Our local high school holds a 5k fundraising run in August, orchestrated by the cross country coach and team. We started running it the year Wildebeest ran cross country. It’s a tough course with some downhill early on and then the ups and downs that follow the neighborhood topography before a brutal uphill starting on the street and then over rocks and grass to finish up on the soccer field. It’s the kind of finish you don’t want anyone seeing you complete because you’re sure a lung will pop out of your chest or that you’re moving so slowly spectators will think you’re frozen in time.
I don’t like that kind of humiliation so last summer I trained on that last half-mile a bunch of times, pushing up the hill as hard as I could then jogging down before doing it again. I felt confident I’d finish strong when I ran that course in August. Except I ended up not being able to run because my mom needed assistance out of town. Oy.
So today was my third time running the course. I’ve been running consistently all summer but never went back to work that hill again. I regretted that. Today, after running two strong miles, I began to fade on the third. By the time I hit that last bit, I was whupped. And after looking at my watch and seeing the slow time, I decided “What the hell, I’m walking.” One of the other school’s cross country coaches** was there to cheer on his kids and when he saw me walking, ran up alongside me, exhorting me to run again. Which I did. Until he dropped off and then I walked again. Until he came up next to me again and got me running some more. Until he dropped back.
I think I walked two or three times in that race, something I NEVER do. And when I crossed the finish line I thought two things: Glad that race is over! AND The only thing that will redeem this race is if I win one of the raffle prizes.
Fast forward to the raffle portion of the post-race festivities when the cross country coach announced the top male and female racers in the Citizen category (Citizens are anyone over 18 years). The cross country coach announced my name and after a stunned moment, I walked to the front and said, “There’s no way. This was my slowest time on this course.”*** I convinced the officials they’d made a mistake and went back to my place in the crowd while they checked data again. But a few minutes later, the coach was next to me. “Can you come look at this? I think you’re our top female finisher.”
** this coach was formerly at our school and is responsible for Wildebeest’s knee problem after having him run 17 miles on concrete so I have some, what shall I call them, mixed feelings about the coach’s enthusiasm for running.
*** this year was indeed my slowest time but after checking I realized it was only 41 seconds slower than my fastest time. Huh.
Oh yeah, and I also won a free jersey and pair of running shoes. Score!