Two weekends ago, I made my way down to the Mississippi Delta, hung out with the Transporter (you may remember her from Richmond
and the 2010 cross country drive
) and her family, and we both wound up on the podium for our age group in the 300 Oaks
5K in Greenwood, Mississippi. It was not the fastest 5K for either of us, but I’ll take the hardware, even though I spent a few minutes wondering whether it was akin to a participation award.
This article (snippet posted below) in the Wall Street Journal came on my radar. The condensed version is that the author, based on approximately 4 interviews with men in their 50s, laments that there appears to be an age cohort (roughly Millennials and younger Gen X) of U.S. race participants who are slower than those guys were 20 years ago and who don’t care about their race times:
Whatever. I care about my race times. I just don’t have all the time in the world to train.
Without going into a massive, divisive discussion on why the whole point of registering for a race is to have it be timed and competitive, I’ll just note that it’s because of this mentality that I’m excited about my finish at 300 Oaks but kind of “meh” about my time.
The Transporter and I had intended to register for the 10K. But, as race day approached, I began to panic: after spending most of the spring scratching races and the summer resting my unidentified leg injury
, I was in subpar aerobic condition.
Then I remembered that there was a 5K option for race day! By the time my flight landed in Mississippi, the Transporter had also decided to run the 5K. Yay!
On race day, the Transporter and I picked up our bibs and jogged to the start. Once we got there, I told her that I looked at last year’s times and thought that if we finished in under 30 minutes, we’d place in our age group. She seemed skeptical, for good reason. I don’t think I’m crushing anyone’s ego by writing this: a 30 minute road 5K isn’t particularly competitive for an able-bodied and physically healthy person. My concern, even more sadly, was that it was kind of questionable whether I could even run a flat 5K road race in under 30 minutes right now.
Then, after the 10K runners and 5K walkers began their races – on a shared course – the Transporter looked around at the runners who remained.
“Steph!” the Transporter said. “We can do this!”
I smiled at her, but my inside voice was saying, “Man, I just really hope I finish in under 30 minutes.”
Within the first 50 feet of the start, the Transporter’s cheering squad was screaming at the top of their lungs. We’d see them 2 more times before the finish. They were awesome! Then the Transporter and I settled into a conversational pace. I’d always wondered about
people women who chatted while running races – I mean, it’s a race! Why are you talking?? – and now I was one of them. Yikes.
Although over 200 5K walkers started before the 5K runners, it wasn’t as much of a cluster as I thought it would be. Then again, I’m used to races with 20,000 people at the start and running on sidewalks during tourist season.
As for my run…You know how when you drink too many fluids and they haven’t had time to absorb into your system, they start sloshing around in your stomach instead? And you can hear the sloshing? Yeah. That was me for the bulk of this race. I was pretty excited to stop running so that the sloshing could stop. After just over 29 minutes, I could!
We made our way to the post-race festivities and checked our times. The Transporter squealed when she saw that she had placed first in our age group. Then I squealed when I saw that I had placed second, as though I was surprised that no one squeaked in between us at the finish line.
Initially, I was a little worried that it was essentially a participation award, a la that Wall Street Journal article, you know, like what if there were only 2 people in our age group? Then again, everyone needs an ego boost every now and then, especially after a DNF and 2 DNS’s since December!