My First 5K in 28 Years, July 3, 08
It was a beautiful night for a run. Ok, it was a beautiful night, the only reason to run is if you’re being chased . . . nobody was chasing me. I began the evening with a group of friends at a BBQ joint. Yes, we dined on slow cooked pork before the big race. I’m told it’s a southern thing.
My friends told me fat people ran these things too but I seemed to be the only one. When we arrived at the race I saw an overwhelming number of “buff” people. It looked like an audition for a soap opera! They were walking around shirtless, their runner’s numbers pinned directly to their chest. I felt like a wus, but I wasn’t about to take off my $39 runner’s shirt. I wanted everyone to know I had expensive taste. To make sure I left the price tag on.
The race began and I took off at a steady pace. I was proud of myself. Not too fast, not too slow, but better than my practice pace. Then it happened. People started passing me. One by one they were bouncing past. These were not professional runners from west Africa. They were ordinary people from west Knoxville. Average people just like me, only faster. I didn’t see any of these ordinary people before the race. They just appeared from the back to run past and humiliate me. Didn’t they know I was there to humiliate them? I guess they didn’t read my email.
I was beginning to deal with the fact the average people were passing me when a fat guy trots right by. I say fat because he was 270 on his best low carb day. But he wasn’t just fat. He was older and had less hair, hard to believe I know. I began to formulate my plan for catching and passing him. I was confident that he would slow down to a walk when the course started up hill. He became my inspiration. I couldn’t let the fat guy beat me. I kept my pace knowing we would meet again.
Just after the half-way point there was a slight hill. My eyes were wide open. Where was my fat guy? With focus in my eyes I barely noticed when I ran past a couple thin guys walking. However, I did notice that my passing them gave them the inspiration to start running again. Then it hit me. I was their fat guy! Suddenly it wasn’t about passing my fat guy. It wasn’t about finishing the race. It wasn’t even about staying ahead of the two thin guys. It was all about remembering the spot on the road where I lost my last ounce of self-respect. To add insult to my certain to come injuries the really buff were now running the race a second time. Yes, these people would run it twice before I finished it once.
I finished the race in 36:06 minutes. I was proud of my accomplishment, happy to have the T-shirt, and wishing I could see my fat guy attached to an oxygen tank. But he beat me fair and square like most everyone else. He didn’t just beat me, he inspired me. He made me realize I didn’t need an oxygen tank. There was only one reason a man of his age and size could beat me. He had trained more. Better practice equals better performance. In my next race I’m going to be someone else’s fat guy.