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Wise Cracks on the Race Track

I felt I had no reason to be nervous for the DARE 5K. It was a matter of some annoyance to me, therefore, when I woke up last Saturday (Aug. 16) with a fluttery feeling in my chest and stomach. No fair, I said. I felt I should be stern with myself: you are running this race because it is fun, I told me. Dammit, have fun!

I started to feel better about things shortly after seven when I put Tabby on the leash and walked down to pick up my number and goody bag. I chatted with the volunteers and checked out the map of the route. It was somewhat different from two years ago when I had last run it, due to flood damages in Brookfield Park.

I had a lot of fun during the Kids’ Fun run, cheering all the runners as they finished. “Finish strong!” I said, and “Good sprint!” The runners seemed to particularly like “Look at her (or him) go!”

The trouble was I wanted to begin running the 5K right away, and I had to wait. I found people to chat with while we waited. I stood towards the rear of the crowd of racers, so fewer people would have to pass me if I started slow, as I did two years ago (when a LOT of people passed me). It is disheartening when a whole bunch of runners breeze by you right away.

At last we began. And I was dead last. How embarrassing! Oh well, these things happen. I could still have fun.

“Somebody’s got to be last!” I called to spectators. They applauded and yelled encouragement. Soon I passed a gentleman and two young girls. I heard the man tell the girls they would walk to the next stop sign.

“I’ll see you when you pass me again,” I called.

One lady was setting a steady pace a little ways in front of me. As we approached the big hill up to Herkimer County Community College (HCCC), I said to her, “Our moment’s coming. We’ll pass all those people when they walk!”

I have been training for this. Regular readers will remember I ran up this very hill several times in recent memory. I felt extremely ill-used that I still found it so hard. I did not pass as many people as I had hoped, either. No matter, I made it to the top.

I approached a group of high school boys in this year’s blue DARE shirt. They were still walking.

“Pardon me, fellows, you’re blocking the road,” I said.

The really fast runners passed us going the other way on the opposite side of the median.

“You could cut through there,” I suggested to one of the guys. “And totally cheat.”

He did it. Teehee! I could hear his buddies behind me jeering at him. I turned around and yelled, “I told him to!”

I don’t think he really cheated that way, but I could see where it would be tempting. I was getting tired.

“Eating pasta the night before is a total myth,” I complained to some runners.

I was relieved that the turn around was not quite as far as I had pictured (I never could read a map properly). Finally I was on Reservoir Road headed downhill. I could still see the first runners I had passed, headed for the turn around.

“You guys still have to pass me,” I encouraged. I don’t know if they heard me. I passed a couple more runners.

As I came back around to the top of the hill I saw two young boys walking. They started to run again before I caught up with them.

“You go, boys!” I shouted. I don’t know if they heard me.

I was offered water at the top of the hill. This was the third or fourth water station, but I rarely take water during a 5K.

“Everything will be delightful,” I assured them. It is a favorite saying of mine.

“It’s all downhill from here,” a lady in a tie-dye shirt encouraged me.

“Just like my life,” I observed. I knew she was quite right, unlike on the Boilermaker when they keep telling you it’s all downhill when you know darn well there are several more uphill sections.

Normally I lean back and take it easy on a steep downhill slope, but this was a race. I let gravity help me speed up. Then I worried that I would start going too fast for my legs to keep up and I would land on my stupid face. When I got to the bottom of the steepest part, I yelled to some spectators, “It’s scary going downhill when you try to hurry!”

“Don’t try to hurry!” Good advice.

“But it’s a race!” I was gone before I could hear their reply, if any. Really, who did I think I was kidding with this hurrying business? In spite of passing some people, I was WAY back in the pack.

I soon caught up to one of the young boys, who was now walking again.

“Good job, you’re doing great,” I said. I only go all drill sergeant for high school age and up. As I was thinking about this one of the high school boys caught up with me. “See, if you never would have walked, you’d be all the way up there now,” I told him. He passed me, then walked, so I started to pass him again.

“Oh, don’t do the thing where I pass you three times,” I said.

I think he said something about having asthma but I didn’t quite catch it. In any case, he passed me and I never saw him again till after the finish line. The young boy started running again and passed me.

“That’s right, show me the way,” I said.

“Just go that way,” he said, taking me literally.

I felt I was on the home stretch when I got to German Street, but there was still further to go than my body felt like doing.

“I’m counting the streets,” I told a guy who looked about my age. “You know, my street’s coming up. I could just go home and say to hell with it.”

That did seem a little silly this close to the end.

When I passed a family group, I asked if I could borrow the kid’s bicycle and ride the rest of the way. Another spectator recognized the guy running near me and called a greeting.

“It’s the comic relief,” he said.

“I thought that was me,” I said, thinking he must have missed my bicycle line (oh, I know it wasn’t that funny. It amused me at the time).

The last joke I made was to two girls who looked to be in their 20s.

“I can taste that beer now! Oh, wait, that’s the Boilermaker.”

“It’s within reach!” one of them encouraged. She probably guessed that I have beer in my refrigerator at home.

I did not end up getting as good a time as I had gotten two years ago, but I had a lot of fun. One might argue that if I made fewer silly jokes I might have shaved a few seconds off my time. Maybe I could have finished 79th instead of 80th out of 121. It would have been a shorter blog post, too (I’m sure a selling point with some readers). But I think I like my way better.

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