Like every good American, I start each New Year determined to lose weight and get into a less-round shape. This year I hope to achieve my goal by running more. For motivation, my wife Heather and I signed up for a 5K run at the end of January. My main race goals were to; a) run the entire distance and b) not come in last. After several weeks of not-so-grueling training I was confident that I could easily achieve at least part "a" of my goal.
Race day dawned clear and very cold (what do you expect for January 30th?). Prior to the race I announced to Heather and my friend Dave that I’d achieve part "b" of my goal by picking someone from the crowd and beating them to the finish line. To make good on my boast I pointed out the smallest girl I could find—she looked to be about ten. Certainly I could beat her, I announced. (Once at a 5k to support organ donation I chose a lady with an artificial heart as my runner-to-beat. I think the suitcase sized pump she carried slowed her down.)
At 9:15, the starter’s pistol fired and we were off. I started slowly, and then slowed even more--pacing myself for the final uphill mile. At the first mile marker I passed Heather who had stopped to take off her sweatshirt (part "b" of my goal accomplished—I wasn’t going to finish last!). The next mile flew by like an entire week, runners settled into their paces and each of the 12 spectators gawked appropriately as we passed.
From the second mile marker to the finish line, the course turned uphill and into the wind. At this point, my extra pounds felt as if a small child were clinging to each leg--mocking me with each step. My pace slowed from turtle to snail. Near the crest of the hill a rather large women who looked as if she was smuggling basketballs in her tights passed me. Franticly, my mind searched for an excuse; perhaps those “basketballs” were helium filled. I was falling closer to last place and there was no sign of the ten-year-old girl.
With the finish line in sight I increased my pace from snail to galloping turtle–long gone was the lady with the helium-filled basketballs. About ten yards from the finish I was able to speed up to a trot and pass one more person. I'd finished and I was still alive!
I’d accomplished both of my goals; I ran the whole way and didn’t finish last. In fact, I finished third in my age group. (Third was also last as only three hearty men of my age showed up). Following this miniscule success I’ve determined to continue my racing career, after all there is still weight to lose and room to improve—next time I’m beating the basketball lady.
At the awards ceremony I was hoping that neither Heather nor Dave would notice the tiny runner receiving the second place medal. No such luck. Heather nudged me and said; “isn’t that the little girl you said you were going to beat?” Yes, in fact it was the same aspiring track star. And yes I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I pick someone to beat I'm picking someone bigger—much much bigger.