Archive for November 25th, 2011

My first 5k

I did it.

I actually did it.

I wouldn’t have done it, except that John volunteered to drive me to the Turkey Trax 5k which started and ended at Rock Bridge High School. I also couldn’t have done it if my friend hadn’t said she’d be waiting for me at the north parking lot in front of the flag pole.

She was.

I would never have had the courage even to sign up if I hadn’t attended my first Columbia Multisport Club event – a talk given by John Bingham at The Blue Note. It isn’t easy to teach hormonally challenged young people all day, hustle home to milk cows, only then to turn around and haul myself back into town. But a couple of weeks ago, I did. And it was worth it.

I arrived at The Blue Note early and impressed myself by asking a woman I did not know if I could join her at her table. She kindly said yes. I was even more pleased when I pulled out my knitting and found out she was also a knitter. There is something surreal about knitting in a darkened bar, but I have a hard time sitting still and the knitting kept my mind off the fact that it was freezing inside. It was a free event, so I guess the Blue Note folks were saving on their heating bill. Or, perhaps they knew the place would heat up during the musical act scheduled immediately after Bingham. More people joined our table, the bar began to fill with hard core triathletes, and then Bingham began to tell his story.

Bingham calls himself “the Penguin,” and he didn’t start running until the tender age of 43 when he was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, overweight couch potato. His message was that the point of an active lifestyle isn’t to win events. It is enough, he says, simply to participate in them. Besides, he argued, what’s the point of hurrying through an event. His style means you take your time, enjoy the scenery, and finish comfortably at the back of the pack.

I finished comfortably in the middle of a pack of 900 Thanksgiving Day runners. I was beaten by one of my former eighth grade students who won the whole thing with a time of 16:15. Another former student finished it in 20 minutes. A fifth grade student and her mom finished five minutes before me and were on hand to cheer me on my final lap around the Rock Bridge track.

My favorite part of the race was the mom and her daughter – I think she was maybe 5 years old – who ran in matching reindeer hats. We played leapfrog for most of the run – we’d pass them, they’d pass us. Every time I ran by, I’d cheer the little reindeer girl on. On the last mile, her mother used us as motivation. If the little girl slowed, her mom would point out that we were gaining. Her antlered head would turn to look back, she’d gasp, and then her little legs would pump her up the next hill. She was waiting for me with a high five at the finish line.

I had a great time, even though I was beaten by a five-year-old. And Bingham is right when he says, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

The finish line.

My final time was 38:50. Our goal had been to finish in under 40 minutes, and we did.

To keep my momentum going, I’ve signed up for the Jingle Bell run.

I hope to see a reindeer there.


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