It was 25 degrees when I left the house this morning for my 5K race and there was a slight wind that felt brutally cold. My hands didn’t warm up till the last freaking mile. But the last mile was the best freaking mile I have ever run!
It was a very small group of runners. We ran on the lumpy ground and through a maze of high weeds they cut a path through. My lungs were screaming the first quarter mile and I didn’t think I would make it.
I didn’t think I was going to like the weed maze, but the third time through I was growing fond of the weeds over the lumpy grassy areas. I’ll admit when I got there at 7:30am for an 8am race and the two volunteers were the only ones there and they were just arriving I thought about getting my shirt and leaving. But I sat in my car and patiently waited.
A few people started arriving about 10 minutes later, so I went over to get my shirt. It was freezing and wouldn’t you know it they were missing a box of race packets; yep mine was in that group. I went back to the car while someone ran in to find the box. I looked around and saw a few adults were running so I decided to be a brave little girl and see it through.
I’ve done a few large races and the atmosphere is electric. These tiny races are more intimidating because I know at my pace there may not be anyone behind me, except those lapping me, and yes I was lapped several times, which put them all in front of me.
As I came out of the weeds the second time I asked the two boys standing there if we had to go through there three times (I knew we did, but I was sorta hoping they measured the distance wrong) and they said yes. I hadn’t listened very well at the start I was too busy looking at everyone in front of me.
As I ran through the weed maze for the third and final time I thought maybe the check point boys had left, but then I spotted them and yelled, “I thought maybe you left me” with a smile on my face, while my insides were crying. One of them said, “nah we didn’t leave you.” Then I realized they were running with me. That’s how I knew for certain I was last. At each turn the one boy yelled at the other boys to join our pack and help the runner, (yeah ME) get to the finish.
I was surrounded by, I don’t know, 6 boys maybe (I think someone took a picture of us). We picked them up at every single point. Some saying encouraging things or maybe some not so encouraging about my speed (I had my music blasting, probably a good thing). They ran that entire last mile with me and I found out they weren’t the track team they were the basketball team. At least I think that’s what they said. They let me go through what we all thought was the Chute. I started walking and they high fived me and I said thank you to each one and when I looked ahead of me I saw the REAL chute realizing I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. So I picked up the pace and finished the race with my hands in the air.
Tiny races have no age group winners. There were medals only for the first three runners to cross the finish. I know for certain I was the only one in my age group, so that’s first place for me the last place runner. Those boys made that last mile joyful beyond belief. It’s a memory to hold in my heart and that’s better than a medal for First place Last.
On a side note I hung around for the raffle and won the SWEET Paul Konerko Bobble Head doll. The guy handing me the prize asked me if I was a White Sox fan and I said, “I am now, thank you”. Paul has been placed next to Cubbie the Bobble head and they seem to be getting along and I like that. I’m sure my Tony Esposito bobble head will keep them in line. It’s been a good day and a great race! And my shirt will now be worn with pride. I have to say I love the shirt, it reads, DON”T BE AFRAID TO STAND OUT. I finished the race and this morning I was a little afraid of standing out, but I didn’t stand out, because I was surrounded by a bunch of Jr High boys that I was so afraid of before I left to run this morning.