I don’t want to talk about it.
But you know I will.
Oh, the irony. The stinging, stinging irony.
’twas a cold and rainy morning, forecasted to get colder as the day progressed, with chances of actual snow. We’d signed up for the Whiskey Run 5K because we were going to be traveling home from Kentucky on Saturday when the better-known St. Patrick’s Day run was being held in Kansas City. The Whiskey Run was part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in nearby Martin City. It was also an inaugural run; this was their first time. Libby and I committed to it months ago; I to run it, she to walk it.
We managed to get home from Kentucky in time to get our race packets the night before. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the packet pickup was in the bar of a locally famous restaurant (Jess and Jim’s). I asked the woman at the desk how many runners had signed up. She said that they had 79 so far. That’s not too bad for an inaugural run on a rainy weekend, but I’ve run in packs of thousands before, so this littler number meant a different sort of crowd. (Note the very low bib numbers we got.)
The run was scheduled for 1:00 in the afternoon, which I guess makes sense on a Sunday so the church-going crowd can get that business out of the way. But I had an odd feeling about this run from the start. It was supposed to be in observation of St. Patrick’s Day (a little early) and the organizers chose to associate it with whiskey. Was this an Irish stereotype? Or was it because Jameson Whiskey was a major sponsor? But was the late start also suggestive of people needing to sleep off a hangover before running?
But we decided to run our race anyway, though from the look of the crowd at the starting line, only about half of the 77 other runners decided to show up. Well, it was raining off and on, and the temps were barely above freezing, and falling. Plus the wind was whipping the tents around. So I can see how some might have chosen to stay home.
The run started in the parking lot of a large shopping center and proceeded uphill. That was no fun, and it was about a half mile before the route leveled off before heading uphill again. As usual, the pack left me far behind, and I was hoping merely to keep a few of them in sight so I’d know where to make my turns in tiny Martin City. It turned out that you can pack a lot of uphill running in only 3.1 miles of Martin City. Somehow the corresponding downhill stretches did not seem comparable.
Libby chose to walk the route (though she confessed to running parts of it), and this left her far, far behind the pack. There were two other walkers in the bunch, but they went much more quickly than she did, and she reached a point where she couldn’t see any other participants. She called me to ask me where to make her turns. I was still completing my run at the time, so I could only pant directions to her, calling out landmarks as I remembered them (though most of the landmarks I knew were the cracks and breaks in the pavement at my feet).
As I turned into the final stretch and the finish line arch came into view, I summoned what little energy I had in me to make a halfway decent-looking runner. And I remembered to smile and look fresh as I crossed the line because there was a photographer there. (The finish-line photo I have from the Groundhog Run shows a man defeated and about to collapse.) I stopped briefly to catch my breath and to get the timing chip removed from my shoe, then I turned around and reversed the course of the run to go out and meet Libby, wherever she might be, to come in with her. I did not run the whole way to find her (walking parts of it), but she still had nearly a mile to go when we met. We walked that last distance together, but she was not pleased. She had been uncertain at many points where the route went. It was adequately marked, but by the time she was coming along, most of the markings were already collected and gone. So were the police and other volunteers who were supposed to be there to steer the runners on the right course. She was embarrassed and even angry to be the only walker and the last one to finish. She told me she wanted to support my running mania but that this was the last time she was ever going to do this kind of thing herself.
As we approached the finish line, she put on a happy face and smiled for the photographer. Then she had her timing chip removed and we wandered over to the officials’ table to get the free granola bars and bananas. They had posted most of the runners’ times by then, and I wanted to see how I did. My ambition, you may recall, is to someday not be the last finisher in my age group.
And that’s still my goal because I once again successfully defended my position as slowest in my age group.
Yet as we were standing there, the man at the finish line came running up and told Libby that she came in second for her age group! They promptly hung a silver medal on her!
Well, her attitude changed in an instant. Now she wants to do the Mother’s Day Run, the Trolley Run, and the Color Run. Look out! So she gets the medal, and I get to continue dreaming about not being the slowest. Oh, the irony!