Passing Judgement

So my daughter ran her personal best at a 5K last night. Thirty minutes and change. This was in the Country’s Midnight Express, a 12am foot race put on by a barbecue restaurant in my hometown.

“Great job, honey!” I said. “That is nearly two minutes faster than your last run. Is that what you’d been shooting for?” I actually asked her that. As though she’d arrived at the starting line having set a goal for herself. As though a respectable interest in becoming a better runner were behind her improvement.

“No.” She said. “I was just making sure I beat this one other kid. He looked about seven. I didn’t want him to beat me.”

This girl, I thought. She is so much like me. Not her speed, mind you; it took me 37:30 to finish last night’s race. It took me about that long twenty years ago, too (which was the last time I’d run this particular 5K). The speed comes from someplace else. Her dad, I suppose. That inclination to judge the other runners and then adjust her stride accordingly, however – that she got from me.


I am not particularly competitive about running and have no qualms admitting that I’m… well… that my talents lie elsewhere, but in the privacy of my prideful soul, there are a few types of runners by whom I cannot bear to be passed. They are as follows:

1) Kids under the age of eight. I stand by my daughter on this. Children this young have no business beating me at distances over one mile if for no other reason than that they require a full three minutes to tie their shoes. When one of these little no-necks passes me, I always kick it in a gear and pass him back.

2) Women in active labor.

3) Women who are both 10+ years older than me and 10+ pounds heavier than me. These girls break my heart when they breeze past (which they often do). I have no problem admitting that plenty of heavier people are more fleet of foot than I, same goes for older gals, but what does it say about me when I have the advantage over someone in the areas of both BMI and youth but still can’t hang? What excuse is left?

4) Runners who’ve already finished and are doing the course a second time to “cool down.” This actually happens sometimes. Some of those guys from Ft. Benning: holy smokes! They run like sewing machines. Our country is in good hands, y’all. I can’t stomach the shame of being lapped on a course that is over three miles long, however. Thank you for your service, gentleman, but please me allow me to cross the finish line once before you cross it a second time.

4) Men over the age of 80. If you go to 5Ks, you already know that an awful lot of these guys in their 60s and 70s, the ones that’ve kept after it, are really pretty fast. That is the truth. I find that encouraging. When a 72 year old man passes me, I say God bless him. If he is 82, though, I am left with only two choices: I can speed up and pass him back, say, Eat my dust, you virile octogenarian!, or I can pull the cell phone out of my fanny pack, call Dr. Brown’s office, and schedule a physical.

5) The guys who aren’t actually participants, but workers hired to pick up the trash once the race concludes. Hold your horses, boys! I paid my registration fee like everyone else, and I will not be rushed just so that you can clock out early.

6) Parents who are contending with both a two-seat jogging stroller and a helper dog. There is some grey area with this one, and I am sometimes willing to let it go, depending on the breed of dog and cumulative weight of the children.

So there is my list. The people whom I’ll not let pass. Not for the past few years, anyway. But if I’m to be honest, it is probably time for me to revise the list. What do I care? My daughter, my replacement, is faster than I. She has more to prove. More time in which to prove it. I’m really in it for the race-day atmosphere. For the t-shirt. And it’s like I said before: My talents lie elsewhere.

(running buddies for life)

(And here I am pictured with the younger 60% of the Johnson kids plus my favorite high school teacher, now retired, who finished in 26 minutes.)

You can read more about my history of running with the Johnson kids here in a previous post: Confessions of a Rotten Egg.


18 Comments on “Passing Judgement

  1. Ginger, Visiting with you, Alexa, Sara, and Corey before the race and meeting your speedy daughter far surpassed my enjoyment of the event. Don’t get me wrong. I was somewhat proud of my 26:27 even though I have already made a vow to myself to improve by at least a minute next year. Since I’m still 17 years away from joining the octogenarian age group, at least for the time being, I won’t have to worry about your wrath should I finish ahead of you. In all sincerity, seeing so many of my former students truly made my night. Thank you for spending those special minutes with me.

    • Oh man, wasn’t that fun!

      When you are 80, I’ll be 55 and will probably be walking the whole way (which will still earn a t-shirt). Thanks for checking out the post (even though I’m paranoid that you read it before I’d fixed the typos), and take care. I’m going to go look for your book on Amazon before I forget again.

  2. A friend of ours from church has all of a sudden become a runner and he ran in that same race last night! His time was 23 and some change. And he’s 40! Small world, huh?

  3. My goal is to walk 10km in 100 minutes, by Christmas. I am more plump than chubby, and over 50. But it is reading blogs like this one that gives me the motivation to keep going. (((hugs)))

  4. Since I am now an ex runner I guess, I personally think you are an awesome runner. Also, Hello to all Johnson kids, you look great.

  5. I did a 5K in Atlanta two weekends ago and there was one guy I just couldn’t stand to let pass me or pull ahead too far. After the finish line we congratulated each other and talked while we caught our breath, We both laughed at how we each motivated the other without even knowing that’s what we were doing. I didn’t want him to pass me and he didn’t want me to pass him, and so we both finished far ahead of our goal for the run.

    • I love that story, Melanie! It reminds me of the scene at the beginning of “Say Anything” when Diane Court and the other over-achieving girl discover that their unspoken competition had been a driving force.

  6. I worked in an elementary school for a while and I simply refused to let the 8-year-olds beat me in basketball. I’m pretty sure I’d be the same way during a midnight 5K race. By the way, that sounds like fun! I imagine everyone goes to the local diner afterwards, or some tradition like that?

    • Good for you, brother. Those 8 year olds are disillusioned enough as it is. Parents don’t need the school’s staff perpetuating the idea that the kids’ natural state is miraculously athletic. And the midnight race. Yes. Very fun. Everyone mostly just meets up at the finish line and hangs out there because the restaurant (sponsor) hands out barbecue sandwiches and sweet iced tea to all the participants. Also, there is a band. Growing up, it was always the bluegrass band that played at the restaurant on Saturday night, but this year it was a cover band that played Bon Jovi and stuff like that. Which is fine, I guess. I wanted to hear bluegrass for reasons of nostalgia.

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