An infamous photo appeared on the front page of my local newspaper in June of 1980. It pictured three little girls, running full force in a 50 yard dash. And the tiny dark haired one in the back? That one was me. Infamous photo? Only to me. I can see that picture like it was yesterday. I was the kid who hated P.E., who was always picked last, probably due to my small stature, lack of skills and total noninterest in any type of sports.
Fast forward 13 years to college. I developed a love of exercise, mostly aerobics classes. Many years later, after marriage and two kids, I ran my first half marathon and discovered a love of running. One more kid and a few years later I began to realize I might even be half decent at it.
Easter weekend my family traveled back to my hometown to visit my parents. We decided to do a local race there on Saturday morning ‘” the Bunny Run. The forecast was for a perfect weekend but Saturday started out cold and drizzling. My husband and nine year old son were going to do the fun run mile and I the 5k. Pre fun run I was taking pictures of my son at the start line when I heard someone say, “Kellie?”. I turned to see a classmate that I’d gone to elementary school with and had not seen in many, many years. She pointed out her daughter who was standing right next to my son at the start line and we chatted for a few minutes. Remember that infamous photo? She was the muscular redhead who was way out in front.
My son and husband returned from their mile and I got in the herd of people gathering at the start line for the 5k. It was supposed to start at 8:30 but due to almost 200 additional people registering that morning, the start time was delayed. As I waited, shivering, I spied my old classmate a couple rows ahead of me. I hadn’t realized she was running, also. I’m very competitive with myself when running a race, always wanting to do better than a previous race I’ve done, and in this one I wanted to win my age group. But, having had a stomach bug a few days earlier, I didn’t feel I totally had my strength back. Now, seeing my old classmate who was obviously the same age as me, my desire to win my age group increased tenfold. The horn blew and I took off, too fast as I tend to do in shorter races. I passed her but knew I would slow down in a half mile or so and thought it likely she might pass me. I think I slowed at around half a mile but then fell into my pace and ran consistently the rest of the race. It was an out and back on a greenway, and quite crowded since many more people showed up for the race than anticipated.
In my last mile I was feeling good. I saw a woman a bit ahead of me and decided to pass her. The last bit of the race to the finish line was a climb. Suddenly the woman I’d previously passed flew past me. It took a minute for my brain to get the message to my legs to speed up, but it did, and we crossed the finish line at the exact same time, then turned, laughing, to congratulate each other. That’s what I love about running. No matter how badly you want to do well, you’re always equally pulling for others to do their best, whether they come in ahead of you, behind you or right with you.
In conclusion, it turns out I did win my age group. And the girl from the photo? She placed third in our age group. History reversed itself 30 years later.
Running is so much better than therapy.