My children do not believe this story. They look at their “pleasantly plump” mother and cannot believe she ever played soccer in college. They don’t understand what multiple child births, along with a decade of caring for an elderly parent, does to one’s ability to exercise regularly! So, although it is true, I can understand why they have a hard time believing it. With this background, here goes.
My dear friend wanted to run a 5K race. She asked if I would be her accountability partner and train with her. I had no plans to run any race, but I liked my friend and figured it would be good exercise. We ran outside for most of the fall. However, when the weather was rainy or snowy, we headed to the campus indoor track. A friend of my older sister’s happened to run the student gym, so we would say hi and chat a bit while I was there. Training was fun for me because it kept me in good soccer shape and I got to chat with my friend while we ran.
Fast forward. My friend found a flyer on campus about an upcoming run put on by the Law School. The entrance fee was reasonable and the course was right around campus. She asked if I would enter with her. Of course, I said yes. We agreed right then that if during the race either one of us just couldn’t continue due to cramping or exhaustion, that the other one should keep running and we would just meet back at the finish line.
I don’t remember much about the morning of the race. I think I ate breakfast. We both showed up ready to run. When the race started, it was a huge pack of people. I remember thinking, “How in the world will this work? There are way too many racers to even fit on the street?” The two of us ran side by side and just kept moving with the pack. The pack was running fast, so we didn’t have the breath or energy to talk much. I am not sure how far we were into the race when my friend told me she needed to stop and would meet me at the finish line. After I made sure she was okay, I caught back up with the pack.
Just a little background to help you understand the humor in this story. I never ran track in high school. The thought of just running bored me to death. I played soccer because I liked being with all the people. The sport part of the game was fun, too. I didn’t mind running if I was actually thinking about scoring or having fun with friends. But running by itself was never something I would consider. I didn’t have the internal fortitude to stick with something as serious as running.
Back to the race. Okay, so as I am keeping up with this pack, I start to realize that I never even looked at that race brochure. I had no idea what the course was like. I had relied on my friend to know this, and she had to stop running. This meant two things: 1) I must keep with this pack or I will get lost; 2) I had no clue how far I had already run or how much of the race was left. These are two desperate things to be running through your head during a 5K race! So, in my usual fashion, I decided to just run with the pack and forget the rest. I didn’t pay attention to who was in the pack, I just ran. That’s funny because the pack was mostly men, however, I was behind a handful of women so that’s all I saw.
As the course winded back towards campus, I felt some relief because I at least knew I couldn’t get lost now. As we turned a corner, we faced a giant hill. I don’t know if it was really “giant” but at that moment it felt giant. I saw my friend sitting on the lawn next to the hill waving at me. I also saw about half of the campus standing on either side of the street watching the race. Suddenly, I am ashamed to admit, my vanity took hold. I thought to myself, “I’m dying here. I am exhausted. I want to stop and sit on the lawn with my friend. But I cannot do that. All these people are watching me. Okay. Fine. I will just beat that lady in front of me up this hill. I will kick it into high gear and ignore that it is a hill because I am so embarrassed at this moment.”
And that’s what I did. I ran my heart out up that hill and passed that lady and kept on running. Suddenly, I hear people saying, “Good race! Way to go!” followed by “Stop. Stop. The race is over. Come back!” Huh? So I stop running and am walking to catch my breath. The lady I passed comes over and shakes my hand with a disgusted look on her face. She says, “Congratulations,” but her body language says, “I hate you.” I am confused. Now, there’s laughter. One of the volunteers working to put on the race tells me, “Do you know that you won the race?” I think she is kidding because all these guys were in front of me. I must have looked confused. She says, “You are the winner of the women.” I think I said something like, “Oh, okay,” and started to walk and find my friend. The volunteer grabbed my arm and said, “You need to collect your prizes.” I think I was in shock. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I received a gift certificate for a Dinner for Two to a very nice restaurant. Sometime, I will have to tell you how I asked my husband out on our first date with the gift certificate!
P.S. I have never run a 5K race again. Even though I won, I definitely did not enjoy running that race. I have no idea how many women entered the race, and honestly don’t care.