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