Losing and Winning: My First (Last?) 5K

I have always believed that there is a fine line between hysterical laughter and hysterical tears.

With that in mind, I’m going to try to relay this morning’s race in humorous terms because it’s better than crying over it.  Did you like that?  Relay?  ‘Cause it’s a race.  Whatever.

Those who have been following know that today I ran in my very first 5K.  I am inclined to think for the moment that it was also my very last 5K.

My parish church sponsors a 5K every year in December with a dog-inspired theme.  Participants are encouraged to bring their pups and hit the pavement.  My terrier, Buddy, has not been faring well of late so I let my kids run the 1K with him.  He did all right.

This was my attempt at carb-loading last night.  Isn’t that what runners do?

Then it was time for yours truly to pound the road.

In my training over the past few months I had worked up from not being able to run at all to a few weeks ago where I ran 3.12 miles (5 kilometers) in 28 minutes.  This was good for me psychologically because all my friends (serious runners) had been saying that anything under 30 was considered respectable.  No sense trying to pretty this up.  I crossed the finish line at 31:30.  This is the only self-pity you’re going to here from me.  Here it goes.

I suck at this.

But even before I started I knew that I was being encouraged by lots of people. Last night, for instance, I received an email from Annie. It meant the world to me. Also a friend flew in from San Francisco to see this. And of course there’s the trainer… I wouldn’t have been standing at this starting line without his help. Speaking of starting lines, where am I? There was a half-fallen banner on the side of a parking stall greeting me with the letters “ST”. In my mind I felt as though the next letters should be “OP”. But…

I started off at a decent pace.  I even made it to the 1.5 mile mark still in sight of a friend and his son.  Granted, I know this guy was running very slowly because of his son; but they were ahead of me.  I also know that I’m not supposed to compare myself to anyone.  Blah blah blah.  But at that point I decided to walk a few feet and then resume.  I did this a few more times, made it back to the church parking lot, and crossed the line.

It was at this point that my wife handed me back my phone.  She and my mom had been texting.  She’d even taken some video of me running and shared it with Mom.  It was nice to read the comments that she was proud of me for doing this (my wife).  My mom summed it up best: “We’re not very athletic people.”  Yes, mom, we’re not what you’d call the “movers and shakers” of the world.

It was when I watched the video that I really became aware of just how awful I look when running.  I’m surprised more people haven’t commented to me on it.  I have a double spinal-fusion in my lumbar spine.  I detest excuses so I’m only saying that for reference.  But… It’s painfully obvious that I just can’t do the things that others can.  I lack a tremendous amount of flexion and torsion.  In other words, I can’t bend or twist much.  As a result I look like Frankenstein in motion.

The good news is that apparently this has caused my lower extremities to develop to unreal proportions.  Think about it.  I’m putting weight on parts of my body that most people don’t.  It doesn’t bother me because I’ve been doing it so long I don’t even notice.  My trainer was there.  Before the race he turned to me and mentioned that my “calves are obscene.”  Hey pal, I’ll gladly trade my calves for your anything.  He’s jacked.  That’s why.  Nothing gay.  Who are you to judge me?!

Along the course I met up with an old nemesis…


Yes, the same torture device used by our troops at Gitmo had been dumped in the road around 1.9 miles by some uncaring asshole.  Good thing I had a nice pair of running shoes on.

I was actually not too disappointed when I crossed the finish line.  “What was my time?” I asked.  And as if he was a doctor delivering a fatal diagnosis, the time-keeper looked grimly at me and said “Um, 31:30” and then continued “But that’s not too bad!”  Gee, doc, give it to me straight. And I quit smoking for this. Good thing I have a few squirreled away for the post-race celebration. 😎

On the plus side, I met up with my dog and entered the doggy-human lookalike contest.

We won.

My wife thinks it was the beard I’m sporting.  I think it’s because I ran half the race with my wang hanging out.  Because, you know, when you know you’re losing, just flash the goods and wow those crowds!

So the take away from today is this.  Failure can be a cruel teacher.  But she’s a teacher nonetheless, as am I.  I would never throw legos in the paths of my students.  Actually, I do like to teach from the back of the room so maybe I actually won this race…  I prefer teachers who are like me!  Yes, that’s it.  Drunken, unfit, teachers.  I’m a winner!  Go me!

And like any good teacher who’s proud of his student for accomplishing the nearly-impossible-yet-totally-possible, I gave myself a star!

Also, I was able to invest in a significant new wardrobe of brightly colored UnderArmour and Nike shorts so there’s that.  Variety in my otherwise largely-professional closet.

I don’t know that I will ever run again.  But there is comfort in knowing that I look like a terrier.  And that ain’t bad.


3 responses to “Losing and Winning: My First (Last?) 5K

  1. Yay, Harvey! You finished the race! Your time sounds very respectable to me – heck, it takes me that long to walk a mile anymore….I love the photo of you and Buddy – and your beard looks ‘way better on you than Paul Ryan’s does on him. You can’t quit now that you’ve got the beard and the outfits – and the shoes! Just run for the fun of being able to run and I bet your time will be awesome before spring! You get five gold stars from me!

  2. Next stop…half marathon!

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