The 12K race went amazingly well. It was cold and grey and rainy out, which felt a bit miserable while we were all anxiously waiting for the starting whistle to blow, but wasn’t even noticeable once we started running.
The route went through downtown Wetumpka Alabama, through cute neighborhoods, around a school track, and over a huge bridge back into downtown for the finish. The scenery was entertaining the whole time, and the route took so many twists and turns through the neighborhood streets that it didn’t feel too unbearably long.
I found my self running with a loose pack of other slow-ish people the whole time, far, far behind the fast majority. Yesterday’s event had both a 12K and a 5K option, and I think most of the slow, novice types chose to do the shorter run, leaving me one of a very small number of slower runners doing the 12K. The rest of the 12K group seemed to be made up of fast, wiry, serious types. I had to keep reminding myself of something I heard once: Even if you are the last to finish, you still come in ahead of all the thousands of people in your town who stayed home and did nothing on race morning. Nonetheless, I didn’t like feeling like I was at the very back of the group, so I found myself racing to keep up a lot of the time.
As I crossed the finish line, I ripped out my ear buds, expecting to hear the official calling out times as people came in, but no one said my time. I had to ask the guy who tore off my number stub to tell me what my time was. Luckily he was wearing a stopwatch and was able to tell me it was 1:19:25, about 11 minutes faster than my goal time. I guess racing to keep the rest of the pack in sight really made a difference.
So I was feeling pretty great about this as I stepped aside to help myself to some Gatorade when this obnoxious older man decided to get rude with me. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about when he asked, “So, the doc cleared you to run?”
“Excuse me?” Did he have me mixed up with someone else? What doc?
“Did the doc clear you to run?” he repeated.
My mind was racing, trying to figure out what he was talking about. My thoughts went immediately to my weight. Of course, I thought, he thinks fat people shouldn’t be running. But then I remembered that I am not exactly fat anymore, not since I started this whole running caper, so that couldn’t be it. Could it? I mean, I am certainly not one of those sinewy runner types made up of bones and angles, but surely this would not cause a stranger to comment. Would it? What obvious physical ailment did this person see in me that should a) cause me to seek medical attention, b) possibly prevent me from running, and c) be completely unknown and invisible to me? What did that mean?
“What does that mean?” I finally asked.
“Well, I saw you run in and you looked tired.”
Tired? TIRED? Is it unusual for a person to be tired after running seven and a half miles? While I wondered these things to myself, all I mustered in response to the guy was a noncommittal “Ah.”
Gesturing at my legs, he added, “Don’t you have an ankle problem?”
Well, THAT one was easy. Of course I don’t have an ankle problem. Ready for the conversation to be over I finally summoned up my iciest and most sarcastic tone and told him, “No, but thanks so much for the support. That’s super nice of you.”
Unhappily, I wound up obsessing over this man’s remarks most of the way home. When I should have been proudly celebrating an accomplishment I had worked really hard for and in which I had surpassed my goals, I was cursing myself for apparently running like such an exhausted and uncoordinated wreck that complete strangers were concerned for my medical health and safety.
Of course, the thing I should have remembered (and that I eventually did remember about half way home) is that we can choose what to think about. I could simply put this rude douchebag out of my thoughts and focus on the fact that I was proud of myself, that it was my birthday, and that I was headed home for a long, luxurious nap, then I would be baking cupcakes and heading out for my birthday party.
This post had gotten long enough, though, so I will have to tell you about those things next time.