This past weekend, I participated in a 5K run. This was the first race that I have participated in in almost three years and only the third race in over 10 years. And it was only thanks to our youngest son, that I was even aware of the race.
Our son who lives in Memphis recently joined the Wolf River Conservancy as a Community Conservation Manager. One of his responsibilities includes monitoring the ever-expanding Wolf River Green Way, a paved walkway running along much of the Wolf River that will, once completed, connect the farthest reaches of the Shelby county with the Mississippi River.
This 5K run was one of the events planned to celebrate the opening of the newest section of the Green Way at Epping Way in northern Memphis. In fact, the entire celebration which included the inaugural 5K run, a ribbon cutting ceremony by the two local mayors (city and county), a bike share ride along the new section, and canoe rides, was all planned by my son. It was a huge success, even though I obviously have a biased opinion.
I chose to run in the t-shirt I earned in my very first run twenty-seven years ago. I have written before about how I ran this first race, holding my nine-year old daughter’s hand while encouraging us both to finish the race (neither of us at that time had run a 5K race). It wasn’t so much that I felt that I needed the encouragement—I still exercise six days a week including a 2.5 mile run on two of those days. It just seemed appropriate for my son’s first, of what will no doubt be many, planned races.
The weather was perfect for an 8:00 AM start and as I jostled among the other participants awaiting the start, it felt good to again be among a group of fellow runners.
In my weekly runs, I always run alone so it was a nice change to start off side-by-side with other contenders. Being the first ever run at this location, the field was a bit smaller (estimated at 130) so it wasn’t long before faster runners had either passed me or I passed the few runners actually slower than me (in my prime, I ran a sub 8-minute pace but now in my sixties, I typically run a 10-minute pace). From then on, I pretty much ran with very few other runners in sight.
In the heat of competition, I know I started off at a faster than usual pace and as I eagerly searched for the 1-mile marker, I could sense I was slowing down. But with my shirt as a reminder, I did think of that run so long ago with my daughter, a very joyful thought. It spurred me on and when I passed the half way mark and found my split time of 14:45, I was most pleased.
I came across my son a couple of times on the course as he made his way around to ensure the safety of all runners and each time I saw him, he encouraged me on.
Several times during the race, faster runners gradually overcame me (I passed very few). When I was within a tenth of a mile of the 3-mile marker a couple more passed me. It was at that point that I found I still had a little burst of energy left and so sprinted to the finish line (it certainly helped that the last 100 yards was downhill too). I re-passed those two runners who had just passed me and almost passed one other runner before crossing the finish line at something under 30 minutes.
I felt pleased that I had bettered my current 10-minute pace by about a minute and a half, but the biggest shock was when I made my way over to the finisher’s table and printed out my results. I discovered that I had come in second in my age group! This was the first time that I had placed in almost my whole running career.
When my wife arrived with our granddaughter and her mother, everyone was surprised as well. It was a real treat to hear my name called out and then to go forward to receive my award. As soon as I found out that I had been one of the top finishers, I rushed over to my son to ask when the next race was. I happily learned it was just about a month away.
When I signed up for this run, my main goal had been to support my son in his first big planned event. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine being one of the top finishers. But it definitely encouraged me to participate in more!
My wife and I capped off the pleasant morning event with a fun bike ride along the Green Way with our granddaughter (who just got her new bike the day before) and her parents followed by an invigorating canoe ride for all the ladies.
Little did I know I was in for one more surprise?
When I got home, I found I had received a race e-mail message with a link to the final results. When I clicked on it, I saw that I had actually missed finishing first by less than 16 seconds! Probably that last person that I had almost passed finished just ahead of me. Now I had even more motivation to keep racing. Which I plan to do!