“The greatest victories come at the back of the pack.”
— Mo Sheppo at the Arise ‘n’ Run 5k
“Why do you think they have this race?” Mo asked me before the start.
I hadn’t really given it it much thought. It’s a small 5k put on by the Baptist church down the street from us. It’s not a big affair; just an out and back on the path I run every day. Maybe a couple of hundred runners and walkers. A lot of kids. Our city seems to have amazing running teams in the school system. Eight-year-olds in their team singlets; racing flats in size O.
I am always amused when the kids totally dominate the start line, but in a race like this, I guess why not? The race director gave them last-minute instructions. No biting, punching or body slams, he told them. Scratching is OK, he added. They laughed. I suspect they were body slamming by the time they were 200 yards down the path anyhow.
The course was the infamous Hill of Death route. Luckily, the large number of runners scared away the crabby mountain goats who normally block the path at the top of the peak.
It was a pleasant morning to go out for a run. Out and back meant we could cheer for the fast guys coming back, and give attaboys to the slow guys still going out. Mo hung with me till about a mile or so to go and then left me behind. Mo is a showoff. I averaged 11:09, which is about all I have these days, so I was happy with it. Success is survival.
My favorite moment of the day. He was so proud to cross the line.
His dad was even prouder. You become so focused on big races and long distances that you can forget what a big deal 5,000 meters and a hug is. I’m glad I was there to remember.
A talked for a second with the guy who had pushed his son in the cart. They’re from Minnesota and the heat kicked his butt. I asked him if he was impressed with our hill. He believes. I high-fived his son and we congratulated each other. Life isn’t fair. I love it when people refuse to quit. Do your best. That’s all you can do.
As we were about to leave the finish area, a grandfather came across pushing two kids in a stroller. He looked like he had just pushed two kids in a stroller for three miles. I told him I thought the kids were cheating. He just smiled. Some people need to work on their suffering expressions. Irony: Kid was wearing an “I do my own stunts” T-shirt. Yeah, right, you little slacker.
They gave out a ridiculous number of awards, three deep in two-year intervals for the kids, which I thought was fabulous. A lot of proud little runners.
Best moment was a row of guys, probably 16-18. They were all wearing their cross-country team singlets and were crazy fast. They all had medals. When the fourth one came back with his, he sat on the bleacher looking down on his with a kind of shy pride. Then he glanced to his right. None of the other guys had theirs around their necks, instead holding them wadded up in their hand. He slowly, subtly slipped his off and did the same, then went back to being cool. I forget what it’s like to be a teenager.
At the awards ceremony, the guy said that if we didn’t have a better offer, runners were welcome to come to their church tomorrow. We’re thinking that sounds like a pretty good idea.
I think I know why they have this race.
Now if I could just figure out that “run and not get tired” thing …