Our neighborhood YMCA held a Family 5K at 8 o’clock Saturday morning. It was my friend’s first running event and she was doing it with her son. I was doing it solo. My motivation for the day was quite simple: a shower. I wanted to be back to my house by nine because friends were picking me up at 9:45 for a trip downtown. I didn’t want to be sweaty and stinky when they arrived.
The 5K had the charm and feel of a neighborhood run: lots of parents and kids showed up together to run along the sidewalks in the sunshine. Families milled around, chatting and stretching. The atmosphere was low-key and festive. No chip timers, no starting gun and no boom box blaring “Chariots of Fire.” I checked my watch and started to get a little antsy. At 8:10 we were off.
I couldn’t shake the thought of the shower, so I started off at a pretty good clip and kept it up, around garbage cans and parked cars. About 12 minutes in, I saw a boy ahead of me in a brown polar fleece jacket with striped sweatpants who looked to be about my son’s age. I picked up the pace just a little to catch him. He nonchalantly glanced over his left shoulder – maybe he saw my shadow. He did not let up. There was one man between us.
“Is that your son?” I asked.
“How old is he?”
“Eight,” he answered, confirming my thought. “He’s got a bit of a competitive streak.”
“I can tell,” I smiled. “And he’s bringing out mine.”
Finally, I was able to maneuver around the boy. There was no way I was going to let an eight-year-old beat me.
I continued through the neighborhoods, following the left and right arrow signs, thanking the volunteers in orange vests. A young boy in his pajamas cheered us on from his porch: “Go faster,” he yelled. His enthusiasm was inspiring.
Soon I spotted an athletic-looking guy with a buzz cut, just ahead. We were making our way toward a hill, a steep one that Mo and I used to run years ago. I passed him before we started going up. We got to the hill. It was grueling. I even grunted “Oh, yuck” out loud as I slowed way down. He passed me. At the top I concentrated on picking up speed. Sure enough, I got around him again. I knew I wouldn’t have been that determined if I’d simply been running around the neighborhood by myself.
I made it to the finish line a few minutes later and grabbed a bottled water. Athletic guy walked by me and we high-fived and started visiting. He’s celebrating a milestone this year: turning 50. We talked about running and goals and how events like neighborhood 5Ks help keep you accountable and focused. We did a half handshake/half fist bump as I told him I needed to get on my way.
After being challenged and spurred on by a grade schooler and a grown man, I headed home with a sense of satisfaction, a little ahead of schedule for my shower.