a band playing and a race organizer speaking over the sound system. That means I’m almost finished. Turning the corner to head down the home stretch, I was like every child who has ever been in a Christmas pageant, Little League Ball Game or dance recital. I was searching the crowd for my special person. I wanted to find my husband. And there he was. He had spotted me first and had taken his position past the finish line so he could snap my photo as I crossed. As soon as I saw him, the nausea, headache, swollen eyes didn’t matter anymore. I no longer noticed them. Instead, I felt as thought I could remember every second of our 35 year marriage. They had somehow been capsulized into that moment in time. I stayed focused on him and I did it!
I completed the race and crossed the finish line. My first 10k in Mobile, AL down the streets I had driven as a child to see the azaleas, was written in the history books. My daughter and mother-in-law were there to greet me, also. Despite having mobility issues herself, my mother-in-law made the effort to come out to the race . That’s a sweet gesture that I will never forget. Both of my other two children called and sent their congratulations, also.
This is one of my 2011 goals that I can check off my list. Done. I got emotional. Just couldn’t help it.
I crossed the finish line and saw my pot o’ gold. He had the camera in his hand and his arms outstretched toward me. I’m a very rich person.
Y’all come see us.
Seafood is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole big world. A seafood recipe is quite fitting to tie to this story about the Azalea City. Fresh seafood is abundant in this coastal town. Beach Shrimp is adapted from a Southern Living recipe that would be just the kind of dish I would want to prepare after being exhausted from running or anthing else that is tiring. The Southern Living folks gave it the name Beach Shrimp because it feeds several people, is a snap to prepare and doesn’t require clean up because you bake and serve it in an aluminum baking pan. It’s so simple a tutorial isn’t even needed.
3 pounds unpeeled large wild caught raw shrimp
1 (16 oz.) bottle zesty Italian dressing
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 lemons, halved
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
Place shrimp, salad dressing, black pepper, garlic and parsley in 13X9 pan. Squeeze lemon juice over mixture. Toss to mix well. Add lemons to pan. Dot the mixture with the butter pieces. Place in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Stir after 10 minutes.
This is how it looks going into the oven.
This is what you get 25 minutes later….
Serve it with crusty bread to sop up all that yummy broth. Here’s a closer picture. Look at the broth on the spoon.
- Beach Shrimp
- Seafood is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole big world. A seafood recipe is quite fitting to tie to this story about the Azalea City. Fresh seafood is abundant in this coastal town. Beach Shrimp is adapted from a Southern Living recipe that would be just the kind of dish I would want to prepare after being exhausted from running or anthing else that is tiring. The Southern Living folks gave it the name Beach Shrimp because it feeds several people is a snap to prepare and doesn't require clean up because you bake and serve it in an aluminum baking pan. It's so simple a tutorial isn't even needed.
- 3 pounds unpeeled large wild caught raw shrimp
- 1 16 oz. bottle zesty Italian dressing
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 lemons halved
- 1 stick butter cut in pieces
- Place shrimp, salad dressing, black pepper, garlic and parsley in 13X9 pan. Squeeze lemon juice over mixture. Toss to mix well. Add lemons to pan. Dot the mixture with the butter pieces. Place in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Stir after 10 minutes.